Hellraiser  – a horror franchise that really hit the nail into the head.

I did something in pure service to my Blogtoberfest readers this week. I watched Hellraiser I through IV. 

The first installment I’d seen, but not in a while. With all my talk of horror franchises lately, I felt compelled to give it another watch and keep going until even Clive Barker had had enough. 

In some ways, Hellraiser holds up; it’s not the effects, though those
did stand the test of time

longer than many horror movies. It’s not the acting either, or the setting…but the story is still a good one and the monsters, the Cenobites, are still unlike anything we’ve seen.

And here’s an interesting tidbit: Hellraiser is actually 

born first in literature, like The Exorcist and The Omen before it. The film is actually based on a novella written by Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart, which is still available to buy and is regarded by many critics as being pretty damn good, while critics of the celluloid version are fairly evenly split.
My favorite aspect of the entire first film is Clare Higgins, the British stage actress of some acclaim who plays one part conflicted heroine and one part villainess. Actually, if I’m being totally honest, my real favorite part is Clare Higgins’ hair. Whether she’s killing someone with a hammer or hosting a dinner party, she has a perfectly teased, gelled, and sprayed Helmet of the Eighties going on that’s so impressive it’s distracting. Distractingly awesome. 
 Hellraiser II maintains some of the same innovative monster design and clings to the storyline like Wacky Wally to a wall. Clare Higgins is back; the hair is less amazing, but even without flesh, she fully rocks a Grecian dress and diamonds. 
By the third installment, the series is pretty much just celebrating the fact that it’s a franchise. Pinhead – who, by now, is colloquially known as Pinhead – is ensconced in a statue for half of the film for some reason. The cast is unnecessarily huge, and yet the hooks that shoot out of the puzzle box have gotten considerably smaller. 
But, it’s fun to wax nostalgic about the early nineties with vaguely famous Paula Marshall, a sea of actresses’ eyebrows that have yet to be plucked clean, and a soundtrack that includes Motörhead, KNFDM, and The Soup Dragons. There are also a lot of chokers and chain belts. 
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was the last Hellraiser to be released in theaters and the last to involve Clive Barker in any way — there are five more. 

It’s billed as a prequel but starts in space in the year 2127…that’s less confusing than the choice to name the first female lead we meet ‘Rimmer.’ (But look, it’s Christine Harnos from Dazed and Confused! Fun!) 

It’s not long before a space station commander is telling an ancient story like he was there, and the judging by the casting choice to have him play his ancestors, he was. That leads into the aforementioned prequel and the origin story of the puzzle box and its connection to hell…

And Adam Scott!  

In period garb! That alone is worth sticking around to the end. 

If you still want more pins in the head, check out one or more of the five additional  Hellraiser films I have yet to experience – plus,  rumors of a remake of the original are here and there, so there’s still hope for a Higgins Hair ‘do resurrection. 

Cool Weather Comfort Foods that Won’t Make You Fat

A Blogtoberfest Guest Post by Kaitlyn Pierce, founder of Willow House magazine

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Fall is a time for sweaters, fires, and packing on the pounds while staying curled up on the couch to indulge in some binge eating and Downton Abby marathons on Netflix. Being pregnant with my second child has made it even more enticing to scarf down any piece of delicious looking food that comes my way.

“You’re pregnant, you can eat whatever you want!” is what I hear all day long. As much as I’d love to ignore everything I’ve ever learned about my health and believe this, I know that I can’t just sit around eating my weight in macaroni and cheese all day.

So what is a woman with an addiction to comfort food supposed to do in the fall to satisfy the cravings and not end up needing an entirely new wardrobe (not that I won’t end up with one anyway) come summer? I’m so happy you asked! I have found a couple of deliciously satisfying recipes that won’t make you fat and won’t take to much time away from any of your Netflix marathons.

White Bean and Kale Stew


I tried this recipe for the first time last fall and fell in love with it. Not only is it super simple to make (by that I mean I spent very little time standing up in the kitchen and more time on the couch eating), it is a great meal to make for my vegetarian friends (and vegan if you remove the cheese!) that is still 100% satisfying to my husband, my two year old, and I who enjoy our fair share of local and organic meats.


Another huge perk to the dish is all of that fresh kale in each serving. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, is high in fiber, iron and vitamin A, C and K. Kale is also a great anti-inflammatory food with powerful antioxidants. How’s that for some guilt free eating?


Chickpea, Tomato and Spelt Soup

spelt - KaitlynPierce

I had never had spelt in my life until recently when I came across this recipe. As I mentioned before, comfort food has always been my food of choice, spelt never was on the menu.  So I was feeling particularly adventurous and decided to try something new, I figured if I hated it my husband (the human garbage disposal) would eat it.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the spelt’s delicious nutty flavor. It is high in protein and fiber and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron. This recipe has 437 calories per serving and thanks to all of that protein it was incredibly filling so there was actually some left for my husband to eat when I was done.

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What are some of your favorite cool weather recipes?

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.35.06 PMKaitlyn Pierce is the Editor-in-Chief of Willow House magazine, and blogs regularly at Mohawks and Lilacs. Growing up in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts assured that Kaitlyn would be a true New England girl. She is a die-hard New England sports fan, lover of all things visual, and local fashion activist working to bring more fashion to the Berkshires.

Freaky Franchise: V/H/S

These were a thing.

Nothing says ‘Found Footage has arrived’ more than academic genre-speak that can only pertain to it. Consider this lofty description from Wikipedia:

“The film is presented as an anthology of short horror films, built into a frame narrative which acts as its own short horror film. Each short film is linked together with the concept of found footage.”

This is the explanation of structure given for each of the three V/H/S films and, as hard as it is to understand, it speaks to why the trilogy works better than a lot of other movies in the same vein.

The V/H/S franchise sits snugly in the middle of the found footage realm, but it also represents the work of several different directors with their own wide ranging styles and sick fixations… that is to say the slasher fan, alien buff, and zombiphile alike have something to look forward to.

Granted, they’re not a perfect trilogy, but each installment is worth watching for at least a few reasons. There’s a lot of great camerawork, the editing must have been a bitch, and special effects are fairly consistent and good. It’s also a great showcase of new directors, and you never know…one might be the next Wes Craven, and this early short will turn out to be a cinematic gem. Stranger things have happened.



The series begins with a group of teen-aged thugs (who film their crimes, of course) breaking into a house to steal a single VHS videotape as part of a low-rent contract job. Upon entering the house, they find a dead body sitting in front of several televisions and hundreds of unmarked VHS tapes. They set about collecting them all to ensure that they retrieve the right one, watching a few in the process. There are strange things happening in the tapes and in the house at the same time…wackiness ensues.


V/H/S 2

The sequel is based in the same abandoned house and presents a new string of footage to a pair of investigators. The cutaways include a man with an experimental eye-camera implant (a nice way to work around the ‘why are you filming this’ question); a zombie attack on a bike path (this one is just awful, as you might imagine); a film crew attempting to infiltrate an Asian cult, and a group of pre-teen boys at a sleepover with alien abduction problems. It’s a more uneven movie than its predecessor, and from what I understand the sequel was rushed through production, so that may account for the peaks and valleys. Still, it’s a good watch with more than one jump-scare and some surprising tension in the final act.


V/H/S Viral

An off-shoot rather than a continuation, the third installment looks at viral footage, as suggested by the anachronistic title. The wrap-around story (there’s more of that jargon) centers on a high speed pursuit and the people clamoring to capture it on video, only to gradually reveal that the truck being chased is circling one neighborhood repeatedly. The end result of this fool’s chase is fairly ridiculous, but the journey to get there is mostly fun.

V/H/S: Viral’s segments include the stories of a wanna-be illusionist who obtains a cloak (fun to say) of great power; a man who invents a homemade machine that opens a door to a parallel universe, and teenage skaters who unwittingly become targets of an undead cult in Tijuana while filming their own highlight reel. They ascend in quality; the final short, Bonestorm, is the most believable footage as far as the ‘found’ part goes, it has great action, and it’s thoroughly ridiculous in all of the right ways. Hearing a character repeatedly refer to ‘Gas Money Kid’ as he’s ripped apart by priests and priestesses with super-human strength is fantastic.

Below is a full list of directors for posterity…think of it as a digital time capsule. Who will find this pile of names…and what will be revealed…


V/H/S 2

V/H/S Viral

Blogtoberfest Movie Review: Would You Rather

Available on Netflix streaming   
A dinner party that starts with cocktails and devolves into tableside drownings by barrel.

That’s the gist of Would You Rather, a horror-thriller starring Brittany Snow and featuring a hodge podge of actors who seem like they’d be fun at an actual dinner party: John Heard, Sasha Grey, Oscar-nominated June Squibb, and Eddie Steeples, who some might remember from his early years as The Rubber Band Man.

This handful of random dinner guests shows up at the home of a rich philanthropist in hopes of securing money for a range of life problems — Snow, as Iris, needs money for her little brother’s organ transplant, their parents having already died. As the night progresses, it becomes clear each guest will have to complete increasingly violent tasks to stay in play…things of the ice-pick-in-the-leg variety.

Snow actually serves as both star and Executive Producer on the film, which means A) she really, really loves horror movies; B) she really, really needed a project to keep her career afloat, or C) She found herself in a real game of Would You Rather with a room full of MGM executives and had to choose between making the movie and taking a Broadway role in the stage adaptation of The Money Pit. That’s not to say the film is terrible — it has its perks– but it’s hard to imagine Snow was blown away by the script.

Still, Snow has secured her place in the list of Top Scream Queens of the century, despite her more saccharine turns in projects like American Dreams and Pitch Perfect, giving the movie some street cred. Gore fans will get a couple of cringeworthy moments as the challenges get more creative, and Would You Rather’s got a little surprise for its audience that is arguably its best moment and makes it worth watching.

My rating: 2 1/2 Jax


The 2015 Weird Food Round-up: Two Savories, Two Sweets

I never know where my annual ‘October food’ posts are going to take me. Sometimes, I find a lot of spooky party platters. Other times, it’s a trendy ingredient or a bizarre new dish from a restaurant… this year, I found myself gravitating toward some particularly good entrants into the Weird Food Race in the areas of convenience eating.

Photo by Mike Mozart via flickr

The Halloween Whopper
Burger King is bringing a black burger, similar to one of the menu items in its restaurants in Japan, to the United States. I’ve written about the burgers Japanese Burger Kings (and McDonalds) have introduced in the past… Now, their weirdness is coming stateside, with a few Americanizations.

Contrary to the Japanese version, which is made with squid ink, the American version will also have a pitch-black bun —  made with A1 steak sauce baked into the bread. Beyond that, it’s basically a Whopper slathered with even more steak sauce; no complaints here.


The Schnitzel Burger
Hard Rock Cafe has rolled out the Samuel Adams OctoberFest Schnitzel burger, which will be available at all U.S. Hard Rock locations until October 31. It features a lightly-breaded pork schnitzel, beer cheese sauce made with Samuel Adams OctoberFest beer, smoked bacon, sauerkraut, whole grain mustard, and fresh arugula on a pretzel bun. The arugula seems extraneous.

Yoo-hoo Candy Bars

For the nostalgic sweets-lover in all of us, there’s a new offering on the candy racks: the hard-to-describe taste of Yoo-hoo is now a candy bar, available in Trick-or-Treat sizes and, according to the wrapper, ‘milk-chocolate flavored…’ so its origins are just as sketchy as the original drink.

By far the favorite of the newsroom. Coffee and caramel

Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn
In likely the only instance we’ll ever see of the candy corn culinary experience being elevated, Brach’s has concocted a coffee infused bag of yummy that assures me the candy inside is also made with real honey. So, it’s good for you.

Read last year’s post

The Unofficial Start of Autumn: Apple Squeeze

The annual Apple Squeeze in Lenox, Mass. in the Berkshires is the unofficial start to fall and everything it offers. This past weekend, we made our usual pilgrimage to the festival…we munched on apple sausage sandwiches, browsed the many gift tents, and started a rolling tally of celebrities we nearly mowed down with the stroller, among them Paula Poundstone, Former Gov. Jane Swift, and John Davidson. Below are three things I’d like to see more of next year: temporary art installments, pumpkins, and free stuff for kids. Onward into October, bloggers!

Apple Squeeze Apple Squeeze Apple Squeeze

Emmys Style Wrap-up 2015

Chartreuse is the new black, but black is still all right.

The Emmys have wrapped, awards season is here, the 2015 fall television has begun, and it’s time for my traditional wrap-up post of my favorite Emmy looks.

This year there was some wacky stuff happening on the red carpet, so thanks for that, TV stars and moguls. The big style directive seemed to be ‘wear black; or instead, don every color discernible to the human eye –or chartreuse, which amounts to the same thing as far as effect on the retina.’

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 10.11.10 PMBut there were also countless Grammy-awards-level splashes of florals, stripes, mixed fabrics, seventies throwbacks, and serious hardware…Kerry Washington in mesh. Regina King in some very stiff sequins. Claire Danes in chains.

All in all, it made for exciting dress-peeping. Except, why is that promtastic off-the-shoulders sleeve back in style? Blegh. It looks like sausage casing on even the most willowy of actresses and in general I’m not a fan.

image1That said, here were the style stand-outs for me, with only the briefest of defenses for each.

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The first ensemble to catch my eye was Jamie Lee Curtis’ long sleeved black number by Stella McCartney, paired with a filigree cuff by Cathy Waterman. Next, Kiernan Shipka in a yellow patterned top and leggings by Dior. This look got mixed reviews but I thought it was cute and age appropriate; Ariel Winter, proving structure works in a geometrically cut red Romona Kevesa;  Zoe Kasan in striped Miu Miu — I’m a sucker for prints when worn right, even if this dress was a tad casual — and Ellie Klemper in Naeem Khan. Christina Hendricks got more attention for her Khan, but I thought the colors, pattern, and metallic sheen gave Ellie the edge.

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Finally, Alan Cumming wore my favorite menswear look, arriving looking Chaplinesque.

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Share your own favorites in the comments!

Willow House magazine launches!

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.14.42 AMExciting times in WriterJax World this week! A new lifestyle magazine has just launched and I’m psyched to have an article in the premier issue.

Willow House magazine is geared toward young couples and families looking to make their lives a little better, brighter, funkier, more organized… you name it.

Photo by Sarah Severson

An idea for an article on DIY Souvenirs has been in my pitch book for years, inspired by the little freebies I’ve collected along the way as a broke college student, frugal travel writer, and now penny-pinching working mom. Gladly, the topic was a perfect fit for Willow House, and now it’s finally seeing the light of day. That’s a win in WriterJax World. Hope you can take a look, and please share your own DIY Souvenir ideas in the comments — either here or at Willow House!