Archive for the Media Macabre Category

Project Blue Book is still solid TV entertainment

Posted in Media Macabre on January 25, 2019 by Occult Detective

Catching up on Project Blue Book, History Channel’s retelling (mostly reimagining) of the US Air Force’s investigations into UFO sightings from 1952 – 1969, the series continues to be a treat. Admittedly, the stories have been as far from reality as one can manage, but entertaining, none-the-less.

The show is big on atmosphere and Aidan Gillen continues to impress, as does Ksensia Solo as the spy keeping tabs on Dr. Hynek’s wife and milking her for information.


The second episode followed the case of The Flatwoods Monster. The only similarities between the show and the actual case lies in the fact that a meteorite crashed in rural West Virginia, near Flatwoods, and some people reported it as a flying saucer crash and a “monster” was seen after.

Eyewitness sightings detailed a crude sort of robot, as opposed to History’s tree creature.

The Air Force reported the fireball was a meteorite, as confirmed by an Ohio Astronomy Club. The show followed that example, but through in more Men in Black activity, the mysterious tarped saucer at the end, not to mention the Russian Agent’s attempt at seducing Mrs. Hynek.


The third episode, “The Lubbock Lights”, hews a little closer to the actual events, but three in and we’re seeing a theme — government cover-up and conspiracy is the order of the day, and it makes for exciting tv.

The official culprit in Lubbock was plovers, small birds flying in formation, the city lights reflecting off their white underbellies. Of course Lieutenant Ruppelt, of Projects Grudge and Blue Book fame, disagreed with the assessment.

Ruppelt, prior to his death from a heart attack at the age of 37, called the UFO phenomena a “space age myth”.

Project Blue Book is far closer to fiction than fact, and I am more than fine with that. While I have long had a fascination with so-called UFO phenomena, I am enjoying this X-Files-esque retread. It reminds me of Project U.F.O., Jack Webb’s short lived series from the late 70s that was must-see-tv for me.


True Detective resurrects the Ghost of WM3

Posted in Media Macabre on January 14, 2019 by Occult Detective


Season One of True Detective was brilliant television and, despite some controversy regarding Nic Pizzolatto’s appropriation of the works of Alan Moore and Thomas Ligotti, was near universally acknowledged as being fresh, original, and disturbing.

It was like Twin Peaks and the Wire had a lovechild.

Season Two? Not so much. Oh, it had its moments, but it was, ultimately, a disjointed mess, with the best bits, I suspect, stripped from the script in an effort to remove the more ‘occult’ elements, elements that, in large part, made Season One so intoxicating.

Now, after a long hiatus, True Detective returns and it begs the question — can Season Three capture some of that same black magic that made its debut outing such a critical success?

Let’s find out.

The Great War and Modern Memory

What we have, initially, is Pizzolatto’s reimagining of the West Memphis 3 case, aka the Robin Hood Murders, and the subject of a true crime book (and movie) titled Devil’s Knot.

The root of the story seems to revolve around the disappearance of a brother and sister, ages 12 and 10, in an area known as the Devil’s Den. Detective Hays is interviewed in 1990 and 2015 regarding his involvement in the case back in 1980, the first by prosecutors and the second by ‘True Criminal’, which is, I presume, a tv docu-series.

Hays is a former long range reconnaissance and refers to himself as a tracker. He’s good at what he does. He sets out on his own and discovers the boy, Will, inside a cave, posed in prayer. The girl was nowhere to be found, though we learn that her fingerprints turn up in 1990.

Also of note, two cornhusk dolls, dressed as brides, were found, almost like breadcrumbs, leading Hays to Will’s body.

Set in Arkansas, I have to admit, they got the look right. The accents? Not even close. I know. My family is all from that nape of the woods and I spent a lot of time down that way, especially from the early-70s until the mid-80s.

The acting is solid. I expected as much from Mahershala Ali, but I was pleasantly surprised by Stephen Dorff’s Dennis Quaid impersonation.

I thought the mystery unfolded slow and easy, and enjoyed the three decade plot device.


Now, let’s talk briefly about the first thing I took note of, at least in regard to Easter Eggs. In Will’s room, Hays pauses over an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book titled ‘The Forests of Leng’. Trust me, no such book or module exists.

Leng made me think of two things right away. 1.) Lovecraft’s Plateau of Leng and 2.) George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire, where Leng is a jungle island littered with ancient ruins. Martin almost certainly titled the isle as a nod to Lovecraft.

Leng was described by the sorcerer Abdul Alhazred as a place where different realities converge.

One final [piece that bears mentioning. The children’s parents were estranged. For a time, the wife’s cousin was living with them, sleeping in Will’s room. When Hays was searching the boy’s room he found a peephole drilled into his closet, allowing someone, presumably the adult cousin, to spy on the little girl’s room.

On to episode two…

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye

“I like Batman and Silver Surfer.”

The second episode doubled down on the slow burn. Oh, there were plenty of red herrings and false leads, seeds of pedophile rings and conspiracies, but all in all, this felt like a character piece.

Where the first outing had a Twin Peaks meets Stranger Things (kids on bikes and D&D) vibe, this one hewed a little closer to noir procedural.

We get a richer glimpse into the lives of all involved, and we see new faces that are sure to play a bigger role as things unfold.

The three biggest things for me was Hays and Amelia’s relationship, the ransom note, and Hays’ Alzheimer’s (or dementia).


We’re watching everyone on edge as the community and the police involved begin to unravel.

I’m still excited by the show, but I wonder if it would have been better served to have shown episode one by its lonesome, then the second week dropped two and three together? That first episode had all the water-cooler talking points laid out, while the second sort of defused that somewhat.

Regardless, I’ll be there, hungrily, next week to see where this dark road will lead us.


History’s Project Blue Book

Posted in Media Macabre on January 10, 2019 by Occult Detective

What follows is a true story.

In 1976 I was a fifth grader at Converse Elementary. We were housed in the old Converse High School, about a decade before they razed that beautiful building in favor of progress and cost reduction. It still doesn’t sit well with me, but that’s another matter.

In that glorious school year we were given the opportunity to ‘test out’ of math for the second semester. Several students were falling behind, so they decided to focus on those lagging by letting those who were getting it to do something else… a research project, the subject of which would be voted on by the group of those separated from those struggling.

In the interest of full disclosure: I cheated on the test. And so I was set free from the constraints of elementary mathematics and thrust into adolescent academia.

projblubkI petitioned the dozen or so who tested out of math for us to focus our research on the UFO phenomena. It, along with cryptids, the paranormal, and the occult, was my obsession. The students agreed and I presented my case to our teacher, Mr. Piper.

He agreed and we spent the next six weeks in an abandoned classroom on the third floor mapping out our theories on “flying saucers” and “little green men”. It was an amazing adventure and one I hold near and dear.

My bible was the Brad Steiger edited Project Blue Book. It, along with various UFO magazines and my collection of tabloid and newspaper clippings, made up our source material.

We plotted sightings on two large maps: one of the US and the other of the world. We filled not one, but three chalkboards with info, and then compiled it all into a report that we presented to the school.

Like I said, it was an amazing adventure and a memory I cherish.

bluebookFlash forward more than forty years later, and I’m watching Project Blue Book, a History Channel TV series starring Aiden Gillen as J. Allen Hynek, one of my childhood heroes.

The series debut, titled “The Fuller Dogfight”, played fast and loose with the facts. Blue Book was actually Hynek’s third UFO project for the Air Force for starters.

That being said, I loved it. Gillen was remarkable and Neal McDonough realy chewed the scenery whenever he took the screen. all in all, a solid start to a fictitious romp through early Ufology. As an old school X-Files fan, well, I can overlook the inaccuracies and instead allow myself to be immersed in the fantasy of what might have been.

blue book1

Fox Mulder was fond of the mantra, “The Truth is Out There”. Well, there’s little to no truth in Project Blue Book, but I’m all in. There’s a new “occult detective” in town, and his name is J. Allen Hynek.

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy? #ConstantineOnLegends

Posted in Media Macabre, Occult Detectives with tags on February 13, 2018 by Occult Detective


The CW’s version of John Constantine, played convincingly by Matt Ryan, made an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow last night in an episode titled Daddy Darhkest.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Legends of Tomorrow is not a good show, by any stretch. In fact, I’m sorry to say, the entire Arrowverse has become unbearable to me. I abandoned Legends fairly quickly into its sophomore season, and it wasn’t long before I jettisoned the Flash as well. I stuck it out with Arrow the longest, but I dropped it as well in the end. They all suffer the same malady, I’m afraid: bad, clichéd writing and lifeless acting.


All it took for me to tune back in was everyone’s favorite chain-smoking streetwise exorcist.

The story was solid enough: Damian Darhk’s daughter is in a mental institution (nice nod to John’s visual inspiration there, Sumner Asylum, calling back to one Gordon Sumner, aka Sting) and possessed by the demon Mallus (voiced by the always brilliant John Noble). When Mallus name-drops Sara Lance, John calls on the crew of the Waverider and off we go.


There were some good visual effects, some nice graphic design with the inscribed Solomon Circle, and the like. Matt Ryan has got the charm to pull off Constantine well enough and I enjoyed both his flirtation with Citizen Cold and his hook-up with the equally sexually fluid White Canary, especially with the Zombies’ Time of the Season for accompaniment.


This episode, much as Matt Ryan’s Arrow guest spot did, once again underscores the missed opportunity to breathe new life into a Constantine television series. I was a fan of the short lived FOX effort, even though I felt the premise was a bit daft and setting all wrong. It still worked because it had a solid lead and great visuals.

300The fact of the matter is, DC has mismanaged Constantine as a character for a while now, pretty much since the original series took a bow with its 300th issue. Subsequent comics have been poor reflections of what made Constantine innovative and brilliant.

The TV version comes bloody close, but I still clamour for a more steady dose of Johnny Con-Job. With an animated series on the horizon from CWSeed, perhaps we’ll get something to scratch that devilish itch.

More Matt Ryan is never a bad thing, even if its just his voice carrying the load.


Top 10 Movies & TV for 2017

Posted in Media Macabre on December 26, 2017 by Occult Detective

I just posted this on twitter:

I usually publish my Top 10 Movies of the Year right about now. Thing is, I didn’t see 10 new films I liked this year. Top props to A Dark Song, easily my favorite film of the year. Wish it had had more competition.

Well, I sat down and went over the list of films I’d seen this year and compiled a Top 10 despite my better judgement. It should really stand as a Top 5 list.

10. Logan
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
8. Thor: Ragnarok
7. Wonder Woman
6. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol 2

5. The Limehouse Golem
4. Blade Runner 2049
3. The Love Witch
2. Bright
1. A Dark Song

a dark song

Television was a bit stronger, though I dropped quite a few shows this year. I just don’t have time for TV like I used to and have, over the past few years, jettisoned many shows that I had slipped into watching out of habit.

10. Ink Master
9. Knightfall
8. Vikings
7. American Ninja Warrior
6. American Gods
5. Lucifer
4. The Curse of Oak Island
3. Forged in Fire
2. Game of Thrones
1. Twin Peaks: The Return


13 Days till Hallowe’en and the Devil Rides Out

Posted in Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on October 18, 2017 by Occult Detective

We’ve entered into the sublime swell of telluric energies that rise during this, the season of the witch. Thirteen glorious days out from All Hallow’s Eve and the esoteric influx of eldritch sorceries are nearing their zenith…

Today I’d like to spotlight two items that are, in a sense, a single thing. I draw now your attention from the mundane world about you and entreat your assiduity be turned toward one of the premiere examples of the occult detective genre — The Devil Rides Out.


Dennis Wheatley was a prolific author, to say the least. Heralded as “The Prince of Thriller Writers”, I favored his “Black Magic / Duke de Richleau” novels, of course, but Wheatley’s work as a whole were brilliantly well-paced. I chewed through them as a boy and still hold a fond place in my heart for them.

Yes, they’re stuffy and so very British, but that’s part of their charm.

As for what I consider his finest work, The Devil Rides Out, written by Dennis Wheatley in 1934, is a sordid tale of black magic and the occult. While it is a product of its time, I believe it still holds up and has a captivating allure, even now.

It helped considerably that Wheatley got on quite well with Aleister Crowley and, it should come as no surprise, the Beast bears more than a passing resemblance to the novel’s antagonist Mocata.



As much as I love the novel, however, the film adaptation of The Devil Rides Out is really something special. It aired on Turner Classic Movies last night and, once again, I could not look away. Christopher Lee as Duke de Richleau is not only brilliant casting, but is easily Lee’s finest performance, and that’s saying a lot.

“Director Terence Fisher has a ball with this slice of black magic, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel. He has built up a suspenseful pic, with several tough highlights, and gets major effect by playing the subject dead straight and getting similar serious performances from his capable cast. Christopher Lee is for once on the side of the goodies.” — Variety

If you’ve not seen it, you should make a point of immersing yourself in The Devil Rides Out. It holds with me a rather curious distinction, shared only by Angel Heart, in that it is a movie that surpasses its source material despite said material being near brilliant.

It is an inspiring film, heavy handed at times, but a delight to the senses. It draws from the novel, capturing its frantic pacing, but is able to frame the narrative through Lee’s performance in such a way that elevates the material even further.

12 Movies to Inspire Your Magic(k)

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Media Macabre on August 7, 2017 by Occult Detective

Yesterday, druid author John Beckett published a blog entitled 12 Movies to inspire your Magic. In the post he states “if you’re feeling a bit too mundane and you need some magical motivation, give one of these a try“.

While there are several fine movies on his list of inspirational works, I would only include two from his article in a list of my own. One would come from his initial 12 and one from his “not for this” section.

So let’s have a go, shall we, and in no particular order:

Excalibur: A brilliant choice by John. He’s spot on about the brilliant performance by Nicol Williamson as Merlin. And Helen Mirren’s Morgan La Fey is equal to the task.


The Wicker Man: John finds the depiction of paganism off-putting here, despite being a fan of the movie, but I beg to differ. What you see is living, breathing paganism at its most human. No, I’m not suggesting we return to sacrificing our fellow man to the gods, but the moral of the story is clear and compelling.


Now for 10 that didn’t make Mr. Beckett’s list but make mine —

The Devil Rides Out: This brilliant adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley classic stars Christopher Lee in his finest performance.


The Ninth Gate: A lot of people were turned off by this Johnny Depp thriller, but I found it engaging.


Night of the Demon: An often overlooked masterpiece adapting M.R. James’ Casting of the Runes.


A Dark Song: This recent film blew me away. Yes, the ritual’s a bit dodgy but the spirit and intent are masterfully done.


Simon, King of the Witches: Seldom seen by most people I talk to, but this one blew me away at the drive-in in the 70s. Definitely a cult classic.


The Love Witch: Anna Biller pulled out all the stops for this 70s horror movie homage.


Necromancy: Orson Welles, just before the end, drunkenly chews the scenery in this low budget thriller. Hard to find, but worth a look.


Lucifer Rising: Kenneth Anger’s powerful ritual trapped in celluloid, evocative and transformative. For the record, I prefer Jimmy Page’s soundtrack.


The Song Remains the Same: Speaking of Page, this film, while far from perfect, captures real magic at work.



And now for something completely different:

Ghoulies: Yes, Ghoulies. I know it’s a Gremlins rip-off, but the ritual scenes and Detective’s Michael Des Barres was really quite something.


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