First Impressions of Annabelle: Creation

I watched Annabelle: Creation this weekend, a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014). It’s the first horror movie I’ve seen since last year, and I read several reviews praising it for improving on the original. Honestly, I never saw the original and I’m not a fan of the “The Conjuring Universe” (although I did enjoy The Conjuring). Overall, Annabelle: Creation had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • Annabelle: Creation only warrants an ‘R’ rating for a handful of gory scenes that could have easily been toned down to make it PG-13. In other words, if your movie is going to be rated R, make it rated R. This prequel-sequel relies primarily on thrills; it isn’t gratuitously violent, has no nudity, and there isn’t even any swearing in it.
  • The movie is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes.
  • Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.
  • Religious imagery, prayers, and exorcism/binding only seems to work when it’s convenient for the plot.
  • Lulu Wilson, who plays a courageous girl named Linda, was also in Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), which just happened to be the last horror movie I saw in theaters. She’s a talented young actress who I hope eventually breaks out of the horror genre.
  • The film reminded me of the most terrifying episode of a children’s show I’ve ever seen: an episode of Webster called “Moving On,” which aired just after Halloween in 1984. Webster explores an old Victorian house with a room that’s always locked. Inside, there’s a life-sized doll sitting in a rocking chair. It scared the shit out of me as a kid.
  • Did Annabelle need so many characters? At least two of six orphans are kinda just “there” and don’t contribute anything to the plot.
  • I did appreciate the inclusion at the end of a Raggedy Ann doll that looked like the real Annabell doll, as opposed to the sinister, wooden prop used for most of the movie.

Look for a full review coming soon!

Storm over Stone

Belle Grove Historic Plantation, Northern Shenandoah Valley, Middletown, Virginia. (540) 869-2028

14th Annual Marilla Civil War Reenactment

On July 29 & 30, Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days at Marilla Town Park. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. At Sutlers Row, vendors sold Civil War memorabilia, flags, books, and uniforms.

Each year has something a little different to offer. Previously, the event featured barn burnings, ground charges, and falling trees and buildings. Saturday’s reenactment was more conventional.

Participating units included the 1st Tennessee, 4th South Carolina, 21st Georgia, 42 Virginia, 138th New York, 200th Indiana, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, and more.

Maxwell’s Battery was one of the Union artillery units to participate in the reenactment. They hail from Canisteo in western New York and are unique in that they re-enact both sides of the conflict.

As a Union outfit, they represent Battery K of the 1st U.S. Artillery. When Confederate, they are Maxwell’s Battery of the 1st Georgia Regular Artillery. Historically, Battery K was a horse artillery unit, meaning its crew traveled on horseback for rapid movement.

Read the rest of this entry

All-American Diner Tour: The Gem Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Spencer Street near I-690 in Syracuse’s Lakefront neighborhood, The Gem is a 1950s-style or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner that also has an impressive beer menu featuring local breweries.

The Gem was founded by Henry “Hank” McCall in 1950 as The Little Gem Diner. In 1997, Francis “Doc” Good bought the Little Gem and renamed it Doc’s Little Gem Diner. In 2003, the State of New York banned smoking in most public places, and Doc estimated he lost 40% of his customers.

Then, in September 2007, a fire ravaged the diner and it was closed for repairs for over two months. After years of financial trouble, he sold it in 2011 to Len Montreal and Samuel Flatt. Doug LaLone leased the Gem, renovated, rebranded, and built an addition that expanded its seating from 47 seats to 130.

As an interesting aside, in 2009 Doc’s Little Gem Diner appeared in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s TruTV show Conspiracy Theory. The diner served as a backdrop for an interview with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Mike Bellone of Seneca Falls.

The Gem’s breakfast menu is heavy on the meat. You can get a 6 oz. Filet Mignon with two eggs, home fries and toast for $17.95, or a New York strip steak with two eggs, home fries and toast for $11.95. They also offer a cheeseburger breakfast, or if you want to cut right to the chase, just a half pound of chopped ground beef with with two eggs, home fries and toast for $9.00. You can also smother it in grilled mushrooms, onions, and peppers for a dollar.

Read the rest of this entry

Montcalm’s Cross Reenactment Weekend

On July 22 and 23, Fort Ticonderoga commemorated the 259th anniversary of the 1758 Battle of Carillon with a series of events called “Montcalm’s Cross,” named after French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm.

The Battle of Carillon was fought on July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War. It was the bloodiest battle of the Seven Years War fought in North America, with over 3,000 casualties. French losses were about 400, while more than 2,000 were British.

French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière constructed Fort Carillon on the shore of Lake Champlain between 1755 and 1757, but the battle was fought behind breastworks about a kilometer west of the fort.

Though British troops under General James Abercrombie outnumbered the French defenders five-to- one, lack of artillery and poor coordination resulted in a military disaster for the attacking army.

Montcalm’s Cross Reenactment Weekend was a two-day event. On Saturday, reenactors re-created the British advance from Lake George Landing, during which an encounter with a lost French patrol resulted in the death of British commander Lord Howe.

Read the rest of this entry

Civil War Ballads: The Fall of Charleston

Eugene T. Johnston wrote this song near the end of the American Civil War to celebrate the capture of Charleston, South Carolina by Union forces in February 1865. Since then, it has been covered many times, including by country and western artist Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) and Civil War folk singer Bobby Horton.

Oh have you heard the glorious news, is the cry from every mouth,
Charleston is taken, and the rebels put to rout;
And Beauregard the chivalrous, he ran to save his bacon—
When he saw Gen. Sherman’s “Yanks,” and “Charleston is taken!”

With a whack, rowdy-dow,
A hunkey boy is General Sherman,
Whack, rowdy-dow,
Invincible is he!

This South Carolina chivalry, they once did loudly boast;
That the footsteps of a Union man, should ne’er polute their coast.
They’d fight the Yankees two to one, who only fought for booty;—
But when the “udsills” came along it was “Legs do your duty.”

With a whack, rowdy-dow,
Babylon is fallen,
Whack, rowdy-dow,
The end is drawing near!

Read the rest of this entry