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New Thriller/Horror Movie Suggestions for Halloween

It’s October, and that means it’s a great time to watch a thriller or scary movie.

Every year, I try to compile a list of the best films I’ve seen from this genre. This year, I grouped the most recent films I’ve viewed into 10 categories.

Check out my recommendations, and if you watch one or have seen one of the films I’ve listed, let me know what you thought about it. You can Tweet me at @lareecarucker.

 1. Potential Lifetime movies that involve an obsessive, crazy person

My Teacher, My Obsession (2018) – This movie has or should air on Lifetime. Thankfully, (as a college journalism instructor) I have not yet encountered a student who is quite this mentally unstable. When a new girl begins attending the high school where her father has been hired as a new teacher, she befriends another student who turns out to be a crazy person.

Dismissed (2017) – This film also involves an obsessive, crazy student and is set in a high school. Apparently, this kid was never informed that “nobody is perfect,” and that murdering someone won’t look good on your permanent record. A teacher soon realizes his star student is crazy when the boy is willing to do anything to get an A. Dylan Sprouse, one of the twins from the children’s television show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, gives a great performance as the student.

Inconceivable (2017) – Another example of a good potential Lifetime movie because it involves an obsessive, crazy person with a plot similar to “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” Angela, a doctor, develops a friendship with a mysterious woman named Katie and offers her a job as a live-in nanny. (Why women in movies hire supermodels to work in their homes with their husbands, I’ll never understand.) Katie becomes overly attached to the family’s young daughter, lies and manipulates the family. Angela and her husband soon realize Katie is whacked.

Unsane (2018) – Hitchcock’s movies often involved characters who were being harassed by crazy people, yet no one believes them. Also sounds a little like American politics. “Unsane” is another potential Lifetime movie involving crazy people with a Hitchcock feel. When a young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, we are left to wonder if she is sane or unsane.

Creep (2015) – Watch out for the guy who seems like everyone’s best buddy. People aren’t always as they seem. When something seems off, trust your instincts. A man answers an online ad to film a stranger for the day who says he’s dying, and things get weird.

2. Films that feature dangerous children

Stephanie (2017) – Remember that old “Twilight Zone” episode called “It’s a Good Life” in which the adults are very cautious about everything they say to a little boy who everyone seems afraid of for some reason? We later find out that when the child has a temper tantrum, he can kill anyone he’s angry with or turn them into inanimate objects with his mind. “Stephanie” is a reimagining of the same concept. After a mysterious global crisis, a young girl is left alone to hide from something that stalks her home. Shree Crooks is believable as “Stephanie.”

Prodigy (2017) – Like “Stephanie,” this is another movie with a dangerous child who has extraordinary mental gifts and supernatural powers. Savannah Liles gives an interesting performance as a young genius.

Before I Wake (2017) – Another story about a dangerous child with supernatural powers. In the end, the film teaches us that real love can heal. Internet description: “Foster parents Mark and Jessie welcome 8-year-old Cody into their home. The boy tells Jessie that he’s terrified to fall asleep, but she assumes it’s just a natural fear for any young child. The couple become startled when their dead biological son suddenly appears in their living room. To their surprise, Cody’s dreams can magically become real, but so can his nightmares. Mark and Jessie must now uncover the truth behind Cody’s mysterious ability before his imagination harms them all.”

3. Black comedy/horror

Little Evil (2017) – While we’re on the topic of dangerous children, a newly married man begins to believe that his 5-year-old stepson is the spawn of Satan. A black comedy with great performances.

The Babysitter (2017) – Another black comedy that is pretty funny and unexpected. It’s perhaps the antithesis of “Adventures in Babysitting.”

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) – Another black comedy with great performances. Internet description: “After being burglarized, a depressed woman (Melanie Lynskey) and her obnoxious neighbor set out to find the thieves, but they soon find themselves up against a group of dangerous criminals.”

4. Adventure seeking that turns deadly, camping trip thrillers, and man vs. nature stories

Chernobyl Diaries (2012) – I would love to hop on a plane, land in a foreign country and go wandering around on adventures. However, one of the things that prevents me from being a spontaneous, adventure-seeking traveler in foreign countries are movies like “Chernobyl Diaries.” That’s because road trip and travel movies – where people throw caution to the wind and embrace their freedom – never turn out very well. My radar would probably go off a bit if one of my friends asked me if I wanted to spend some time in Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine. Since it was the worst accident in the history of nuclear power, I might question whether that was a good idea before jumping in a vehicle with a random “extreme” tour guide. This decision does not prove wise for a group of young tourists hoping for a unique adventure.

The Green Inferno (2015) – If you like gore, which I don’t, you will probably like this film from Eli Roth. It’s another horror film that involves a group of young, adventurous people who find themselves in a bit of trouble with cannibals.

Desolation (2017) – There’s something intriguing about watching a thriller set in the woods. Because there are many with this theme, it’s interesting to see what the director will do differently in a similar, limited setting. “Desolation” is a good example of a road trip/camping-in-the-wilderness thriller and coming-of-age-story. Internet description: “A young mother goes into a remote wilderness area with her son and her best friend to scatter her late husband’s ashes. On their trek home, they realize a lone hiker has been following them. After a series of disturbing encounters, they are forced to confront their deepest fears when the stranger’s true motives are revealed.”

Backcountry (2015) – Another camping trip story. Movies that involve man or woman against nature can be scary. Two female friends go camping and become lost. The trip turns into a fight for survival when they are stalked by a man-eating bear.

Killing Ground (2017) – Another camping trip gone awry, but compelling. Probably the best of the three I’ve mentioned here and often listed among the top thrillers of 2017. A couple who goes on a camping trip must fight for survival in the Australian woods.

The Shallows (2016) – It’s probably not a good idea to go to an unnamed beach in a remote location when you have no cell phone reception, surf giant waves and swim alone, but bad decisions make great thrillers. And there are sharks, which are always scary. This is another water-related, man/woman against nature/beast film. While surfing, Nancy (Blake Lively) finds herself stalked by a great white shark, and she must be smart to survive.

A Quiet Place (2018) – I couldn’t help but wonder if this film would have been more effective if the “monsters” were replaced by animals. Perhaps noise could stir all the animals and make them attack like in “The Birds” and other man vs. nature films. Great performances. It’s also interesting to note that with this film and “10 Cloverfield Lane,” we see a feminist ending. The victims/survivors in both films are women who soldier-up and vow to fight the enemy. Internet description: “In this terrifyingly suspenseful thriller, a family must navigate their lives in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Hailed by critics and audiences around the world, experience the must-see movie of the year.”

5. Psychological thrillers involving abuse

Room (2016) – I’m not sure how well child actor Jacob Tremblay fared at the Oscars, even though children like Anna Paquin have picked up awards in the past, but his performance carried this movie. Internet description: “Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.”

The Sinner (2017) – This was an intriguing series with a great performance by Jessica Biel. Although it seemed like there were a few facts in the movie that didn’t quite add up in the end, it keeps the viewer interested until the final episode. The series is also about how abuse that results in feelings of shame can make survivors feel guilty for things they aren’t responsible for, and things aren’t always as they seem. Internet description: “In the first season, Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) delves into the past of a troubled young mother (Jessica Biel) in order to determine why she fatally stabbed a man during a beach outing, but has no memory of why she committed the crime.”

Gerald’s Game (2017) – Written by Stephen King, the story is a little like “Misery,” but we learn about the character’s history and what has led her to her current unfortunate situation. Internet description: “A woman accidentally kills her husband during a kinky game. Handcuffed to her bed with no hope of rescue, she begins hearing voices and seeing strange visions.”

1922 (2017) – Great period piece thriller about greed and its consequences set almost 100 years ago. Good performances. Internet description. “A rancher conspires to murder his wife for financial gain and convinces his teenage son to participate.”

The Girl on the Train (2016) – Pretty interesting story. However, I doubt the wife/girlfriend at the end would have been willing to believe the lead character so quickly. Internet description: “Based on the bestselling thriller, Rachel (Emily Blunt) sees something shocking happen from her daily commute and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.”

 6. Zombie and apocalypse thrillers

The Girl With All the Gifts – (2017) British zombie movies seem to be a bit more frightening, and this one will remind you of the “28 Days Later” film franchise. Internet description: “Six-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close stars in a post-apocalyptic story about a devastating disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh-eating ‘hungries.'”

Cargo (2017) – There have been many zombie movies made in the last 10 or 15 years that were, surprisingly, pretty well done and semi-believable. “Cargo,” a 2017 Australian post-apocalyptic drama thriller, is a good example of the genre that deals with concepts of morality and ethics, even in bleak circumstances.

Into the Forest (2016) – Another apocalyptic survival film. Ellen Page, who has been brilliant since she was a child in the thriller “Hard Candy,” stars as one of two sisters who must fight to survive a terrifying global blackout.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) – A great thriller that keeps you guessing with an incredibly smart woman as the lead character who is determined to survive and able to outwit others. Internet description: “After a car crash, a woman wakes up in a survivalist’s bunker. He claims to have saved her from an apocalyptic attack but, growing suspicious of his motives, she’ll have to escape to discover the truth in this heart-pounding new thriller from J.J. Abrams.”

7. Technology thrillers

Friend Request (2016) – If you liked “The Ring,” you will probably like this film that also uses technology as a method of haunting people. While it was with a videotape in “The Ring,” “Friend Request” uses social media. Be careful who you befriend on Facebook! Internet description: “Laura is a popular college student who graciously accepts an online friend request from Marina, a young social outcast. To everyone’s shock, Marina takes her own life after Laura decides to unfriend her. Soon, a disturbing and mysterious video appears on Laura’s profile, and her contacts slowly dwindle. When her friends suddenly begin to die one by one, the frightened young woman must figure out a way to stop the carnage before it’s too late.”

Bad Match (2017) – Another example of a technology horror film. This one involves online dating. The main character does a lot of psychological projecting and objectifying, and as a result, misses an opportunity to have a real relationship with someone who genuinely likes him. The film also proves that assumptions can be destructive. Internet description: “Harris seems to have it all: a great job, plenty of friends, and an active sex life thanks to a range of dating apps. But all this changes when he matches with Riley, a girl who’s hiding something sinister.”

Black Mirror Season 4 – Watch it. Although I didn’t enjoy it as much as previous seasons that focused more on social media, the idea that near future technology could potentially be frightening is relevant in today’s culture. Season 4 is mind-bending and seems to focus on brain implants, and electronic copies and simulations of people that live in a virtual world, yet have a life of their own.

8. Mind-bending alternate universe and time travel thrillers

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) – A pretty good space movie involving alternate realities with an unexpected ending. Internet description: “Orbiting above an Earth on the brink of catastrophic energy wars, scientists test a dangerous device that could provide unlimited power, but also runs the risk of creating a terrifying paradox, leaving them face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.”

Coherence (2014) – If you’re looking for mind-bending films, you might enjoy this take on multiverse and alternate realities. Internet description: “In this mind-bending sci-fi thriller, eight friends at a dinner party start experiencing strange and mysterious events on the night a comet is passing close to Earth. Soon it becomes clear that nothing and no one are what they appear.”

Dark (2017) – This is a fantastic German series about time travel you don’t want to miss if you like science fiction. It also involves time traveling back to the 1980s, which is a cool decade to revisit. Internet description: “When two children go missing in a small German town, its sinful past is exposed along with the double lives and fractured relationships that exist among four families as they search for the kids. The mystery-drama series introduces an intricate puzzle filled with twists that includes a web of curious characters, all of whom have a connection to the town’s troubled history — whether they know it or not. The story includes supernatural elements that tie back to the same town in 1986. ‘Dark’ represents the first German original series produced for Netflix.”

9. Haunting and evil spirit/films with commentary about women in society

Alias Grace (2017) – Great miniseries with outstanding performances that will haunt you. Internet description: “Based on the 1996 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, ‘Alias Grace’ tells the story of young Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who is accused and convicted of the 1843 murder of her employer and his housekeeper. Stablehand James McDermott is also convicted of the crime. McDermott is hanged, but Grace is sentenced to life in prison, leading her to become one of the most notorious women of the period in Canada. The story is based on actual 19th-century events.”

Hereditary (2018) – One of the worst horror/thriller movies I’ve ever seen. Surprised that it has reputable actors attached to it. They seemed to have had no knowledge of where the film was headed, no pun intended. I question whether the good reviews for this film were purchased or are “bots.” Internet description: “When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.”

The Witch (2016) – Another film that explores womanhood and horror. It’s interesting how some humans have historically associated prosperity with religious devotion and loss and despair with evil. Some still do. Anya Taylor-Joy shines in this film. Internet description: “In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630.”

Goodnight Mommy (2015) – In recent years, there have been a few films that explore the idea of motherhood and horror. “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” are classics that do. “The Babadook” is a modern take. Don’t miss “Goodnight Mommy,” a must see for any horror/thriller movie fan. Internet description: “In this terrifying thriller, twin boys play a dangerous game of make-believe that blurs the line between nightmare and reality as they start to doubt whether their mother, recovering from cosmetic surgery, is really who she says she is.”

10. Worth watching

The Midnight Meat Train (2008) – Not the best movie, but fans of horror, thriller, and Bradley Cooper genres may be interested in seeing it. Again, characters in horror movies don’t usually make the best decisions. I would not choose to follow a murderer around New York City taking pictures of him, but Bradley Cooper believes this is a good idea. In the end, he should have asked me for advice. Internet description: “When struggling photographer Leon Kaufman (Bradley Cooper) meets the owner of a prominent art gallery, he sees a chance for the success that has, so far, eluded him. Determined to show the darker side of humanity for his debut showing, Leon crosses paths with Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) a serial killer who preys on late-night subway commuters. His fascination with Mahogany pulls him – and his lover (Leslie Bibb) – deep into an evil abyss.”

XX (2017) – If you like horror anthologies, you will probably want to check these out. “The Box” was my favorite of the four. Internet description: “Filmmakers Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin and Karyn Kusama present four horrific tales of terror. In ‘The Box,’ a boy (Peter DaCunha) starts to display strange behavior after looking inside a mysterious gift box. In ‘The Birthday Party,’ a woman (Melanie Lynskey) refuses to let an untimely death ruin her son’s bash. In ‘Don’t Fall,’ an innocent camping trip turns deadly, and in ‘Her Only Living Son,’ a mother (Christina Kirk) must deal with the child from hell.”

Before I Go to Sleep (2017) –  Internet description – “Ever since a vicious attack nearly claimed her life, Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) has suffered from anterograde amnesia and is unable to form new memories. Every morning, she becomes reacquainted with her husband, Ben (Colin Firth), and the other constants in her life. In accordance with her doctor’s (Mark Strong) instructions, Christine keeps a video diary. As Christine starts to uncover terrifying truths about her past, she begins to question everything – and everyone – around her.”

The Invitation (2015) –  Internet description: “While attending a dinner party at his former house, a man (Logan Marshall-Green) starts to believe that his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) have sinister plans for the guests.”

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2016) – Starring Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka (of “Mad Men”). Internet description: “Two girls must fight a mysterious evil force at a deserted prep school in this terrifying horror film.”

Here are a few more posts about thrillers you may find interesting if you’re looking for one to watch this Halloween:

Looking For a Thriller to Watch This Halloween? Check Out These Lists.

Thrilling thoughts about Black Mirror and real American Horror Stories

Scary movie suggestions for Halloween and beyond for thriller, horror fans

‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and the Creepy Kid genre

Take a ‘Brake’ and watch a thriller

Turkey Day thriller menu


We have freedom, but we’re not independent

LaReeca Rucker

I have been a journalist for 25 years. In fact, this year marks my 25th year of being in the journalism industry in some area, starting in college at a local radio station and later as a paid intern at a newspaper. This also marks the 20th year of my college graduation.

In the last 25 years, I have covered a variety of stories, including homicides, fires and car accidents. I was good at establishing trustworthy relationships with law enforcement, but I have never really enjoyed covering spot news.

It’s not fun to call the family or friends of someone who died, tell them you’re writing a story about their son or daughter who was killed in a car accident, and ask them for comments about that person to include in the story. It’s not fun arriving at the scene of a house fire and interviewing homeowners about their loss.

It’s not fun driving up to a concrete slab where someone’s house, that has been completely destroyed by a tornado, once sat and asking them to tell you what happened. Or interviewing neighbors about gang members who are terrorizing their neighborhoods. But it is sometimes part of the job.

Let’s eliminate the idea that work is supposed to be fun. Covering spot news is emotionally challenging.

I have done it throughout North Mississippi while working at newspapers. And for four years, half of my reporting beat was covering law enforcement in two municipalities in the greater Jackson metro area.

It’s been a while since I covered spot news on a regular basis. The last two stories I recall writing that fit the category were about a Tougaloo student who died in a car accident and an Oxford family whose home burned. But based on a recent incident, I’ve decided that if you’re a reporter who stops covering spot news, the universe may bring spot news to you.

The house I live in is brick, and the walls must be pretty thick, because I rarely hear strong winds, thunder or stormy weather outside. I do hear traffic on the road that runs in front of my house. Sometimes, 18-wheelers pass by, and their mufflers make loud noises.

I have often thought it’s possible that one of the drivers traveling on it could lose control of their vehicle and drive off the road into my house, even though it’s pretty far off the road.

But that’s crazy thinking, right?

In the early morning of July 5, I was awakened by a thumping sound outside. I assumed it was the muffler of one of the 18-wheelers, and I went back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I woke up when I heard someone knocking at my door.

First, let me pause and say, that when I first awaken, I’m walking, and I may be talking, but I’m still technically asleep for a little while.

Through the window, I could see someone at my backdoor gently knocking. Before I could get dressed and answer the door, the person began walking in my backyard to the woods in the distance. I could see her on the edge of the property taking a peek into the thickly wooded area.

In a hazy state, I remembered that when I moved into the house, I was told a woman who owned part of the wooded property behind my house would probably stop by unannounced to check on her property occasionally. Assuming it was her, I got dressed and walked into the living room to look out the window – a morning ritual.

Still half asleep, I was disgusted when I noticed trash strewn all over my front yard. I suddenly remembered that I had put three trash bags of garbage under my carport the night before, and one of the animals from the woods must have gotten into the trash and dragged the bag, strewing it all over my lawn.

Feeling the need to quickly rectify the situation before my neighbors concluded I was cool with having a trash-filled yard, I retrieved a box of garbage bags from my kitchen so I could begin cleaning up the trash from my carport and my front yard.

But as I walked out my backdoor, I noticed that the garbage bags were where I had left them unopened. When I walked a few steps further, I saw the person in my backyard begin walking from the woods toward me. As she moved closer, she stretched out her arms, and said, “I need help,” repeatedly.

Unsure what was happening or what to do, I walked toward her and asked her to come inside. I could see that both of her eyes were swollen shut, she had cuts and bruises on her arms and legs, and she was crying.

She needed help with her injuries, so I gathered towels for her and led her to the bathroom. I walked outside a minute, debating what to do, and as I stepped onto the front lawn, I panned to the right of my house and saw a vehicle standing on its side near a creek that divides my house from my neighbor’s.

The vehicle looked surreal, like a Hot Wheels car that a child had finished playing with and left behind. When I closely inspected the trash covering my yard, I realized it was mostly parts of the vehicle that had come off when it crashed into various trees before coming to a standstill. There were bumper, fender and other parts of the car scattered for yards from my driveway to other side of my lawn. Several articles of clothing hung high in one of the trees. Other items included music CDs, a suitcase, and the car’s license plate.

When I went back inside, the young woman was calling me from the bathroom, asking me to help her. She decided she might be more severely injured than she had originally thought, and she asked me to call 9-1-1.

As I sat with her, it was obvious that the impact of the crash had affected her memory. She wasn’t sure where she was or how she had gotten there, and I could tell the memory loss terrified her. She held out her hand and asked me to pray with her that no one else had been in the car because she couldn’t remember if she had been traveling alone.

This was a scary thought for both of us, because if someone else had been in the car with her, I knew – based on the position of the car – there was nothing I could physically do to help them at that point, and so we both hoped and prayed the ambulance would arrive as quickly as possible. Time moves slowly when you’re waiting on an ambulance.

Knowing the paramedics were on their way, I tried to talk with her and keep her calm until they arrived. She told me she was a student in her early 20s. I asked her major. She said she was studying to work in the health field.

She remembered that she should probably call her parents, so she took my phone and began dialing their number. Unsuccessful on the first attempt, she then called her sister, and when she heard a familiar voice, she began to cry, revealing how scared she truly was.

The ambulance arrived along with two sheriff’s deputies. The paramedics came inside, and the deputies examined the car wreckage outside. I immediately went outside and told them she wasn’t sure whether or not there were any passengers in the car with her, so they would make checking a priority. They determined she was the only person in the vehicle.

The paramedics placed a brace around her neck and led her outside to a stretcher. As they put her on it and transported her to the local hospital, the deputies stuck around to wait for the wrecking company to arrive and remove the vehicle from the property.

Since I’ve never had a car accident happen in my front yard before, I was unaware whether or not I should clean up the debris in my yard. They told me the wrecking company would do it.

I then noticed a high mark where bark was missing on one of the tall trees. There were also two deep holes in the ground. The tree that the vehicle rested against had also been struck pretty high, leaving us all to believe the car must have jumped and flipped a few times before it came to a stop.

When the workers pulled the car out to tow it away, it was completely destroyed. The Nissan Altima looked like a smart car. The passenger side was complete smashed in. The wrecking service employees said one of the tires had landed yards away on my neighbor’s lawn . That means it sailed across the creek before rolling and landing there.

Since the accident, the young woman’s parents have come to my house twice to thank me for helping her. Her mother said she was lucky it happened at my house; she could have been wandering around in the wilderness. My response has been, “I’m just so glad she’s OK.” It’s terrifying to think what would have happened if I had walked outside July 5 and discovered a completely different scenario.

I asked for a report about how she’s doing. I was told she had no major broken bones. Her parents said one of her lungs was partially punctured. I believe they said she broke or bruised a rib. Her ACL was torn. But this strong girl will live, and she’ll be OK. I’m glad this is a spot news story with a good ending.

I told her parents my family has concluded that the universe has big plans for her. She is either lucky, or it’s a miracle she survived. And I’d like to think that she’ll go on to help others in her chosen field now that she has the rest of her life to live.

We’re still not sure how she got out of the vehicle or if she was thrown from it. Her mother said she recalled kicking something, so that may have been her method of escape. Based on my neighbor’s recollection of when he heard the crash, there was a two-hour period before she knocked on my door around 7 a.m.

Wearing a blue T-shirt with the words “Red, White and Blue” on it, I later found a matching headband with stars hanging from a tree limb. I assume it’s one she lost during the crash.

The incident made me reflect on the July 4 holiday and think about how we are all connected, and we all need each other. There have been times when I had vehicle issues, and it wasn’t five minutes until a stranger approached me offering help. And I’ve been helped by other kind souls in many different ways.

I think generosity is one of the interwoven values of Mississippi culture. And while you may find it elsewhere in the world, you may not find it as abundantly and as selflessly as you do here.

It’s a comforting thought to know that we can depend on the kindness of strangers. And that while we have freedom, we’re not independent.

Latest Find: Spoon and Fork Fashion

LaReeca Rucker

I recently attended a holiday craft fair in Oxford at The Jefferson, an event venue that welcomed craftspeople from all over the state who offered many interesting creations, from paintings to jewelry and ornaments.

I usually try to buy a few new ornaments each year for my tree, but I didn’t leave with any this year. I did walk away with a new silver and gold monogrammed bracelet.

What’s unique about the bracelet is that it’s made of flattened spoons. The seller, Mary Evans, of Designs By Me, is from Prentiss, Mississippi. She has other jewelry and pendants made from forks and spoons.

A customer asked if they custom made any pieces, and the seller’s helper said they did not. But it’s a cool idea. Who wouldn’t want to take some of their grandmother’s silverware and have a pendant or memento made from it. Most of the pieces I saw were under $30.

Dining With Fellow Munsters on Halloween

IMG_6438[3569]By LaReeca Rucker

Last Halloween, I had a small Halloween party at my house and dressed like one of my favorite television characters. As a child, I loved watching reruns of “The Munsters,” so I decided I would try my best to look like Lily Munster. Guests were asked to bring scary snacks. Here’s a few scenes from the event:








Looking For a Thriller to Watch This Halloween? Check Out These Lists

By LaReeca Rucker

As a Halloween enthusiast, you might assume that I really like horror movies.

I don’t.

I’ve never been a fan of blood, guts and gore. Movies like “Saw” and such are not for me. I’m not big on monsters, witches and zombies. I don’t find any of those things frightening because they are fictional and implausible.

So, while I’m not a big fan of horror, the psychological thriller is my favorite film genre.

As both a journalist and news consumer, I think many of the news stories that get our attention and make us click a link are about people who have done something that is so far outside the bounds of normalcy, we are left stunned and curious about their motivation. What happened in their lives that drove them to commit a crime?

And perhaps we find it even more horrifying when we can’t latch onto some kind of trigger, warning sign or explanation, because it means one day they were just like everyone else … like us … until they were not.

I like films in which the central character is complex and unpredictable, films that take us on some kind of psychological journey, characters who sometimes find themselves descending into madness or trying to escape a confusing situation, and unexpected plot twists.

Here are a few thrillers I’ve watched in the last year that you may find interesting, and I have included links to other thrillers I have written about. You may find one that you want to check out this Halloween.

photo_10Honeymoon (2014) – Originally found on another list of horror/thriller recommendations, a newlywed couple arrives at the family cabin in the woods. Everything is fine at first, then strange things begin to happen. Bea, played by Rose Leslie of “Game of Thrones” fame, and Paul seem set for their romantic getaway, then Bea goes missing. Paul finds her disoriented in the woods, and her behavior becomes increasingly worrisome. As the viewer, you’re intrigued throughout the film because you are hoping for some satisfying answer as to why she has begun behaving so abnormally, but in the end, the film becomes more horror than thriller, so thriller fans may find the ending disappointing, while horror fans enjoy it.

220px-Berlin_SyndromeBerlin Syndrome (2017) – Berlin Syndrome is another film I saw on a thriller/horror list that I had to check out, and it would probably be my top choice from this post. The Australian film tells the story of a young journalist named Claire, who travels to Germany and meets an attractive guy named, Andi. She decides to have a one-night stand, which proves to be a terrifying mistake. When she wakes up, she realizes she doesn’t have a key to unlock the door of the apartment. In time, she soon understands that her charming captor has locked her inside. Teresa Palmer, who bears a striking resemblance to Kristen Stewart, and actor Max Riemelt give strong performances. The film is an interesting character study of a psychopathic predator who masquerades by day as a teacher and the confusing relationship he has with his victim.

1922_(2017_film)1922 (2017) – Set in 1922, the lead character of this film, based on a Stephen King novella, is a farmer who sits down to give a written confession of the sins that haunt him. In 1922, he murdered his wife for financial gain and convinced his son to help him. We see both of their lives unravel because of these selfish decisions.

imagesRaw (2016) – This French-Belgian horror film is about a vegetarian named Justine, who leaves home to attend veterinary school, joining her sister, Alexia, who is already enrolled. After a hazing ritual, Justine realizes she has a taste for blood. The film moves slowly, so you don’t really understand what is happening completely until the end. Then, like “Honeymoon,” it switches from psychological thriller to a unique horror genre approach.

ItfollowsIt Follows (2014): Another film with great reviews, so I watched. It’s described as a supernatural psychological horror film that “follows a girl pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter.” I can’t really explain it, but if you are a fan of the horror/thriller genre, you’ll probably want to check it out. If you remember the horror movie rules outlined in “Scream” – for teenagers, this scenario almost always results in a horror movie death.

Hush (2016): This was an unexpectedly good thriller about a young deaf author who is terrorized by a masked man who tries to break into her house. But she is no victim. The lead actress also co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, who directed the film.

Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_OutGet Out (2017) – I enjoyed “Get Out,” and here is a lengthier review of the film that I wrote earlier this year.

Here are a few other posts about thrillers that you may find interesting if you’re looking for one to watch this Halloween:

Thrilling thoughts about Black Mirror and real American Horror Stories

Scary movie suggestions for Halloween and beyond for thriller, horror fans

‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and the Creepy Kid genre

Take a ‘Brake’ and watch a thriller

Turkey Day thriller menu

Thriller Night?

Funny games, creepy kids, lost rooms and Chinatown

Movie review: Eden Lake

Hypnotized by white culture, ‘Get Out’ is about being awakened

By LaReeca Rucker

One of the cool things about teaching a college introduction to mass communications class is that you get to discuss the history of media, including books, magazines, newspapers, television, radio, music and movies. We also look at current events that relate to all of these mediums, and this semester, we watched a couple of current movie trailers, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Get Out.”

While I heard many students say they enjoyed “Get Out,” I didn’t have a chance to watch it until last night when I saw it on pay-per-view. All I knew initially was that it was a horror/thriller movie that seemed to have a theme about racism.

As a fan of “American Horror Story,” the trailer seemed comparable to an AHS plot. After all, the real horrors in “American Horror Story” are not the ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc. As I stated in an earlier column, the true horrors are the historical injustices that America once accepted and ignored – such as the way mentally and physically challenged people were treated in this country, the horrors of slavery, and the evils of addiction, to name a few underlying AHS messages. Humans are always the scariest monsters.

I think there are sociopolitical messages in “Get Out,” just as there are in many horror/thriller films, but I initially felt the story fell apart at the end. However, after giving it more consideration as a metaphor, I began to like it more.

“Get Out” begins with a young, 20-something couple. Rose is played by actress Allison Williams, of HBO’s “Girls,” whose dad is former NBC News anchor Brian Williams. Chris, her boyfriend, is played by actor Daniel Kaluuya.

Rose is planning to bring Chris home for the first time to meet her parents. Chris tells her he’s concerned her parents may be surprised when they show up because Rose has not told them Chris is African American, and she is white. Rose assures Chris this won’t be an issue, and they take a road trip to her secluded family home in the woods of a lakefront community.

When Chris arrives, he learns Rose’s father is a neurosurgeon and her mother is a psychiatrist. He soon discovers something is amiss with the two African American staff members the family employs to help with the household. Rose’s brother seems unstable. Her mother hypnotizes people, generally to help them quit smoking. There’s also a big event that happens every year on the same date in the community.

Spoilers: As a person who has watched thrillers throughout my life and frequently writes about them on this blog, I initially thought this movie was going to adopt The Lottery as a plot device.

The Lottery is, of course, a classic short story about townsfolk who gather annually to draw names in a lottery that ends in a human sacrifice. So I first thought Chris, a photographer, had been lured to a community of racists as a Lottery sacrifice. I further believed this when we see the large group playing bingo.

In “Get Out,” I also saw elements of a terrifying French thriller (that I won’t name, because it pushed my scary movie limits) in which a subversive community of elite, wealthy, cult-like people mysteriously gather for sinister reasons.

A tweaked adaptation of The Lottery concept would have made the film more frightening to me, but instead, the movie transforms from a plausible thriller into a far-fetched science fiction horror story that reminded me a little of “The Skeleton Key,” another “body-swap” movie.

The people who are lured or forcibly taken to this community are all African Americans. Their bodies are being used, and their minds are discarded, replaced or hidden in a “sunken place.” They are part of an experiment and are often chosen because they have a gift, an intellect or a physicality that others covet. There is also the idea that the horrors that are occurring are known by the entire community, and the residents are compliant and secretive.

As a Mississippian, I sighed when Rose’s murderous brother began using the word “Mississippi” to count while trying to take Chris down in the end. However, mentioning the state’s name did add another layer to the film that people who like symbolism and metaphor can ponder.

I enjoyed the film, and it can make you think. My first reaction was that it could have been stronger if the sci-fiction neurosurgery element and the over-exaggerated hypnotic effects were replaced by a more realistic and historical American horror – mob mentality.

However, after thinking about the film metaphorically a while, I think all elements work well. As with all thrillers, I’m sure there are many metaphors about American society to reflect on after viewing this film. The most obvious message the director may have been trying to convey is a belief that African Americans have been hypnotized or brainwashed to see life through the lens of white culture until a light is shined, and they are awakened or “woke.”

I’d love to hear other interpretations. Post a comment.






Thrilling Thoughts About ‘Black Mirror’ and Real ‘American Horror’ Stories

By LaReeca Rucker

Every now and then, I offer a list of some of the best horror/thriller movies, television shows and documentaries I’ve recently seen. Here they are:

Black Mirror: I originally began watching “Black Mirror” a couple of years ago when the first season came to Netflix. At the time, I was a little embarrassed to share with others some of the content of this British science fiction series set in the near future with a technology/social media theme.

Some of the subject matter in the first season has the potential to make viewers blush, including an episode in which the Prime Minster’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. She will be murdered if the Prime Minster doesn’t perform an embarrassing act that will be recorded and shared on television and social media.

blackmirrorSo after watching it, I filed it away in my brain as interesting, but edgy until I started to see numerous articles written about “Black Mirror” recently in The New Yorker – which had already labeled the television series “A ‘Twilight Zone’ for the Digital Age” in 2015 – and other publications that heralded “Black Mirror” as a brilliant warning about the role that social media and technology could play in our world in the near future. I think we see a glimmer of this daily with the new President of the United States who uses Twitter to defend himself to the masses whenever he is enraged or agitated.

One “Black Mirror” episode (starring Bryce Dallas Howard – Opie’s daughter) is about a young woman who checks her social media account throughout the day to see if her rating has been elevated or lowered. If you have a rating of 4.5 or more, you are considered an elite member of society, and this gives you special privileges, such as the opportunity to live in select apartment complexes, board certain flights, and rent certain vehicles.

The way your score is calculated is based on social interactions. If you meet someone at the grocery store and have a pleasant exchange with them, they may select your social media profile with their smartphone and opt to raise your rating by giving you points with a few clicks. The opposite is also true. If you are rude to someone in public, they may choose to lower your score.

I won’t give away any more, but if you watch the episode, it is chilling to think that we aren’t very far away from that now with certain apps and websites.

If you haven’t seen this series, Netflix has added a couple more seasons, and every episode I watched was mind-bending. It’s only been a little over 10 years since social media was introduced to the world, and it’s had a major impact in that short period of time. It’s interesting to ponder how technology in the near future will change us for better or worse. It is also frightening.

neerjaNeerja (2016): As a kid, I watched many, many movies, because my aunt and uncle owned a giant satellite dish. I think most of these dishes have vanished from the face of the Earth and are now probably buried in landfills. Dishes that large today would probably be capable of successfully contacting alien life or making new black hole discoveries.

Some of the movies I watched in the 1980s when I was a kid that were not kid movies included a number of films about plane hijackings. “The Delta Force” with Chuck Norris is one that comes to mind.

“Neerja” is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical thriller that features actress Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant who helped save a number of people aboard the hijacked Pam Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 5, 1986. It’s a great movie about a great person who selflessly helped save many on board.

galapagosThe Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013): This documentary has an intriguing title, and the subject matter is interesting. The Galapagos Islands were  inhabited by a colony of Europeans in the 1930s who moved there for various reasons, and there were a number of unexplained disappearances among the residents. The documentary is suspenseful, and I think the story would be a great premise for a fictional novel or movie. A fictional interpretation might also have a more satisfying ending.

Bound By Flesh (2012): The description of this documentary reads: “Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in 1908, then were sold to a carnival sideshow as babies. They became huge stars of Vaudeville, but never earned a penny until they sued for freedom in 1936.” I found it interesting.

perfectsistersPerfect Sisters: This is a movie about two sisters whose mother (Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino) has a history of being an undependable alcoholic who attracts dangerous losers. When one of the girls is nearly victimized by her mother’s degenerate sugar daddy boyfriend, they devise a plan to murder their mother.

The Green Inferno (2013): While I like thrillers and scary movies, I am not a fan of gore. Unfortunately, this movie had more gore than I bargained for. It’s about a group of college activists who travel to another country to protest the demolition of rainforest land. This becomes a regrettable decision when they encounter a tribe of cannibals. Watch at your own risk. I was interested in the film because I have seen several Eli Roth thrillers, including “Hostel,” “Aftershock,” “Cabin Fever” and “The Sacrament.” I wrote about “The Sacrament” in an earlier post.


The Fall (2013 – ): Before Jamie Dornan was excellently cast in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he starred in “The Fall,” a BBC psychological crime drama with Gillian Anderson. It’s about a serial killer and the detective trying to catch him. Great performances.

Hush (2016): This was an unexpectedly good thriller about a young deaf author who is terrorized by a masked man who tries to break into her house. But she is no victim. The lead actress also co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, who directed the film.

303d4638483882437f864c7e1159a4a9The Returned (2012): Several years ago, I watched the first season of the French television series “The Returned.” I recently watched the second season on Netflix. Because I liked the French series so much, I have not bothered to watch the American knock-off version.

There is some indication that the mysterious town residents who have returned from the dead are zombies, the kind that eat flesh, but if so, the plot has been as slow moving as a typical zombie’s walk, and that has made the show wonderfully suspenseful.

itIt Follows (2014): This film got a lot of great reviews, so I wanted to check it out. It’s described as a supernatural psychological horror film that “follows a girl pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter.” I can’t really explain it, but if you are a fan of the horror/thriller genre, you’ll probably want to check it out. If you remember the horror movie rules outlined in “Scream” – for teenagers, this scenario almost always results in a horror movie death.

American Horror Story (2011 -): I watched the first season of American Horror Story years ago. I loved it, but there weren’t any more episodes available at that time, so I forgot about it.

I recently found some time – the first block of time I’ve had in about two years to watch anything – and I watched four seasons of AHS about the asylum, the witches’ coven, the carnival, and the hotel.

ahsIf you watch the episodes back to back, it seems like there is an excessive amount of gore in this series, but if you are watching it one episode at a time on television, I can see why they would include something scary in each episode to keep the horror fan coming back.

I continue to be amazed by the performance of Jessica Lange, who may be my favorite actress. I also think it’s brilliant how the directors recycle this ensemble cast every season, creating new characters.

I think my favorite season was the asylum, followed by the hotel. Lady Gaga demonstrated in this show that she is a triple threat who can sing, dance and act. She was an intriguing character, and it will be interesting to see how she is revived next season.

I’ve said this many times to others, but AHS is multilayered, and the real horror is not the gore. It’s not the vampires, ghosts and witches. It’s the American horrors of our country – past and present – that are brilliantly interwoven into the stories, such as the way people with disabilities or mental illness were historically treated, racism, slavery and the ongoing horror of addiction.

There were numerous news articles written last year reporting that there were more heroin or opioid deaths than gun deaths in 2015, and we saw a number of photographs released last year by police of people (who looked dead) who had overdosed in their cars with children. According to the linked article, “more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year — the most ever.” That’s an American Horror Story.

I also sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who remembers Sarah Paulson from “American Gothic” back in the 1990s? Remember that creepy line she delivered? “Someones at the door.” It seems like she just can’t get away from “American” horror television shows.

amandaAmanda Knox (2016) documentary: This doc seems like a cautionary tale about traveling and living abroad. It also seems like a warning about media sensationalism and how European and American reporters were hungry to latch onto anything that seemed salacious that sold papers and made headlines regarding this casebook.

It also demonstrates how women are often portrayed in the media – and in society – as virgin or vamp. There’s a book by that title – Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes – if you’d like to enlighten yourself on the topic. I read it 20 years ago for an undergraduate journalism class.






Ten Resolutions for the New Year

newyear1When I started thinking about New Year’s resolutions that I wanted to write for 2017, I initially had a very short list of things that were realistic and attainable that might be suitable for a short Facebook status update.

But the more I thought about it, I came up with at least 10 things I hope to work on in the coming year that I have expanded into a blog post. Maybe you will find some of them relatable.

  1. Exercise 30 minutes a day. I started doing this a couple of years ago, and by run/walking 30 minutes a day in the park, I quickly lost about 40 pounds in three months. It’s a good habit to get into. It’s a stress reliever. It allows you to be one with nature. It’s good for your heart. And as someone who has always had skinny legs, it made my legs more shapely.

It’s so hard for many of us to find time in our busy lives for exercise, and we sometimes think it’s impossible to lose weight because it would take so much effort, but I think it’s really motivating knowing that you can see real improvement in your health and weight if you amend your lifestyle and spend only 30 minutes every day exercising. I also live a mile from a lake, so one of my goals has been to drive there and take advantage of the landscape for my run/walks.

2. Drink more water.

3. Write down three things I’m grateful for. Several years ago, I experienced some challenging health issues. During that time period, I learned many things about life. A couple of those things were the importance of optimism and gratitude. I’ve also read a number of studies that say doing something as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for every day can really change your life. So I’m going to give it a try in 2017.

4. Work on new and creative ways to teach and improve my job. At the moment, I have my dream job. I work with kind, supportive people that I learn from every day. I enjoy what I do, and that makes me want to continue to do my best.

5. Do something brave every day. Sometimes, that may mean speaking in front of a crowd. Other times, it may mean simply voicing your opinion, or introducing yourself to someone. One thing I’ve learned in life is that sometimes things hold us back when we are in certain, specific situations and circumstances. But sometimes, if you remove yourself from those situations, your fears may disappear as well. Even if they remain, you don’t have to drive a race car or jump off a cliff into the ocean in order to challenge them. After all, if you’re fearless, you’re not really brave. Taking one step at a time is bravery.

6. Stay off of social media as much as possible. Obviously, since I’ve written this blog post and shared it, I have not been newyear3very successful with this new year’s resolution. To be honest, I’m sure I would not be able to completely eliminate social media from my life. As a person who has worked as a journalist since the invent of social media and has been expected to promote my work on social media, it’s something that has just become an extension of many who work with words, graphics and pictures on a daily basis. Sometimes, it’s fun.

However, I probably have just as many negative feelings regarding social media as I do positive feelings. Take a break from reading it a couple of days, and you feel as if you have escaped the virtual world. You are on the “outside” again. But it can be kind of lonely “on the outside” when everyone is still “inside.”

If I had to bet, I’d guess that a lot of people probably feel like they have become more introverted because of social media, and that’s one of the things I want to push back against this year.

7. Continue learning a foreign language. I took four semesters of Spanish in college, but I was never fluent, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to achieve. Thanks to iPhone apps these days, it’s possible to learn just about anything. I’m currently using one to brush up on basic Spanish and grammar, and I feel like it has been beneficial.

8. Make more crafts and create. One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that, if you strip away everything about me, what you are left with, essentially, is a girl who likes to create things. If I wasn’t crafting, or writing, or blogging, or creating something, I’m not exactly sure who I would be. It’s a fundamental part of who I am, and I like that person in basic form without anything additional that is suppose to increase my value.

9. Take more road trips near and far. If I had all the money in the world, I would spend it traveling, but I also enjoy going on small adventures to places I’ve never been before. Hopefully, big and small adventures await in 2017.

10. Grow, but accept. I will always be a person who has both insecurities and confidence. I’ll always be someone who is bold and outgoing sometimes and reserved and shy other times. There are some subjects I know a lot about, and others of which I know very little.

Sometimes I’m happy. Sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and think I look good for a person my age. Occasionally, but not often – because living in the past is as emotionally dangerous as ruminating about the future – I’d like to reset the digital clock/calendar to a couple of decades earlier.

I will always be someone who can relate in some way to every meme and Pinterest pin on the internet. I will always be both strong and weak. I’ll always be imperfect.

Our lives are never a yearly project that we can somehow fix in 365 days, transforming ourselves into someone new and unrecognizable. We are our own lifelong commitment.

It’s great to strive to grow and improve, but it’s equally important to accept yourself where you are, and to be your own friend throughout your evolutionary process.







The Magical Power of Bringing Gingerbread Men to Life

By LaReeca Rucker

It probably seems like I am quite the cook based on some of the social media posts I have made lately. Truth is, I’m not. But at one time, I aspired to be.

As a person who has a lot of hobbies that I drop and pick up again from time to time, I have done everything from stamp collecting to salsa dancing. At one time, I convinced myself that I was going to be the next top chef. (Well, not really, but I was determined to master cooking.) For a while, I was obsessed with watching the Food Network. I purchased many cookbooks, and I was given many cookbooks as gifts.

But truth be told, cooking – I learned – is much more than a skill. It’s a talent. It’s an art. And while I can generally read directions and sometimes create a dish that is a hit, I also sometimes miss. I’m an unreliable cook.

However, this Christmas I was determined to make a few dishes for a family Christmas event, and I wanted to attempt to make gingerbread men. I purchased a pack of Christmas cookie cutters from the Dollar Tree, and one was shaped like a gingerbread man. I also had a Mississippi-shaped cookie cutter that I used to create gingerbread state cookies.


I followed the directions on the Betty Crocker package, but I quickly realized something wasn’t working. The dough wasn’t sticky enough. So I added another egg. That was a mistake because it made the dough too sticky. So I refrigerated it to see if that would fix the issue. It did not.

That meant I had to drive to town and purchase a sack of flour so that I could add it to create the right texture to roll out the dough and use the cookie cutters.

This was my first attempt at making cookies. If I have made any in the past, it was helping my grandmother in the kitchen as a child or baking Pillsbury dough that you buy in the grocery store. I’ve never made anything from scratch, if you want to call packaged Betty Crocker ingredients “scratch.”

gingerbreadman14This will probably sound ridiculous to experienced cooks, but when I put the dark brown dough on the cookie sheets, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect or how long to cook them. But to my surprise, the cookies expanded and turned a lighter brown color in less than 10 minutes. It was kind of magical and easy to do.

Then came the fun part – decorating. I purchased white icing that was already in a bag and easy to squirt to outline the cookies. I also purchased a package with several tubes of different colored icing that I used to create a bow-tie and buttons on the gingerbread men. I outlined the Mississippi cookies with white icing too and drew a heart with red icing where Oxford is, like some I’d seen previously.


Christmas night, my niece mentioned that she had never eaten a gingerbread man, and my nephew had fun biting one’s head off, so I felt the gingerbread men were a success. Later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the following song. I bet this is what the gingerbread men sing to each other as a warning of their impending doom.

I have seen some gingerbread cookies transformed into ornaments. I’m not sure what to use in order to preserve them, but I’m sure you can find out how to do it by Googling or visiting Pinterest. I saved the best gingerbread man, so I may try this. Because decorating cookies is a fun, creative way to get in the holiday spirit, I may do it again for Valentine’s Day, creating heart-shaped goodies.




My Christmas Tree is Filled With Aliens, Robots and Monsters

By LaReeca Rucker

The way you decorate your Christmas tree says a lot about your personality, as do the ornaments that we choose to adorn it. More than 20 years ago, I began collecting and making my own ornaments at Christmastime. I try to make and buy a few new ornaments every year to add to my collection.

I started with porcelain cherubs, leaving some white and decorating others. Then I bought traditional Christmas balls and covered them in glitter, back when you couldn’t find glittery decorations like them. I have also made ornaments for my tree that feature pictures of my late pets.

In the last few years, I have taken an annual trip to Hobby Lobby to select ornaments that I like. I also look in Walmart, Fred’s and other local dollar stores. Tomorrow, I plan to attend two Christmas craft events and search for more interesting ornaments to add to my collection.


Monster ornament found at Hobby Lobby.

There are a few things that I am fond of and always on the look out for – aliens, robots and monsters. Luckily, I found a few of each last year, and I’ll keep my eye out for them tomorrow. I might even craft a monster ornament of my own this year since I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll try to make as a new addition.

Do you collect specific ornaments for your tree? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Email me at





Create a Little Magic in Your Life This Christmas With Simple, Elegant and Inexpensive Decor

By LaReeca Rucker

It’s that time of year when we’re all supposed to believe in and create a little magic in our lives and the lives of others. One way we can do that is by decorating. I’m so grateful to have my own house this year. I’m also grateful to have all of my holiday decorations nicely organized, so it only took one day to put up my tree and put most of it in place.


Christmas tree.

Since I’ll be hosting an event this year, I wanted to put a little effort into making things merry and bright. Like many people, I have a box of ornaments, some of which I’ve had for more than 20 years when I began making and collecting ornaments for my own tree. I’ll write another post a little later and show you some of my newest ornament additions.

I also have a working gas fireplace and mantle this year, so I wanted to decorate the mantle for the holidays as well. My first step with mantle decor was purchasing a roll of gold ribbon from one of the local dollar stores. I had already bought two cylinders of gold ornaments for $1 and a box of ornament hooks from another dollar store.



After stapling my ribbon along with some silver and gold garland to the mantle, I hooked the balls on the ribbon. I also had a Christmas sign that I had purchased for $1 that I used in the center of the mantle. I left the things on top that normally sit there, a collection of Mississippi-themed picture frames and pottery.

I’m still working on decorating the fireplace area. Right now, I have a lot of Christmas baubles and things I didn’t really have a place for, such as a Santa nesting doll and other small holiday gifts I’ve been given throughout the years by various people.

I also created a place to put gifts for my niece and nephews. There are four elves (one elf is mine) sitting together and three Santa and reindeer hats that they will be given as gifts. They are very little, so this will not ruin the surprise.


Elves and festive hats for my nephews and niece.

Outside, my lawn is not decorated like Clark Griswold or covered in holiday decor like it was for Halloween when I had a graveyard out front. The only thing I have on my front steps is a topiary. I usually keep it inside, but I decided to move it out front and cover it in white Christmas lights. You can see it and my tree through the window if you drive by. I also bought some snowman-themed LED lights for my walkway for $1 each.

Since my house kind of resembles a cute gingerbread house, I have it in my head at the moment that I would really like to have a custom-made gingerbread man. It might be kind of cool if he was running as fast as he can, but I would settle for a stationary gingerbread man.




How to Cope With Holiday Stress and Make Life More Enjoyable

By LaReeca Rucker

This article originally appeared in The Clarion-Ledger and USA TODAY circa 2011.

Cole Smith, owner of Creative Gifts in Jackson, feels his stress levels rise during the holiday season. As the owner of a wholesale gift packaging company, he sells materials like gift wrap, ribbons, tissues, boxes and bows.

“My customers are predominantly female, and most of them are just like every other shopper,” he said. “They get in a panic after Thanksgiving realizing it’s Christmas.”

It’s also a stressful time for Smith and his employees. A season dubbed the “happiest time of the year” can be anything but when work, finances, parties and perfection bring more worry than welcome at Christmas.

“My little business is blessed to have many customers, but we are not Walmart,” he said. “My co-workers work part-time, and I’m very blessed they are hanging in there. They are hard workers, and it is stressful.

“We have an attitude of one customer at a time. People can be rude and distract you, but we keep a smile on our faces. I think we deal with it pretty successfully, too.”

098de-bilde-2Smith said his wife usually takes on the gift-giving responsibilities and manages to reduce her stress levels by shopping online ahead of time.

Michael Madson, a University of Southern Mississippi psychology professor, said there are several holiday stressors.

“Pressure to host the ‘perfect holiday function,’ finances or lack thereof, and making sure every gift is bought are some,” he said. “However, there can also be stressors related to having to gather with family and other individuals with whom you do not get along, travel and managing busy holiday schedules to ensure that nobody’s feelings are hurt.”

Even positive events that often happen during the holidays like receiving presents can be stressors, Madson said.

“Given the current economic environment, finances can be a major stressor that worries individuals,” he said. “It is important to note that there are daily stressors that are added to by the stress of the holidays.”

The stress response is actually a physiological response to what we perceive as a threat, Madson said.

“Often time people refer to this physiological response as the ‘flight or fight’ response as our body is preparing for us to run or to fight,” he said. “In other words our body is mobilizing for action. However, over time, during periods of prolonged stress, like the holiday season, there is wear and tear on the body. Physiologically, it is easier for us to get sick. Chronic diseases could get worse.”

Madson said blood pressure can worsen during these stressful periods. People can be more prone to experiencing depression, anxiety or irritability, which could affect relationships with family and friends. And they sometimes engage in harmful behaviors such as excessive alcohol or drug use, poor eating or even commit suicide.

The American Psychological Association ( has some great tips for managing holiday stress, Madson said.

•”One of the first things a person can do is recognize it is normal to feel extra stressed,” he said. “It is important for people to maintain or develop new healthy/stress-reducing behaviors, such as exercising, eating healthy, meditation or however they relax.”

•”Make sure, during the busy holidays to make time for yourself and engage in those activities that help you recharge. For instance, ensure you are sleeping and eating appropriately.”

•”Have realistic expectations for the holidays. Things will likely not go perfectly.”

•”Maintain supportive relationships, and try to avoid the temptation to isolate.”

•”If finances are a concern, have those conversations with family and friends and inform them that this holiday will be different, or find new traditions with less financial cost.”

Madson said: “In the end, the more an individual can maintain the stress-reducing behaviors or learn new strategies to beat stress, the more likely they are to roll with the wave of the holidays versus have it crash on them.”

For Brandon resident Amy Goley, stress also factors into the holiday season.

“With four kids, my biggest stress is that they grow up with good holiday memories,” she said. “Sometimes that makes me attempt to try to create perfection. I realize that a grumpy, stressed-out mom is the last thing that will create a good memory, so I have to remind myself to focus on the relationships not the events.

“I have also implemented a ‘giving schedule.’ We are all dedicating time every weekend to do some sort of service or volunteer work. It keeps us grounded and grateful.”


Fall into fun every year with festive decor

I tend to go a little overboard with my holiday lawn decorations. I’m no Chevy Chase, but I do like to have fun with decor. Here are pictures of my fall lawn decor at my old house.

This year, I’m in a new house, and I brought the scarecrows out in September and kept them in my yard throughout Halloween and Thanksgiving. You can generally find these for sale for less than $10 each at Walmart, Fred’s or similar dollar stores. I added a new scarecrow to my collection this year. He is  currently guarding my front porch.

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In the next few days, I’ll try to make a new post about my current fall decor and include photos of my new scarecrow since I recently created a centerpiece and decorated for fall after putting all of my Halloween monsters back in the storage shed to live until next October.

Have you done any creative fall decorating? If so, I’d love to see it and even feature it on my blog. Feel free to post a comment below with a link to a gallery of your fall decor photos.

Living a Life of Gratitude Can Change Your Perspective on the World

By LaReeca Rucker

This article originally appeared in The Clarion-Ledger circa 2011.

Jackson resident Andi Barbrey watched a celebrity she follows on Facebook write about what she was thankful for daily, and Barbrey decided to do the same.

“One day, I thanked my dad for always staying calm even though he raised three girls,” she said. “Last night, I had a rough day at work, and I said I was thankful for beer,” she laughed. “But I try to be thankful for things that have made a difference in my life. Doing the updates really makes you think about it every day.”

Gratitude has attracted a lot of attention from psychological researchers in recent years in the field of “positive psychology.” It examines topics like quality of life, virtues, character and happiness, said Stephen Southern, professor and chairman of the Mississippi College Department of Psychology and Counseling.

Southern said gratitude has been shown in studies to reduce stress while improving health, physically, mentally and emotionally.

“Gratitude is a key ingredient in quality of life,” Southern said. “When we focus on small blessings and accomplishments, we are better able to tackle the challenges ahead. I recommend that individuals take stock of their many blessings … Whenever possible, tell the other person in person, writing or social media how much you appreciate what was said or done that enriches your life. Return the favor by giving or doing something for another in need.”

Southern encourages others to thank God in prayer and praise for blessings and hardships, which are opportunities for learning and growth.

“Frustration and anger have their place, but try to find one blessing to acknowledge before you go to sleep at night,” he said. “It may help to write an ongoing letter to God to share the many experiences associated with growth and opportunity. Share your letter with a trusted person you admire.”

aea59-bilde-1When you find you are angry with someone and it is becoming a resentment, pray the person will receive the blessings you enjoy, Southern said.

“Remember that person in prayer for at least two weeks,” he said. “Then, see how you feel.”

Tom Carskadon, a Mississippi State University professor of psychology, who edits the Journal of Psychological Type and studies personality types, said “gratitude begets happiness, and happiness begets gratitude.”

“No matter who we are, we have a certain station in life,” he said. “From that station, we can look either up or down. If we look up at those who have more than we do, we experience what is called ‘relative deprivation.’ We feel frustrated, unhappy, angry – like the professional ballplayer who makes $5 million a year, but is outraged when a rival player makes $8 million. Or, we can count our blessings, and appreciate what we do have.

“If we are fed, clothed, reasonably well and reasonably safe, with a stable roof over our heads, we are ahead of several billion people on this planet. And if we have friends and faith and family, we are better off than that many more.”

Carskadon said our station in life is the same either way; but our happiness depends on how we look at it.

“Gratitude is powerfully related to happiness, and thanksgiving is best celebrated daily,” he said.

Dr. Catherine Mincy, who owns a dental practice in Booneville, also recently began posting a thankful thread on an internet sports message board – a tight community of Auburn fans who have corresponded for more than a decade.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve had long-term members, as well as some newcomers facing terrible events in their lives,” she said.

“One member has a wife dying of cancer with no hope of recovery. Another member, himself an oncologist who survived cancer before going to med school, has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has a pretty bleak prognosis. Another gentleman, who has been posting on that board almost from the beginning and whose children are regular posters, died at the age of 84.

“As we moved into November, we were all feeling a little bleak … So I took this idea to the Auburn Board and suggested that, in the midst of despair, fear and grief, we all need to remember those things for which we are thankful.

“Sometimes, the act of writing it down – making ourselves think about the good that is around us, can help us power through all the bad in our immediate future.”

Mincy said each day she posts something she is thankful for.

“Interestingly, it’s some of the people who have big problems like cancer in their lives who are quickest to respond,” she said.

She’s thankful for serving in the military, her church and pastor, friends, hot coffee, donuts with sprinkles, books, living in the South, tennis in the middle of November, cheese grits, the U.S., the right to vote and her siblings.

“It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the little things that wear us down,” she said. ” . . . a dead car battery, a child who forgot their lunch box, someone running the red light in front of us, another committee meeting that we don’t really want to attend.

“I think that by focusing our attention on the small things we have to be thankful for, it helps us see … that we have a job to drive to, we have a healthy child who isn’t starving. We can gripe about the person who ran the red light from the safety of our car rather than the roadside as we wait for an ambulance to arrive, and we are able to be productive members of our community.

“So I guess this is my attempt to focus my attention on looking for the little treasures God puts out there for us each day and appreciating them. I hope that I can continue looking for something to be thankful for each day long after Nov. 30.”



Thrifty Decorating for Fall and Thanksgiving

By LaReeca Rucker

I spent a lot of time decorating for Halloween this year. I enjoy decorating and being creative, but it’s something I haven’t gotten a chance to do very much in the past two years because most of my things were in storage. I moved home to work on my master’s degree, and put most of the items I owned – enough to fill a three-bedroom home – in two storage units.

So for two years, while working part-time at a newspaper, studying for the graduate classes I was taking while earning my master’s degree in journalism, and teaching college courses part-time, simultaneously, (which is no easy feat), all of my “stuff” was in storage, including my animated Halloween monsters and many other items I have collected over the years as seasonal decorations.

This year, I was not only ecstatic that I had found a house I adore on a Zen-like property, I happily decided to get my own storage shed so I would have a place nearby to keep all my holiday decorations and the occasional vintage furniture purchase I have been prone to make.

I’ll share more about the Halloween decorations in a future post. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram if you want to take a look at my 2016 Halloween costume and scary party foods. One of my reasons for taking a number of pictures of Halloween decor this year is because I wanted to reboot my blog, one I’ve had in various forms for more than a decade, giving it a new look. I’ll also post more about that later.

Halloween is over now, and that means you have to decorate for Thanksgiving and fall. I noticed this year that the local dollar stores had many fall decor items on their shelves, but it was all removed before Halloween. So I never got a chance to really think about decorating for fall until the merchandise was gone.

wreath2But fall decor is versatile. You can use it in September before Halloween month. You can usually use a lot of it during October to compliment your Halloween decor, and you can use it afterward for Thanksgiving up until December.

If you’re smart, you can recycle some of your Halloween pumpkins to use as fall decor if you didn’t cut them. If you cut them, they usually begin to rot the next day, so recycling isn’t an option.

img_6900Have a plastic jack-o-lantern that looks like a pumpkin? Turn it around, and chances are no one will know it was a Halloween decoration originally if you can creatively hide the pumpkin’s menacing face. I have one on my front porch at the moment that is among four pumpkins that descend in size down my steps. From the road, it just looks like another orange orb.

It’s also wise to look in thrift stores for seasonal decor, especially if you are buying items for Christmas in July. I picked up this wreath for $1 in a thrift store years ago, and I usually put it on my front door each fall.

I guess some people oppose thrift shopping. I’m not sure why when the idea is that you are being “thrifty.” You’re saving money. You’re being eco-conscious by recycling items that would otherwise contribute to the creation of more landfills and pollution. You’re being conservative, innovative and creative. Why not purchase something cheap and turn it into something that looks like a million bucks?

In the future, I’ll try to share a gallery of other fall decor pics, and since I just finished decorating for Christmas, I’ll have a post about that soon.













Yard sale of the vanities

A while back, I was driving through Coffeeville on my way back from Jackson, and I stopped at a little spot that is usually very busy on the weekends with people who set up yard sales. In the past, I lucked-up and found a lot of vintage jewelry for sale. This time, I had a similar experience.

A man named John Tice had opened shop with lots of vintage necklaces and earrings for sale in plastic buckets in the back of his shop. And in the front, he had displayed several antique vanity creations that he had made by combining different pieces of antique furniture, mirrors and painting them bright colors. I’ve included a slideshow of pictures. Very cool.

Got a comment? E-mail me at or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.


John Tice, left, talks with a customer.


















Let’s make Mississippi an ‘American Idol’


ms3aIn light of the controversial events that have transpired because of Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 locally and nationally, with protests by notable Mississippians and some companies refusing to do business in the state, the yin and yang of the universe decided that on the last season of one of America’s top-rated television shows, two Mississippians were selected to showcase their artistic talent – one of the fine things Mississippi is very well known for – and a Mississippian won the contest.

Within every place and every person, you can find both good and bad.

For far too long, Mississippi has had a reputation of ranking last in many categories. It has become trite to recite the list. The state has the highest high school dropout rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest obesity rate, highest poverty rate, worst economy, and the lowest life expectancy in the country. Mississippi students have ranked last in school performance, and the state has one of the highest unemployment rates.

We read these studies over and over again, and does anything ever change? Are any state leaders spearheading effective campaigns that are making a difference in any of these areas? Have they in the last 10 years?

If Mississippi was viewed as a business and these problems continued to exist year after year – problems that obviously cost the state and its businesses money in the long run – someone would be fired for not doing their job – for not even making enough progress to elevate us to the 49th or 48th slots – a small, but seemingly attainable goal.

It’s time that Mississippians, who are sick of the lack of progress in this state, start making different choices in leadership. While we’re on the subject of equality, ask yourself if you want a Mississippi that is equal, as good as, or better than other states in terms of the quality of life? Or do you just not care and want things to stay the way they are, the way they always have been, and the way they will continue to be another 10 or 20 years?

Stop voting for candidates based on morality platforms. As an adult, chances are you’ve seen enough political scandals from both parties over the years to know that means nothing. Instead, we need smart people with new ideas to run for office in this state who can offer something innovative that is obviously lacking. Otherwise, we wouldn’t remain at the bottom of these lists year after year after year after year . . .

More than 10 million people tuned in to see which Mississippian was named the winner of the last season of American Idol. Mississippi finalists Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae demonstrate another well known fact about Mississippi – it is teaming with artistic talent and creativity – a gift that could be discovered and harnessed in many other ways in this state.

Let this “Superbowl of American Idol,” as it has been called, that featured two talented Mississippians in competition be a lesson that we should become just as enthusiastic about competing to win other contests in this state that we are currently losing.

Wouldn’t it be nice to prove that the underdog of poverty, racism, teen pregnancy and many other issues can battle these problems, win and triumphantly become an American Idol example for the rest of the nation?

-LaReeca Rucker


What it means to be ‘The Hospitality State’

Mississippi is historically known for a progressively delayed (and often stalled) civil rights legacy. In the minds of some throughout the U.S., the state’s name will be forever linked to the opposition and violence that occurred in Mississippi in the 1960s – opposition and violence that resulted when fellow Mississippians stood firm, demanding the basic, inalienable right of equality, affirming that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to be treated as such.

ms3aMississippi is also historically known for many good things, some of which include generosity, a rich literary and artistic history, and the notion that we are “The Hospitality State.”

In light of Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign House Bill 1523 (authored by Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton) – a bill that would allow Mississippi business and government workers to deny services to any citizen based on their religious beliefs – (essentially anyone they choose not to serve for any “religious” reason) – it might be wise to reexamine what it means to be “The Hospitality State.”

Should hospitality only be extended to those of whom we approve? Is equality still only reserved for specific Mississippians? Should we accept the way that others in the U.S. have viewed Mississippi and officially change the nickname from “The Hospitality State” to “The Hostility State,” as some have joked in online forums?

Instead, what if we did something different?

What if, as “The Hospitality State,” Mississippians truly embraced and made a collective effort to embody that word, and do such a fine job at it that they set a standard for all other states in the nation?

What if the idea of “The Hospitality State” took on a whole new, progressive, inclusive meaning, and in the process, Mississippians taught the world how to better treat and love others – others who may be different than them?

What if “hospitality” was just another word for “love thy neighbor” and a one-word concept for the Golden Rule? That might have been the original idea behind the nickname.

The definition of hospitality means: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.

Synonyms: friendliness, warm reception, welcome, helpfulness, neighborliness, warmth, kindness, congeniality, geniality, cordiality, courtesy, amenability, generosity, entertainment, catering. Relating to or denoting the business of housing or entertaining visitors.

The dictionary tells us that hospitality refers to “the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.”

Notable French scholar Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt described hospitality as “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.”

As Mississippians, we are better than House Bill 1523.

It’s time to reevaluate inherited ideologies and begin making a conscious effort to turn our biggest weaknesses as a state into our greatest strengths. And it’s also important that we refuse to let others in the state turn some of our greatest strengths into our biggest weaknesses.

– LaReeca Rucker


The Force is always with Star Wars fans

By LaReeca Rucker

In 1983, I saw my first Star Wars film. “Return of the Jedi” was my introduction to the movie franchise, and I was hooked, because I wanted to look like and become Princess Leia.

I wanted to ride speeder bikes through the thick, green forests of Endor; hang out in a village with adorable Ewoks, save Han Solo from the carbonite chamber, and command The Force as skillfully as a seasoned Jedi Knight.

meThroughout most of my childhood, I lived in a Star Wars fantasy world inhabited by me and my next door neighbor, who believed he was Luke Skywalker.

Almost every day, we went on adventures to other planets in a galaxy far, far away. He often saved me from disgusting aliens like Jabba the Hut, and I was a beautiful princess who sometimes saved him – a feminist before I knew the word.

We piloted space ships, killed alien creatures, and battled other evil forces with lightsabers, all underneath the big oak tree in my grandmother’s backyard.

She often watched us from the window climbing trees and the bars of the swing set. When we jumped from a limb or a bar, we weren’t hitting the ground – we were defying laws of physics and astronomy, bending space time and falling hundreds of feet down tunnels and mazes through black holes, landing in other worlds. My grandmother probably never realized her backyard was a portal to the rest of the universe.

If you were never a Star Wars fan, you may wonder why so many people have been commenting about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in your Facebook or Twitter newsfeed.

It’s because many of us have had to wait more than 30 years to see another decent Star Wars film. (If you’re like me, you tried to pretend the prequels with Natalie Portman didn’t exist, and believe they should be mass buried in the desert with the E.T. video game.)

I was even hesitant to watch the new Star Wars film because I thought it might somehow damage my childhood memories, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see my favorite characters from the original films reunited on screen decades later.

If you haven’t seen the film yet and intend to, you may want to refrain from reading any further. If you have, here are a few observations:

  • It’s 2015, and George Lucas must have realized that women have become more empowered since 1983. If a woman has a real shot of becoming President of the United States, then she should also be a general in the Rebel Alliance to Restore the Republic. That was Princess Leia’s (Carrie Fisher’s) updated title.
  • reyThe lead character in the new film is a woman, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) doesn’t need to be saved by the male characters. She can handle herself, and proves this by successfully fighting off an alien who attempts to steal a droid she has encountered.

Rey also makes a point to tell one of the lead male characters to stop taking her hand as they run for safety. She doesn’t have to be led out of danger. She is a capable leader and pilot whose knowledge of flying space ships rivals and possibly exceeds space cowboy Han Solo.

Like Luke in previous Star Wars films, Rey is his replacement in the new film. She learns to access The Force within her to fight evil, and in the end, it is Rey who lightsaber battles Kylo Ren, a replacement for Darth Vader. She’s a woman with Jedi potential.

  • Rey doesn’t appear to wear any makeup in this movie, which is quite a contrast from the looks that Carrie Fisher sported in the original movies.

Star Wars marketing executives permeated every industry you can think of to promote the movie before it began. Everything from macaroni and cheese to Cover Girl makeup was Star Wars-themed, but very little makeup was used on the lead character, another way to make the role less about gender, and more about character.

  • Finn (John Boyega), an African American, has a prominent role in the new film, unlike Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian character in the first films. There is also a hint of a romance between Finn and Rey. And Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Maz Kanata, another prominently featured character. Of course, the voice of James Earl Jones (Darth Vader), a Mississippian, has become the most iconic voice in Star Wars history.
  • The characters and tone of the film shared similarities with the Indiana Jones films, and that is probably because of the Lawrence Kasdan connection. Kasdan wrote “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Return of the Jedi” and the new film.
  • I watched the 3-D version of the film. The visuals were stunning, and it really felt like the Millennium Falcon might fly through the screen.
  • Human aliens seem more believable when they have British accents.
  • Even though many of the space vehicles in this movie look old and worn, like rusting classic Ford pickup trucks, they still easily start and fly. One of the vehicles Rey drove looked like a cross between a giant USB flash drive and an old tractor.

One of the things that Star Wars teaches, almost as effectively as Sunday School, is that evil – throughout history – has existed and will continue to exist. But we must believe in The Force to fight it.

Throughout life, we face and fight internal battles, and we have to choose wisely – consciously discerning good choices from bad.

Star Wars has taught every fan that The Force is within each of us, and if we can center ourselves, be mindful of the present moment, and find the confidence inside us that is our God-given birthright, we can prevail in this and other worlds.

We can fight grand battles against evil, but we can also find the strength to fight small, personal battles.

We can stand up to a bully. We can wage war against a chronic or life-threatening illness. We can ask for a raise, promotion or find a better job. We can be strong during our first military tour of duty. We can fall and get back up. We can make sound decisions and lead honorable lives if we believe in our own self-worth and power.

The Force is within us all. It always has been. It always will be. Sometimes, it just needs to be awakened.

Mr. McCarty’s gift

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It’s been a while since I wrote anything on my blog, but I thought the death of Mississippi icon Lee McCarty warranted commentary since I had the pleasure of spending time with him five years ago when I visited Merigold, Mississippi, to tour and write about McCartys Pottery.

If you’ve never been, I would encourage you to put this road trip on your bucket list. I toured the pottery shop, watched pottery being made, ate at The Gallery restaurant and Crawdad’s. And some of the locals took me to the nearby Po’ Monkey Lounge, known by many as the last authentic juke joint in America.

In meeting Mr. McCarty, I met an innovative and original artist who created a special place in the Mississippi Delta with his wife, Pup McCarty. As I listened to the story of how McCartys Pottery came to be, it was evident what great admiration Mr. Lee and his late wife had for each other and how their teamwork and partnership helped create a unique brand.

Mr. Lee gave me a tour of the shop, and I took several pictures of him in the store. He was dressed very dapper. He had lunch plans, and I got the impression he loved life.

As a reporter, you learn early on that it is not ethical to accept money or gifts from people you are writing about. But I made one exception when Mr. Lee handed me a pair of McCartys Pottery earrings with the trademark Mississippi River symbol on the side of them.

I initially told him that I could not take them, but he replied, “You have to learn how to accept a gift.”

I wasn’t going to offend or insult Mr. Lee McCarty, so I proudly took home that pair of earrings. They will forever remind me of his generosity, creative spirit and the legacy he and his wife left as a gift to Mississippi.

You can listen to an audio interview here that I conducted with McCarty’s godsons, Jamie and Stephen Smith, who ran the business.

Scary movie suggestions for Halloween and beyond for thriller, horror fans

By LaReeca Rucker

Halloween is over, but if you’re a fan of the thriller genre like I am, any day of the year is a good day for a cinematic thrill or scare. Each year, I usually compile a list of the best thrillers I’ve seen over the previous year. Here’s a list of some of the movies I’ve watched over the last couple of years that you might enjoy.

hiddenfaceThe Hidden Face (2011) – One of the best thrillers I’ve seen in years, this Spanish film employs Edgar Allan Poe’s frightening device of live confinement. It’s also a cautionary tale about jealousy. In this film, an orchestra conductor deals with the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, but has she really disappeared?

imnotscaredI’m Not Scared (2003) – This film is my top pick. Forget the fact that it fits into the thriller/horror genre. This is one of the best movies of the decade. I’d even define it as a masterpiece that explores morality and human nature. In this Spanish film, a young boy accidentally discovers a deep hole in the ground, where another boy is kept prisoner. A “must watch” film.

hatfieldsandmccoysHatfields and McCoys (2012) – While you don’t typically think of this age-old tale as a horror or thriller film, I think it fits nicely into the category. It’s essentially a gang war filled with suspense about who will live and die. Starring Kevin Costner, this dramatization depicts a bitter feud between two families on the West Virginia and Kentucky border in the years after the Civil War. It’s a great production with interesting characters and good performances.

topofthelakeTop of the Lake (2013) – If you love Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, you’ll probably want to take a look at this mini-series Top of the Lake. When a pregnant 12-year-old girl tries to kill herself in a freezing New Zealand lake, Detective Robin Griffin (Moss) begins an investigation and uncovers many small-town secrets. The series also stars Holly Hunter.

cracksCracks (2009) – Eva Green is an actress that has been gaining momentum in the last few years. I first noticed her in the film Womb that was later renamed Clone (below), and she plays a strange, yet influential teacher in the film Cracks that is set in an elite boarding school. It’s an interesting psychological thriller about a group of girls and their relationship with their teacher.

cloneClone (2010)Clone, mentioned above, is a sci-fi psychological thriller. Eva Green plays a woman who meets her soul mate, a scientist involved in cloning. Unfortunately, he tragically dies, so she decides to clone him. She gives birth to the clone, and raises it as her son, but the complex situation causes some controversial problems.

rubberneckRubberneck (2012) – Alex Karpovsky, of HBO’s Girls, plays a research scientist who has a weekend fling with a co-worker and becomes obsessed.

europaEuropa Report (2013) – I’ve always been fascinated with ocean and space travel movies that involve a crew of people traveling into unknown territory. When the crew travels to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, they explore the idea that life may exist there because of a recent discovery. Technical complications ensue, and the group must make tough decisions regarding their survival.

thewallThe Wall (2012) – This German film is one of the most unique and interesting film concepts I’ve seen in a while. One day, while driving through a rural village in her car, a woman comes upon an invisible wall that surrounds the countryside, cutting her off from all human contact. It’s an interesting story of isolation.

thehuntThe Hunt (2012) – When a child with a vivid imagination accuses her innocent teacher of a terrible act, he becomes an outcast and must prove his innocence. Great performances and acting in this Swedish film.

weareWe Are What We Are (2013) – An artistic and unique concept for a horror movie, Iris and Rose are sisters in a reclusive family who have an ancient secret.

kidnappedKidnapped (2010)Kidnapped is not for everyone. It is a brutal thriller about a family terrorized by three criminals who break into their home in Madrid and hold the family hostage. Do not watch this movie if you expect a typical Hollywood ending where things are resolved. The film seems be the basis for the 2011 film Trespass starring Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Cage, which might be a less violent alternative.

inherskinIn Her Skin (2009) – A unique film concept with a lot of twists and turns that psychologically explores the actions of a mentally ill woman fueled by jealously. It’s a tale about a 15-year-old Australian girl who goes missing.

trapforcinderellaTrap for Cinderella (2013) – A suspenseful thriller with good performances, in this UK film, a young girl suffering from amnesia after surviving a house fire, begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

sacramentThe Sacrament (2013) – Here’s a thriller with a Mississippi connection. When a guy begins to investigate the disappearance of his sister from a sober living community in Mississippi, he learns she has left with a group of people who have moved to a new country to live in a commune called Eden Parish. After meeting the group’s leader, the brother and his friends begin to suspect something isn’t quite right about this paradise. The film is based on the Jim Jones cult story.

proxyProxy (2013) – An interesting thriller with a unique plot, Proxy is about the life of three parents who have all shared the loss of a child. “Motives are not what they seem, and sanity is in short supply in this thriller,” reads the description.

reefThe Reef (2010) – Probably partially inspired by Jaws and movies that have made us afraid of the water, this Australian film is about a great white shark who hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll wonder who will make it out of the ocean alive.

crookedlakeSurviving Crooked Lake (2008) – Another movie that revolves around water, this Canadian film is about a canoe trip that becomes problematic for four 14-year-old girls.

caughtinsideCaught Inside (2010) – The third water movie on the list, is about a predominantly male group of surfers on a boat with two women and a loose canon who harms one of the girls. The attacker is abandoned on an island, but he finds his way back to the boat and holds the crew hostage.

awakeningThe Awakening (2011) – This is not a movie based on the Kate Chopin novel. Instead, it’s a brilliantly told ghost story set in 1921 London. When a paranormal investigator travels to a boarding school to investigate a ghost, she makes some interesting discoveries.

returnedThe Returned (2012) – This is a must see French series about people in a community presumed dead who return as if nothing has ever happened. The network television series Resurrection seems to based on this concept, but The Returned is so much better than anything that tries to replicate it. Those who return have not aged and don’t know they’ve died. This is one of the best television series I’ve seen.

houseofvoicesHouse of Voices 2004 – In 1958, in the French Alps, a young servant arrives in an orphanage to work. Strange things happen.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – This South Korea film features two sisters, who return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother after spending time in a mental institution. They are forced to deal with their stepmother’s craziness and a ghost.

haunterHaunter (2013) – Abigail Breslin stars as a teenager stuck in a time loop that changes a little each time. To make it stop, she must uncover the truth, but her actions have consequences for herself and others.

96minutes96 Minutes (2011) – Brittany Snow stars in this film about a carjacking in Atlanta.

blackrockBlack Rock (2012) – Kate Bosworth and two of her childhood friends travel to a remote island for the weekend, where they are not alone. An incident turns the trip into a deadly fight for survival.

killtheoryKill Theory (2009) – In the tradition of Friday the 13th, a group of college students staying in vacation home in the woods is targeted by a sadistic killer who forces them to kill one another in order to survive. Taryn Manning, of Orange is the New Black, plays one of the group members.

devilsknotDevil’s Knot (2013) – If you live in the Memphis area, you’ll probably remember the unsolved murder of three young boys in the early 1990s who, were believed, at the time, to have been murdered as part of a satanic ritual. There have been several documentaries about the crime and some movies, but this is the best one I’ve seen that presents many unanswered questions about the case and seems factual. I know, because I’ve read all of the court documents on the case, hoping that I could find an answer, but my questions just led to other questions, similar to the film. Reese Witherspoon stars in the movie.

unlikelygirlThe Unlikely Girl (2012) – A young American exchange student in rural France meets a young woman who is the member of her host family and soon finds herself in a confusing situation.

lovecrimeLove Crime (2010) – Christine, a strong businesswoman, hires Isabelle as her assistant, and toys with her emotions. But she underestimates Isabelle’s ambition and cunning wit. The film stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier.

abandonedmineAbandoned Mine (2012) – In the tradition of April Fools Day, five school friends go to an abandoned mine that is rumored to be haunted on Halloween night, and find themselves fighting for survival.

yellowbrickroadYellowbrickroad (2010) – In 1940, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire, walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. In 2008, the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens. This was an intriguing concept, but the film falls apart in the middle. I think anyone could have come up with a better explanation of why all the townspeople vanished. It still might be worth checking out.

uninhabitedUninhabited (2010) – In this Australian film, a young couple vacations on a remote and deserted coral island, but they aren’t alone.

survivalguideWilderness Survival for Girls (2004) – Three high school girls on a weekend getaway fueled by a story about a mountain murder take a trespasser captive when he shows up at their remote mountain cabin.

madisoncountyMadison County (2011) – This is another road trip movie about a group of college kids who travel to a mountain town to interview the author of a tell-all book about several grisly murders that happened there. When they arrive, they can’t find the author, and they are treated suspiciously as outsiders. Unfortunately, they don’t take the hint that they aren’t welcome.

darkroomDarkroom (2013) – When a woman seeks a job opportunity at a company called “Darkroom Inc.,” she arrives at a huge mansion. She’s hired for the job, but soon discovers that she is trapped inside the house with other women and three deranged, sadistic siblings that intend to purge her of her sins.

aftershockAftershock (2012) –  “In Chile, a group of travelers who are in an underground nightclub when a massive earthquake hits quickly learn that reaching the surface is just the beginning of their nightmare,” reads the description.

girlSweet Evil (2010) – Somewhat better than I expected it to be, this movie is about a 15-year-old girl who knows more about life than she should. Street smart and savvy, she eventually catches the eye of a judge. Despite his wife’s resistance, he takes the girl in, and she gradually wins them both over. But eventually, they see through her lies.

truthordieTruth or Die (2012) – This British movie is about a group of teens who play a vengeful and deadly game of Truth or Dare. Great performance by Jennie Jacques.

cherrytreelaneCherry Tree Lane (2010) – Reminiscent of the film Funny Games, a British couple is terrorized by a gang hunting their son. Jennie Jacques is also featured in this film.

See my previous lists of scary movies: List 1   List 2    List 3    List 4

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