Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Dead End: Paranormal Park - a review

Logging into Netflix, Dead End: Paranormal Park took me by surprise. I remembered seeing a Twitter post about it and was momentarily confused that I hadn't seen more. Then I remembered that most of the entertainment news crawling into my timeline is either Stranger Things or book related. It looked good, instantly giving me Gravity Falls vibes, so I couldn't resist hitting play. It didn't take me long to realise I'd found a new favourite show. Let me share it with you.

The Plot
When Barney and Norma arrive at Phoenix Parks (a theme park based around in-series superstar Pauline Phoenix.), they think the most challenging part of their day will be competing with each other for the job they've both applied for. Unfortunately, they soon discover that they've been tricked into entering the park's haunted house by demon Courtney and a host of other horrors to provide the demon King Temeluchus with a body to possess. In the ensuing chaos, Pugsley (Barney's dog, who he'd snuck into the park in his backpack.) ends up being the one possessed, and the two competing teens have to team up to save their canine friend and put a stop to Temeluchus' evil plans.
Even after they've completed the seemingly impossible task of vanquishing the demon king and gaining employment at the park, things don't get any easier. On top of dealing with family problems, romance, paranormal hijinks, a now-talking Pugsley and having Courtney as a friend, they soon discover that the park may be hiding a sinister secret. There's a mystery afoot at Phoenix Parks, and the gang better solve it quickly because people are going missing.

It's been a long time since I've gotten into a series. I mean properly sat myself down and devoured a series in one sitting, only to be left wanting more. I'm really hoping that Netflix okay a 2nd season, and soon. No spoilers, but this series ended on a fascinating cliffhanger, and I can't wait to see where they take it next. I especially love that the series is LGBTQ+ inclusive, which is great to see. And you can relax knowing that the Bury Your Gays trope is nowhere to be seen. 
I noticed in the credits that the show was based on books* by Hamish Steele, the series' creator. Looking into this further, I discovered that it started as animated shorts called Dead End on Cartoon Hangover and then moved to graphic novel form, titled Deadendia. I highly recommend checking out both of these; it's interesting to see how the series has evolved over the years, plus they're fun to watch/read.
Each character has their own unique design and stands out nicely from eachother. I liked Barney and Norma from the start. The two of them work well together, their friendship growing and becoming stronger as the show continues. Well written and likeable, you'll soon find yourself emotionally invested in their adventures. Each has their own personality and background, making them highly relatable. The animation is bright and eyecatching, keeping you glued to the screen. It's genuinely a joy to watch. The location, Phoenix Parks, is nicely designed with attention paid to detail. You get to see the different themed areas, each based around one of Pauline's many movies. The end result was a sudden craving to round up all my friends and head to a theme park. The cheerful location perfectly offsets the spooky elements of the show. 
Dead End: Paranormal Park is entertaining viewing for all ages. I recommend giving it a watch, even if you don't generally like animation or spooky shows. It's a funny, heartfelt and occasionally dark tale of triumphing over evil, while coming of age and dealing with everything else life throws at you. Honestly, I think it's just perfect.
Roll on Season 2.

Dead End: Paranormal Park is rated PG. The first season contains 10 episodes, each up to 30 minutes long, and can be found on Netflix.

Already seen Dead End: Paranormal Park? Share your thoughts, favourite characters or favourite moments in the comments below, or tag me in a Tweet. Just remember to avoid spoilers for the folks who haven't seen it yet. Speaking of the people who haven't seen it yet, feel free to leave a comment too! Are you looking forward to watching it? Why aren't you watching it now? Seriously, go check it out! Maybe you have some suggestions for similar cartoons that people might enjoy? Once again, drop a comment below or tag me in a Tweet. I love to hear from you.

*I immediately headed to Amazon to try and grab myself a copy, only to discover they had none in stock. Very disappointing, but I managed to grab a copy in Foyles instead. I've only flicked through it, but I already know I will enjoy reading it.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Feline Folklore

By Day She Made Herself Into a Cat,
by Arthur Rackham.
I'm always slightly amazed when I meet people who say they don't like
cats. I suppose being a cat owner does make me a little biased though. Despite the widespread belief that they're uncaring and aloof, cats are, given a chance, some of the sweetest creatures out there. Even a snarling stray can mellow into a purring lap cat given time.
As a species, they have a mythology and folklore all of their own. They've been deified and demonised in equal measures. There are also many ghostly cats out there, a topic I've written about before and feline cryptids. I will introduce you to the folklore side of things in this post, choosing five areas to focus on. I'm leaving mythology and cryptids for a post sometime in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for those posts. 

  • People often assume that only humans were affected by the witchhunts, but animals suffered alongside them. Cats were one of the animals considered to be a witches' familiar. They were thought to be inhuman spirits or demons in mortal form. In some places it was believed they had the same powers as a witch, enabling them to carry out their owners' evil deeds in their stead. It was pretty standard for them to be killed alongside those accused of witchcraft. The tragic thing is that both the human and animal victims were innocent. The real monsters were those instigating the witchhunts. It was a brutal and unfair period. When they weren't working with witches, it was thought they were working with the Devil himself, ferrying around souls and spreading pestilence. This led to the belief that they caused the bubonic plague, and even more cats were slaughtered in an attempt to stop it. The rat population grew out of control with fewer cats around, allowing the epidemic to spread more easily throughout Europe.
  • Even when considered lucky, it still sucked to be a cat in medieval Europe. For some, cats were the guardians of the farmland, keeping evil spirits and pests away from the crops. But only if buried in the orchards or fields. They were also considered to guard the home against the same problems. It's common for mummified cats to be found in the walls of older houses, though it's not really known if they were walled in dead or alive. This unpleasant tradition was common during the 15th to 18th centuries. Some of these cats have been known to cause bad luck if messed with. I covered the story of one such cat and the chaos caused by upsetting it in one of my previous posts. If the cat was black it would bring even more luck, a complete turnaround from when they were considered servants of the Devil. Cats were luckier at sea than on land. Sailors liked to have a cat on board, not just because having something cute around boosted morale or that they kept pests away, but because it was considered lucky to have a cat on the ship. These days people prefer their lucky cats to be among the living. In some countries, black cats are considered bad luck, but they're considered the opposite in England. If a black cat crosses your path it's a good omen, and one old superstition suggests giving a black cat to the Bride on their wedding day for good luck. While I wouldn't recommend giving any animal as a gift, this tradition lives on with black cats often featured on wedding cards or as ornaments intended to be a keepsake. Not married? Not a problem. A black cat wandering into your home is said to bring in suitors looking for a partner. 
  • It's well known that cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt, but most people don't realise how loved they truly were. If a household's cat died, the whole family would go into mourning. It was traditional for family members to shave off their eyebrows as a sign of their grief and loss. The cats were often mummified and given proper burials with their own little grave goods. The killing of a cat was considered a terrible crime, whether accidental or not, and the sentence for such a crime was death. Hypocritically, there is historical evidence of cats being bred for the sole purpose of being sacrificed to the very Goddess that made them sacred. They would be killed, mummified and then given as offerings at temples or buried in tombs. Mummified cats are so prolific that in 1890 around 180,000 of them were actioned off in Liverpool for use as fertiliser. Awful as that is, I suppose we should be glad they didn't get eaten, like so many of their human counterparts.
  • In the UK it's believed that a cat's behaviour can predict the weather. Who needs the weather report when you can just watch a cat? A cat clawing your furniture or getting the zoomies means that windy weather is coming. In Wales it was believed you could tell that it would rain if your cat was washing its ears a lot, and in other areas a cat sneezing predicted the same thing. Sailors believed that if the ship's cat fell overboard, a storm would soon follow that would sink the boat. Having a ship's cat that was black was said to guarantee fair weather. In Europe, you could keep your sea-going family members safe at sea and ensure that they'll have good weather by taking care of a black cat.
  • Most cats won't ruin your Christmas unless they get at the turkey or knock over the tree, but one cat joyfully makes the festive season stressful: The Yule Cat. The oldest written records of this beast come from the 19th century, but it's believed that the Yule Cat has been around for much longer, possibly even tracing its history back to the Dark Ages. Hailing from Iceland, it's also known as Jólakötturinn and is one of the country's many terrifying Christmas spirits. Oddly, this festive feline is a little more interested in fashion than your average moggy, specifically whether or not you got new clothes before Christmas Eve. This massive moggy towers over houses and stalks the countryside, looking for people to bother. It'll leave you be if you've got a new set of clothes. If you haven't then it will pounce, and devour you. Maybe think twice about complaining next time your Granny buys you socks for Christmas?

Well, dear readers, I think we can all agree that cats have got a bit of a raw deal over the years. Sadly, many people still think ill of cats thanks to the darker parts of folklore and superstition prevailing in some way or another. Some people will even go out of their way to cause them harm. I shouldn't have to say this, but it's worth noting that HARMING A CAT OF ANY COLOUR WON'T BRING YOU GOOD LUCK, GOOD HEALTH OR WEALTH. Many superstitions or elements of folklore have their roots in a much darker time when people didn't have the knowledge we have now.

Do you have any favourite pieces of folklore relating to cats that I haven't included? Any stories you want to share about cats and the paranormal? Leave them in the comments below, or tag me in a tweet!