Tag Archives: Joy Madden


My twin sister Joy and I have much in common aside from a birth date and pasty legs – we love her kids and mine; we love Pee-wee Herman; we enjoy a lovely nap and we eat soft boiled eggs over dry cereal – the important things. But our differences become more pronounced as we age.

She lived in Boston for maybe a decade, just a couple minutes’ drive from the greatest video rental place on the globe, Video Oasis.

Truly, it was an oasis of all things horror movie. It had everything. I would search the internet, compile lists, plot out every inaccessible horror film in creation and take said list with me to this glorious font of B-movies, where the overweight smoker of an owner always, always had what I was looking for.

1974 Blaxploitation classic Abby (aka The Blaxorcist)? Yep.

Martin Landau’s lost 1982 insane asylum flick Alone in the Dark? Got it.

Often I’d have to settle for VHS, sometimes for what was clearly a handmade, pirated copy, but what did I care? Sisters of Satan (noted by Satanist and film critic Nikolas Schreck as “the best soft core Satanic lesbian nun film that Mexico has ever produced”) wasn’t just going to find its own way onto my TV screen.

Alas, city life grew tiresome for my sister and her burgeoning family, and they uprooted to the wilds of Vermont. Only about three hours from Boston and its magnificent pool of schlock horror, Hinesberg, Vermont may as well have been another planet.

A heavily wooded planet.

They searched out their dream home, nestled in the woods on a lake. Technically – and by that I mean, if you ask Joy – they don’t live in a log cabin in the woods. For my purposes, it’s a log cabin. It is definitely in the woods.

I am not one with the woods.

In fact, of all my countless and paralyzing fears, nothing evokes the kind of panic in me that the woods does. The forest fills me with a pathological, deep and abiding, blind terror.

And yet—as if to get away from me—Joy moved her clan into one of my nightmares.

Joy’s family adapted quickly. I was on the phone with her and her wee one Vivian, then two, when Viv caught a fat frog. From my end of the phone I could make out Joy’s side of the conversation.

“Wow, it’s a big one. He has orange marks on his belly, can you see that? He won’t let you pick him up, though. Oh, look at that, he did let you pick him up. Be gentle. Be careful with him.”

“Don’t squeeze. Don’t Squeeze. DON’T SQUEEZE!”

The wildlife didn’t bother my little Vermonsters one iota. Ruby, Vivian’s older sister and bunkmate, came nonchalantly down the stairs one morning to announce on her way to eat breakfast, “There’s a bat in my room.”

“It’s black with a gray head,” she clarified as her dad Jeff made his way upstairs, as if he might mistake this bat with some other.

Given her utterly nonplussed response to the invader, Jeff assumed it was something else – a big moth, maybe. Ruby sleeps on the top bunk. Surely if an actual bat were flying around that close to her sweet little head, she’d be a bit more excited about it.

It was indeed a bat.

A good sized bat, which only made it all the more embarrassing for Jeff and Joy when they freaked right the hell out while their baby girls yawned and ate their morning granola.

But you have to get used to critters if you’re going to live where Joy and Jeff live.

At one point, their neighbors’ chickens were being picked off one by one.

“I think it’s a fisher cat,” Jeff said.

What’s a fisher cat?


“It’s not a wolverine,” Joy explained to me.

Wait, what?!! Is that supposed to be calming?

She has seen bears.

There are fucking predators in Joy’s yard.

Forgive me my ignorance. These are not worries we have at my house.

Off the deck out back Joy often sees woodchucks (according to Ruby, their babies are called chucklings), a fox or two, any number of birds – all of which possess a rustic charm when I can see them through the safety of a securely locked window.

At night, though, when these critters become nothing but glinting eyeballs, I prefer the comfort of the basement.

That’s where I stay when I visit, and that’s A-OK with me.

There are no windows in the basement.

In fact, I kid you not, the basement is so dark that Joy keeps a plastic miner’s helmet equipped with a light near the futon so guests can find their way around at night.

Whenever I visit the Family Vermonster I bring with me horror films set in the woods. I don’t know if it’s masochism or a clumsy attempt to face my fears, but it has become a ritual.

On one visit, after the girls went to bed, Joy, Jeff, and I lounged around the basement guest quarters and watched the sub-par Aussie camping nightmare Lost Weekend.

You know it? Fools dumb enough to spend time in the woods are unceremoniously picked off by angry animals.

Afterward, Jeff retired and Joy and I sat up making fun of people, as is our way.

We were interrupted by the sound of critters.

Joy kept talking, though through a nervous smile.

I silenced up and waited for Joy to share some comforting words about what that noise was and how it meant me no harm.

The noise came again.

It wasn’t a mouse, wasn’t even mice. It sounded like a multitude of medium sized mammals with claws skittering across the first-floor hardwood.

“What the fuck?” I queried.

She smiled again, shrugged her shoulders and held her hands out in a ‘kids do the darndest things’ kind of expression.

“What does that mean?!!”

“I don’t know,” she offered anxiously. “Maybe keep the basement door closed?”


That night I naturally lay awake until images of rodents and scurrying varmints overcame me, their glinting eyeballs creeping toward me from every dark recess in the basement.

Slowly the beings morphed with my dreamier brain into furry little beasties. Some were feline and fanged. Some had orange markings on their bellies, others, gray heads.

They dashed in and out of the shadows, under furniture, around corners, looking for what – meat?

It seems to me they were searching for meat.

I swear some of them were wearing miners’ helmets.

So that happened…Let’s Do Lent!


by Hope Madden

In Vermont recently I was trying to find my way to the spa on Church St. where my sister Joy works. Her husband had nabbed me from the airport and dropped me off in the town’s small bohemian coffee house and art district with directions to my sister.

As I wandered onward, a handful of teenage girls walked behind me and I could not help but overhear their conversation because, as a rule, teens are loud.

Said one: My mom and I are both giving up chocolate for Lent.

Responded a second: You’re not even religious.

A third chimed in: That doesn’t matter. I’m doing Lent and I’m Jewish.

Another said: I think people just do Lent so they can say they do Lent to other people to make them feel bad.

By this point my mind had blown and was no longer capable of processing sound stimuli, so I can’t report what other fascinating ridiculousness flowed from their mouth holes.

I was cranky, this being a Friday in Lent and me without any decent meal options at the airports. I wanted badly to grimace at them in utter disdain. I may have wanted to punch them in their dumb ass faces. At the very least, I wanted to shout that you don’t “do Lent.” Lent is not a cartwheel, ladies.

Lucky for them I’d given up mocking and abusing vacuous teens for Lent.

Oh, wait…

Damn, I guess I’ve already broken that penance, haven’t I? And so soon into the season. Lent’s always so much harder than you think it’s going to be.


Fright Club: Best Twin Horror

Listen to the whole conversation on our FRIGHT CLUB PODCAST.

For whatever reason, filmmakers and moviegoers alike seem to find twins inherently creepy. Would The Shining have been as menacing if it were just another child trying to lure Danny to his death? No – for some reason what’s particularly terrifying is the image of those two identical girls waving and beckoning, “Come play with us, Danny…”

It’s as if they’ve conspired. You’re outnumbered. There’s the idea that they’re doppelgangers able to fool the rest of us, that or they are two half beings unable to live without the other and yet perhaps quietly desperate to try.

We’ve enlisted the help of Senior Twin Correspondent Joy Madden (she’s Hope’s evil twin, FYI) to puzzle through the best in twin horror. Unlike The Shining, though, twins are the centerpiece of these films and it is their very twin-ness that drives the story.

5. Basket Case (1982)

This film is fed by a particularly twin-linked anxiety. Can anyone really be the love of one twin’s life, and if so, where does that leave the other twin? More than that, though, the idea of separating conjoined twins is just irresistible to dark fantasy. Rock bottom production values and ridiculous FX combine with the absurdist concept and poor acting to result in an entertaining splatter comedy a bit like Peter Jackson’s early work.

When super-wholesome teenage Duane moves into a cheap and dangerous New York flophouse, it’s easy to become anxious for him. But that’s not laundry in his basket, Belial is in the basket -Duane’s deformed, angry, bloodthirsty, jealous twin brother – but not just a twin, a formerly conjoined twin. What he really is, of course, is Duane’s id – his Hyde, his Hulk, his Danny DeVito. And together the brothers tear a bloody, vengeful rip in the fabric of family life.


4. Sisters (1973)

We’re all probably familiar with director Brian De Palma’s long and sometimes tiresome journey through his own person obsessions with Alfred Hitchcock. He married Hitch’s high-tension score and murder mystery plotlines with Mario Bava’s sexualized violence to create his own hybrid, which began with this twin sister trauma.

French Canadian model Danielle (Margot Kidder) may or may not have a once-conjoined twin who may or may not be a diabolical killer in this “is she or isn’t she” mind bender. Separation anxiety and a general nervousness about twins as an alien concept fuel this murder mystery that takes some hard left turns – some novel, some now clichéd. Whatever the flaws, though, De Palma’s panache and Hitchcockisms are in full bloom in this stylish, often creepy thriller.

3. Dead Ringers (1988)

The film is about separation anxiety, with the effortlessly melancholy Jeremy Irons playing a set of gynecologist twins on a downward spiral. Cronenberg doesn’t consider this a horror film at all. Truth is, because the twin brothers facing emotional and mental collapse are gynecologists, Cronenberg is wrong.

Irons is brilliant as Elliot and Beverly Mantle, bringing such flair and, eventually, childlike charm to the performance you feel almost grateful. Like some of the greats, he manages to create two very distinct yet appropriately linked personalities, and Cronenberg’s interest is the deeply painful power shift as they try and fail to find independence from the other. The film’s pace is slow and its horror subtle, but the uncomfortable moments are peculiarly, artfully Cronenberg.

2. Goodnight Mommy (2014)

During one languid summer, twin brothers Lukas and Elias await their mother’s return from the hospital. They spend their time bouncing on a trampoline, floating in a pond, or exploring the fields and woods around the house. But when their mom comes home, bandaged from the cosmetic surgery she underwent, the brothers fear more has changed than just her face.

Inside this elegantly filmed environment, where sun dappled fields lead to leafy forests, the filmmakers mine a kind of primal childhood fear. The filmmakers’ graceful storytelling leads you down one path before utterly upending everything you think you know. They never spoon feed you information, depending instead on your astute observation – a refreshing approach in this genre.

Performances by young brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz compel interest, while Susanne Wuest’s cagey turn as the boys’ mother propels the mystery. It’s a hypnotic, bucolic adventure as visually arresting as it is utterly creepy. The film is going to go where you don’t expect it to go, even if you expect you’ve uncovered its secrets.

1. The Other (1972)

Director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) is a master of slow reveal, feeding us information as we need it and pulling no punches in the meantime. It’s rural 1930s, and one hearty farm family has withstood a lot. Ever since Dad died last summer, seems like every time you turn around there’s some crazy mishap. And yet, the farm still goes on – there’s always a pie in the oven and a cow that needs milking. Still, Ada (Uta Hagen), the sturdy German matriarch, is troubled. Sweet, stout young Niles seems terribly confused about his twin, Holland.

Mulligan turns to that same nostalgic, heartland approach he used so beautifully with Mockingbird to inform a stunningly crafted, understated film that sneaks up on you. He creates what is likely the most effective and troubling film you’ll see about twins.