Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Killer Podcast about "Halloween"

Loved the new HALLOWEEN movie? Take a deep dive into the legacy of John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Debra Hill and more with HALLOWEEN UNMASKED podcast. Amongst the riches to be heard are fascinating interviews with the cast and crew, and surprising perspectives on who/what Michael Meyers was with a psychologist who studies real serial killers.

It's terror-rific!


Friday, October 19, 2018

This is the Halloween We've All Been Waiting For

The latest Halloween is a love letter to fans of John Carpenter’s original that clears away the dead weight of all the previous sequels. It returns to Haddonfield for the aftermath of the original film, following many of the beats of the original film so it is somewhat of a remake as well.

What stands out clearly is how genuine this all feels as we see familiar characters like the iconic Laurie Strode (a defiant Jamie Lee Curtis) deal with the consequences of being stalked by a madman 40 years earlier. Laurie is now a recluse living in the middle of the woods in a house built to keep out the boogeymen. Unfortunately, it's also made her a failure as a wife and a mother with her grown up daughter essentially disowning her. It’s all very sad – and genius move by writers. Evil makes monsters of us all.

While the homages to the previous film (and Halloween III, a love-it-or-hate-it film that I love) keep stacking up so does the body count that by all standards is absolutely brutal. These people don’t die quick and easy movie deaths. There is pain, suffering, crunching and lots of blood in each morbid kill raising the terror even higher.  This is a hard R-rated film that isn’t watered down for teens.

The action of course plays out over a suburban landscape on Halloween night adding that extra layer of spookiness and mystery that the holiday provides. The theater literally felt chillier and darker.  There’s even some well-placed humor and unexpected twists but ultimately this is a slasher flick through and through. Much like it’s 1978 predecessor there is no pretense to be anything more than a B-movie meant to terrify the audience and it does so very well. Even if it doesn’t quite capture the dreadful atmosphere of the original it is the best successor, a true sequel, and very fun time at the movies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My October TV Queue

It's absolute madness how much fun TV there is to watch in the weeks leading up to Halloween. My DVR is packed, and I’m absolutely terrified that I won’t get through it all. So to calm my nerves I have to make a list. Many of these have already aired or seasons are underway so you might have to catch up with video on demand.


  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIX (Fox) - 10/21
  • Decorating Disney: Halloween Magic (Freeform) 
  • Eli Roth’s History of Horror (AMC)
  • Halloween Cake-Off (Food Network)
  • Trisha’s Halloween Spooktacular (Food Network)
  • Ghost Adventures Live: The Las Vegas Haunted Museum (Travel Channel) - 10/31
  • Haunted Gingerbread Showdown (Food Network)
  • A Very "Wicked" Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years on Broadway (NBC) - 10/29
  • Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash (Freeform) - 10/20
  • Mysteries at the Museum Special: Zodiac Killer (Travel Channel)


  • The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (Netflix)
  • The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
  • Lore, Season 2 (Amazon) - 10/19
  • Light as a Feather (Hulu)
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) - 10/26
  • Creeped Out (Netflix)
  • Into the Dark (Hulu)
  • Huluween Short-Film Series (Hulu)


  • Channel Zero: The Dream Door (SyFy) - 10/26
  • American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX)
  • Stan Against Evil, Season 3 (IFC) - 10/31
  • Midnight, Texas, Season 2  (NBC) - 10/26
  • Supernatural, Season 14 (Fox)
  • Charmed 2018 (CW)
  • Scariest Night of My Life (Travel Channel)
  • Most Terrifying Places in America, Season 3 (Travel Channel)
  • Halloween Wars, Season 8 (Food Network)
  • Halloween Baking Championship, Season 3 (Food Network)

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's ALIVE!!!

My MONSTER HOUSE is finally complete! Work began in May and very slllloooowwwwllly came together. The eye is projected onto the front window (thanks AtmosFX), it breathes smoke, and I assembled a moaning, growling soundtrack after learning the basics of Adobe Audition in one sitting. More photos and video are coming soon (after I learn the basics of Premiere Rush) and after I can walk upright again – but hey, at least I didn't fall off the roof this year.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

AHS Apocalypse is a #TOA

In the first 20 minutes of American Horror Story: Apocalypse armageddon descends upon Los Angeles via missile strikes. Its pandemonium, the pace is of brisk, the terror is palpable as we witness our worst nightmare. It’s absolutely terrifying and there's no mistaking the mushroom cloud is happening.

The show quickly pivots and next we are deep underground in a spacious, well-appointed bunker created by a shadowy organization. The political and social commentary nods like the purple theme (red Republicans mixed with blue Democrats?), and survival of the fittest richest evoke modern struggles. “The stew is Stu” is one of the best line of the series. Joan Collins is campy. The grown up boy demon is mysterious. And there’s mutants and robots–ROBOTS!!!

Unfortunately most of this is by way of an absurd Hunger Games homage, where we’re expected to believe the world goes to hell yet somehow skilled seamstresses, costumers, and hairdressers survived to provide survivors with ornate clothing, theatrical makeup, and silly hair because people have a lot of time on their hands. Yet no one thought to fill the place with food? Really? There's also candles everywhere (no power after the apocalypse) filling the sealed cabin with copious amounts of carbon monoxide so there has to be an overworked central ventilation system that cleans and recirculates the air that is powered by... hamsters? Perhaps I'm getting too mired in details but we're not asked to suspend our disbelief – we’re asked to obliterate it. Horror depends of creating a plausible environment and then adding super elements that upset the balance.

Perhaps this place isn't a "real" place? A purgatory between worlds for these few people? The witches of Coven, who should all be dead, were finally introduced and most if not all of the characters we've seen are also now dead, so perhaps the show will pivot into something more watchable. As it stands, I’m prepared to label this silliest of seasons (and yet another squandered concept) as a #TOA (turd on arrival).

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Home Depot Wins Halloween...AGAIN

We're into the prime retail Halloween season, and while many Spirit Halloween stores are still struggling to open, the Home Depot(.com) has won Halloween... AGAIN. Whoever is working in their product development is clearly a genius who understand home haunters and Halloween fans love the orange branded home improvement center. Take a look at this years online offerings and keep your eyes open for their holiday weekend free shipping deals since most of the good stuff is online only (although they will ship it to a nearby store for free). Also, if you carry a Home Depot credit card that purchase of $299 or more can be financed for 6-months of no interest (sort of makes that $350 dragon more reasonable at $58 a month).

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Nun Does Not Keep Its Vow

The latest movie in The Conjuring universe is unfortunately a squandered effort that should have been scarier and darker given the talent behind it: from the writer of Annabelle: Creation and IT (2017), from a story by James Wan (director of The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2), and from the director of The Hallow (2015). The production values are fantastic with amazing sets, atmospheric lighting, a great cast, and some really unsettling scares. So what the hell happened?

For starters, the tone wavered from scene to scene, at times old-school horror, then punny humor, then action adventure. The two leads Father Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) work well together but someone had a great idea to throw in a quasi-romantic hunk (?) for Sister Irene (??) who seems to be a different movie altogether (think Brendan Fraser in The Mummy). The rollicking tone sucks the tension and fear from just about every moment he's in. The film steadily loses coherence as it trudges along. There seems to be no rules as to what the demonic nun can or can’t do. She wanders freely among crucifixes, may have minions, can possess bodies and make them zombies, and can break any law of physics. There’s just no discernible logic. It seems the creative team came up with a bunch of individual great looking scenes first, and then strung them together into a story. And don’t get me started on that ending that seriously cheats the audience.

Nonetheless, it's still somewhat entertaining if you let go of all expectations (it’s going to be soooo scary because that nun is soooo scary), and accept this is not as good as the other films. Since this is part of horror franchise that is very closely tied, the comparison is inevitable and the results are judged quite harshly. One woman behind me in the theater literally yelled, “That was so disappointing!” Yes it was.

Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 Late Summer Scary Movie Report

The Endless
From the duo that brought us the Lovecraftian Spring, comes this ambitious sophomore feature. It’s puzzling, relentlessly obtuse, and generally polished for an indie.  This could have been a great film, but instead is a good film. At its surprisingly gooey core is the story of two brothers attempting to reconcile after abandoning a cult and dealing with some vague aftermath. Their solution is numbing half conversations (men, am I right) and a misguided attempt at understanding their feelings by returning to the cult. Plot wise it  delivers on its lofty promise. Unfortunately, the emotional impact doesn’t quite resonate mainly because of the tepid writing that reduces the honorable but amateurish lead performances to stoic, repetitive caricatures. You can tell these actors (who are also the co-directors) are true friends but they never once convince us that they’ve lived their characters’ lives and never achieve the brotherly dynamic integral to the plot. The resolution also left much in the air, and while I don’t expect to be spoon fed an explanation, the ending feels like deliberately bad editing or an ode to pretentious art filmmaking, I’m not sure which is worse.

Summer of 84
With the next season of Stranger Things a year away, Summer of 84 may just the right bit of nostalgia to tide you over. This is the follow up feature from the directors of the excellent Turbo Kid, and they were clearly influenced by the Netflix show. However here were faced with a human monster instead of supernatural one. Four young hormonal teens Goonie-up to find a serial killer terrorizing their tiny town. One of them suspects a neighbor who also happens to be a cop and refused to believe otherwise straining their friendships and families. The movie plods along, drenched in thickly slathered electronic music that at times obscures the dialogue. It’s an exercise in patience since the first half tends to be repetitive and doesn't ever reveal much about of the many characters which signals script problems. Eventually it does ripen into a good thriller and takes a turn into full horror, changing the tone considerably and ruining a little of the plucky fun. Nonetheless, I found it entertaining and a worth recommending to fans of 80s nostalgia flicks.

American Satan
You’ve heard the story before: band sells soul to the devil for meteoric rise to fame and fortune, while we witness the transformation from great to terrible. The premise is not new and acting is not on par with the overall production values. And yet, this is a persistently fun, often funny, horrific movie that keeps you watching and rocking out to the bombastic “cinematic metal” soundtrack (think Pat Benatar or Bon Jovi covering James Bonds themes). This is retro-cool flick does make one pause at its central conceit: the devil is at the center of all metal music. Is this a PSA or an endorsement? I guess you’ll read what you want depending on what side of the line you stand but it’s clear in this movie that the devil makes life worse. Most interesting are the factoids during the credits that outline the effects on some of rocks’s real stars (Ozzy Osborne was possessed on stage, Santana came out with it’s only Grammy winning album after meeting his spirit guide). A TV show spin off based on the movie, tentatively titled, Paradise City, is coming next year.

Take an LA-obsessed American blonde, three heavily armed French men, and a remote location in the middle of a desert and you have the recipe for a very bad situation. And it does get bad, then worse, and even worse. But it’s a French horror film so you know it’s going to get bloody, insane, and fly completely off the rails, which it does. If you’re expecting a realistic plot then you’ve come to the wrong place. The things these people endure is beyond any physical plausibility. I get a paper cut from loading the paper tray and I’m calling it a day. What the film does manage to do is connect with your inner beast of rage, frustration, and stress and lets you yell like a maniac at the screen. Again, there’s nothing original in this film but it’s exceedingly well, and definitely one of the goriest films I’ve seen in a long time. I was so exhausted after watching this that I feel asleep instantly. Take that, Ambien.

Down a Dark Hall
It started as a young adult novel in 1974, and bought by a large studio in hopes of making it next big thing. Unfortunately, the studio’s chokehold is evident in the interminable goal to be bland and inoffensive, yielding boring characters, cliche haunted house scenes, and murky story that is not helped with the underlit and  incomprehensible cinematography. The director’s other promising features Red Lights and Buried both hinted at greater things to come and there are are some interesting moments of atmospheric dread – shadowy figures dashing into dark corners and the occasional camera pan that reveals ghostly bystanders far in the background. But then Uma Thurman shows up sporting a French accent shakier than Bambi’s first walk in the forest, and wobbles the tone from scaryish to outlandish. This plot struggles to keep any momentum and new reveals add nothing to the story. Ghosts stories are my favorite genre so I tried very hard to find good here but ultimately only found disappointment.

The Devil and Father Amorth
If you are a Catholic and talk about exorcism you do so in a hushed tone for fear that the devil might be listening. According to this documentary, it is always listening and looking for the weakest and most vulnerable. Directed and written and starring William Friedkin, this overwrought and self-congratulatory documentary focuses on the global phenomenon of The Exorcist film and also briefly touches on the life work of Father Amorth, one of the Vatican’s main exorcists. In one extended sequence Father Amorth performs an exorcism in front of the unwavering camera with almost no cutaways. This was thoroughly documented and fascinating but ultimately tedious. Exorcisms, were told, can last weeks, months or even years and require persistent, repetitive, incremental steps to alleviate. Even then, victims may never fully recover suffering with dreams and dread that something waits for them in the darkness. Some fall under the spell and never return from it. Interesting stuff but this film is not about exorcism. At just over an hour long, it feels like a bonus feature on The Exorcist’s blu-ray release than an actual deep dive into the life of this man who by all accounts was loved by the community. It made me a little mad that it didn’t honor Father Amorth better although perhaps it was on Friedkin’s to do list. Ultimately, Friedkin is limited by what he has access to and the Vatican was not about to expose its most cloistered sacred rite for public scrutiny and certainly not as entertainment. One day that documentary will be made and this is not it.

The Lodgers
Rules must be obeyed in the soggy gothic tale in 1920s rural Ireland. You must be in bed by midnight and never allow a stranger through the door. Two twins nearing their 18th birthday are informed that the trust they’ve been living off is empty and their house is to be sold. This sets off a series of calamities that reveal the sinister dark secrets hidden in the family lineage. As a gothic story it works well and the atmosphere certainly creates a sense of dread and foreboding, but for much of the running time, there’s little spectral action. From a narrative perspective, the characters are very vaguely drawn mostly because the twins live alone in this giant house and have no one to talk to. In movies you want to show, not tell so instead we’re left to decipher subtle details of character that may be much to delicate to leave any kind of impression. I kept waiting for something to happen and in the last 15 minutes, it did, but was that too late? Much like ghosts my attention had already drifted off into the ether.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Brief & Curious History of Yankee Candle's Boney Bunch

Love them or hate them Yankee Candle's Boney Bunch have created a holiday tradition for many Halloween fans. These ceramic figurines each hold some kind of candle and portray whimsical smiling skeletons in all kinds of punny themes (Death by Chocolate, Head Chef). When the craze began in 2008, the retailer had no idea the kind of demand they would generate and quickly sold out of product. I was still getting catalogs in the mail long after everything was gone and many customers were quite irate.

They came back a second year, and then another – preceded of course by they will-they or won't they return chatter. Parties were thrown in stores, with early hours, costumes, treats and special coupons for everyone. I went to several events to meet the Boneyheads. Everyone loved Halloween and shared stories of previous years purchases. Once the doors open, however, it was every person for themselves. There was grabbing, pushing, bartering, yelling, and even crying. Some people bought hundreds of dollars of stuff (and keep in mind they were once reasonably priced at an average of $10). One entrepreneur bought multiple items and planned to sell them on eBay for triple their worth once they disappeared from the shelves.

According several managers, Yankee Candle planned their year around the Boney Bunch launch sale since for a couple weeks, it was the best selling product of the year. They tried to keep up with demand (and disgruntled late season shoppers) and tiered the release of products. They offered pre-ordering at the store level which was disastrous. They released special editions online only to entice shoppers to stay home and order online, but their aging website always crashed during the fateful Saturday sale. One year they tripled their order of product from the manufacturer and ended up with considerable overstock! (Now overstock is held for the next year as returning favorites and rarely clearance priced.)

Demand seems to have slowed down and the stores don't make a big fuss at launch day anymore. They still advertised launch days but there's hardly a coupon in sight. This year they gave away candles in hoping of propping up sales but it's clear they've forgotten about appeasing the Halloween fans. Gone are the lavish catalogs with the artful photos, the special signage around the store, and the fun videos/games online. This party is over but it was fun while it lasted.

Here are some of my favorite pieces from 2018 that launched this past Saturday (you're in luck – nothing has sold out yet). After 11 years of figures, they've explored just about every theme imaginable but still manage to get a few fun surprises in the mix. Personally I love the more wicked ones that definitely connote the darker side of Halloween – but in a whimsical way (headless clown with skeleton head impaled on a cane, anyone?).

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Ambitious Horror of The Terror

AMC’s new anthology series, The Terror, has been sitting on my DVR since premiering March 26 and concluding on May 21. I love a good naval yarn but was so badly burned with the ridiculous Pirates of the Caribbean movies and aimlessly bland Black Sails Starz series, so all 10 episodes sat like sad logs by a summertime fireplace.  But I gave it a go and so grateful I did. The Terror is an engrossing prestige horror aimed at adults with a superb cast, grand visuals, and taut dramatic storytelling that swiftly moves along – easily one of the finest series on cable today and it MUST be on your watch list. Be warned however that it’s violent, relentlessly gory, and very heartbreakingly tragic.

Based on the novel by Dan Simmons, the story traces the 1845 lost expedition to the Arctic led by Captain Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) aboard the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. In traversing the icy region in hopes of finding the Northwest Passage, they ultimately become icebound, and as Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) exclaims, “This place wants us dead.” As if the situation wasn’t dire enough with tainted food supplies, crew rivalries, and harsh conditions, they soon face an even more deadly thing that tilts the series towards the supernatural… perhaps. Regardless, this is  most certainly is horror at its finest.

The series is visually stunning with long shots of the ships at sea, dancing northern lights, and the jagged shards of frozen sea pushing skyward. The lighting is impressive as winter sets in and only a momentary red sunrise peaks beyond the horizon only to set seconds later.  There’s a particular scene enshrouded in a thick fog where the camera pulls back and up and capturing the hazy, terrifying action below. Every aspect of the production is striking and chilling, and I could swear the temperature in the room dropped 10 degrees as I watched.

Take a look at the endlessly fascinating and hypnotic opening credits. Not once did I fast forward through it:


After reading about the premise for season 2, which is a different story altogether, I’m hooked on this prestige horror series. Although I really doubt that quality like this will drawn the kind of audience that AMC hopes. It’s an incredibly ambitious concept (read: a tough sell) to take a real historical event and overlay it with horror. But like all short-lived great horror that came before it (Hannibal, The Exorcist, BrainDead, Carnivale, The Leftovers, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Outcast) we’ll get what we get and be grateful.