Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Halloween at Target

Target finally put out their Halloween merchandise after what seemed like a back-to-school eternity. As usual they have very stylish stuff and while their offerings often overlap with Spirit Halloween, Target's designs are a touch more sophisticated. There's much more products online than in stores so keep a lookout for free shipping offers. Here are some of my favorite props:

Haunted TV
This years hard-to-find and extremely popular prop is this TV. Once activated a face appears on the screen and presses out though a pliable screen, reminiscent of the effect recently used on Stranger Things and Nightmare on Elm Street.

Haunted Eyeball Doorbell
This clever doorbell which appeared last year I think, reveals a glowing eye that looks around. Pretty clever animatronic for $10.

Spooky Clock
No haunted mantle is complete without a squawking, ornate clock. The clock lights up and a red-eyed crow (raven?) sticks it's head out.

Animated Crow in a Cage
This crow squawks, flaps it wings, and it's eye glow red. Impressive for such a little thing. (There's also a smaller version of this at Home Depot.)

Wolf Tombstone
Two of these would be grand on a column at the entrance of any haunted castle. They are quite fierce and oddly disquieting.

Halloween Tin Canisters 
These rusty old tin cans are from their premium online collection ($$$) but would look great in any apothecary scene. You always see bottles (they also have some good choices) but rarely cans. The $44 price tag is a bit much. Etsy to rescue?

Spirit Board Serving Tray
Everyone loves a good cheeseboard with their seance so why not combine the two? This spirit tray in incredibly well built and much nicer than the official Hasbro Ouija tray at Spirit Halloween.

Day of the Dead Wreath
The colorful Mexican holiday continues to be a theme in holiday decorating and Target has this vibrant wreath but I would suggest you not put on the front door. It's fairly light and made of what feels like felt so it probably couldn't withstand the slightest bit of weather.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Don't Breathe ~ Review

The new thriller from Evil Dead (2013) director Fede Alvarez, Don’t Breath stands as a testament to what could be done right with a tired genre. Take the home invasion movie. This grim, humorless and often mean-spirited sub-genre gained some traction with The Strangers, The Purge, and Funny Games but many succumb to breaks in logic or absurd pretense. Don’t Breathe cleverly sidesteps most of the pitfalls with a sparingly tight plot, two well matched leads, and stylish cinematography. As she proved in Evil Dead (2013), Jane Levy once again endures the horror with resiliency and stamina in the face of Stephen Lang’s unrelenting blind man. Just who is the victim here anyway? The twists are surprising and the movie delves into some deeply unsavory elements. The tension never lets up and a few startle scares keep you on your toes.

That said, there is a difference between horror and terror. Terror precedes an experience and fills you with dread and anxiety, whereas horror shows you the fright and lets you deal with the aftermath. Don’t Breath is a terror film that keeps you tense for the majority of it’s running time. It’s much more difficult to enjoy that kind of film, especially on repeated viewings, so while its a well-made film, I don’t think it’s one that I would want to see again.

Don’t Breathe is a smart home invasion movie turned on it’s side. While filled with dread, it avoids the more brooding, sadistic nature of these kinds of films with steady action, incredibly stylistic camera work, and a strong cast. It’s not an enjoyable film per se but rather one to endure and geared towards a very niche audience.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Spirit Halloween 20% off everything 9/5 & 9/6

Here. We. Go. 20% off EVERYTHING at Spirit Halloween today 9/5 and tomorrow 9/6 only. Make sure to sign up for their email newsletter for offers like this, and get your coupon here: spirithalloween.com

Friday, September 2, 2016

Halloween at Home Depot

Home Depot is typically not the place to get great Halloween decor, but clearly this year the spirits have moved them. They have one of the most unique collections I've seen in a while and they're offering free shipping from their website as well. In store you'll find an intro-level $69 projector kit (12 projections included), a 9-foot inflatable dragon with articulated wings, a still image projector with really creepy faces, a realistic and large lit longhorn skull, and for those who shop online, you can also get a full-size skeleton horse. They've also got a ton of cool lighting, including the popular fire and ice spotlights for $19.98. Run and don't stumble into a store this weekend. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer TV Recap

Goodbye summer. It's been a long, dry, hot road here in California. What did I do during my summer vacation? Why binge watch TV in front of the AC! There were some surprises, some big disappointments and some vaguely entertaining shows. Here's my recap.

American Gothic
CBS double dipped in the genre this summer, and this one was exceedingly terrible. The premise however is good – a wealthy but dysfunctional family discovers their father was a serial killer just after his death – the show is curmudgeonly banal with the standard characters: the cold, calculating mother figure, the drugged out artist son, the straight-laced girl married to a black cop (heavens!), the loaner who saw things and lives in the woods, and the politician daughter who dabbles on both sides. Everyone is a suspect and everyone is unlikeable. It's remarkable how this show is so off-putting and dark, both figuratively with the young child who is clearly a sociopath, and literally, since the show seems to be lit with one single flashlight. The always classy, Virginia Madsen is seriously wasted in an anemic role, but the show was perfect for folding laundry, making dinner, etc.

However, CBS redeemed itself with the Ridley Scott (Alien) produced political comedy/horror hybrid BrainDead. Aliens in the shape of ants attack Earth quietly by centering their efforts on the politicians in Washington D.C. The tone is similar to Mars Attacks and features sung intro recaps, a whimsical musical score that heavily features You Might Think by The Cars, exploding heads, and an irreverent Tony Shalhoub. The rest of the cast led by the committed Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane) and love interest Aaron Tveit (Danny from Grease Live!) radiate chemistry. It is such a fun TV show and though it looks like it won't get a second season, is definitely worth watching. CBS didn't know how to market this gem and on any non-major network, this show would have been watercooler darling. As it stands, it's not for all tastes but those who get it will love it, and eventually it will be a stellar Netflix binge.

Scream, Season 2
The first season of Scream was barely tolerable but it came to a good resolution and made season 2 completely improbable. The showrunners stepped down (fired?) due to the creative direction, and new ones brought in to make this show completely intolerable. They sprayed everything with AXE body spray, added temper tantrums and illogical writing, ensured the remaining cast was even more unlikable and whiny. This series is intolerable. Also, 38 of 42 minutes of running time is spent on the teens' dramas and anxieties, then suddenly breaks in the 4 minutes of serial killer action. Srsly. OVit. 🙄 Clearly, I am not the intended viewer for this show. Interestingly, I've read a sound bite from the producers who are tired of being compared to the movie. Um, solution: don't call your show Scream, maybe?

Dead of Summer
Set in as summer camp in the 80s, Dead of Summer is the kitchen sink of genre shows. We have a slasher (?), horny teens, a mysterious camp leader with secrets, and a haunting supernatural force awakened by – what exactly? The show is an embarrassment on all levels from the "writing" to the high school acting troupe, to the nonsensical plot. Perhaps, like Scream, I am not the Freeform channel's (owned by ABC Family) prime demographic but why would anyone aim for the mediocre? Definitely expected a better show from the producers of LOST and Once Upon a Time.

The first of two shows based on graphic novels, Preacher on AMC is one hell heck of a ride that plays like an early Quentin Tarantino movie. It's fast, stylish, full of interesting characters, absurd scenarios, and just tinged with a lil' supernatural charm. The well-coiffed Dominic Cooper plays a small, dusty town preacher with a checkered past, who gains an incredible force. Alongside his headstrong ex-girlfriend and an Irish vampire, he is being pursued by a pair of inept henchman who are trying to get that power back. This one is a head-scratcher at times and definitely makes the audience think a bit. Hang in there, although I will warn you now, the season finale takes a deep dive into the ridiculous.

Cinemax's series Outcast is also based on a graphic novel and features a trouble preacher and an unfortunate man who's been plagued with demonic possession – not him, just those around him. He also harbors some strange abilities to exorcise those demons who appear as viscous, black oil. The show was created by Robert Kirkman who also created The Walking Dead and follows in that bleak, apocalyptic tone but here the characters are much more likable – and most importantly there is hope. As the citizens are being taken down by a nefarious plot, Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) shows up as a shadow person complete with hat and brings with him a dark force of mystery. What the hell is going on? Much is not revealed but the show was renewed for a second season before the first episode premiered so there's plenty of time to explore this world.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Yankee Candle Halloween 2016

Another Yankee Candle Halloween Preview Sale come and gone. Oddly, some of their most interesting items were available online only. By the time I checked at 9am the one thing I wanted (the purple skull) was sold out. Rats! Here are some of the standout items:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Spirit Halloween Now Open ~ Get 20% off!

Eek! Spirit Halloween stores are opening all over the country! Go to their Store Locator page to find your closest location and grab a 20% off coupon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dog Days of Summer Reads

August is the last, long, hot crawl through summer and into our favorite season: Autumn! How to pass the time? Reading of course! Here's a few recommendations for getting through the rest of the summer and into the golden pumpkin spice days ahead.

Grady Hendrix's novel My Best Friend's Exorcism is a funny, nostalgic trip through the 80s with real heart. The premise follows two young girls from 10th grade through the perils of high school when one of them is seemingly possessed by a demon. It doesn't add much to the supernatural genre but as an American satire of friendship and puberty it was certainly entertaining. It's totally awesome.

Loved the Ghostbusters reboot? For those lucky few in the front row, the book Ghosts from our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively featured prominently in the movies was actually printed and a fantastic souvenir/tie-in book. It has great illustrations, hilarious lists of ghosts phenomenon, and what may be some real research on the paranormal. Probably not – who knows or cares, but it's incredibly entertaining and written from the perspective of the two characters from the movie, Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates. By the way, order the UK version which is hardcover and about $2.50 more than the cheaper U.S. paperback (available on Amazon).

While we're all familiar with the stories of the Brothers Grimm, I'ver never actually read any of them. Thankfully, the new collection Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm has arrived and this passion project from Gris Grimly is lovingly restored to it's uncut, grim form and filled with his whimsical and dark illustrations. Everything about this book from the gold foil insignia on the cover (under the dust jacket) to the smooth, deckled edge paper feels special. This is not be missed and will make a great addition to any haunted library.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

AHS Teaser Fatigue

We're up to 19 (!) teasers for AHS Season 6 and Fox is calling some intentional misdirects or fake-outs. Is anyone else experiencing teaser fatigue? It's like when the prom queen keeps reminding you she's the Prom. F-ing. Queen.

“American Horror Story” just dropped FOUR new teasers — but only one is real!!!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things ~ Review

I grew up in the 80s, and I must admit that nostalgia sways my opinion about films and TV shows set in my formative era. That said, Netflix's new series Stranger Things is easily the best show of the summer crowded with very strong genre contenders (Preacher, Outcast, BrainDead). It is an ambitious love letter to kinds of films that I love.

Divided into eight "chapters" the story (that due to it's brevity is best discovered than discussed here) echoes early Stephen King and his infamous "The Shop" where gifted people were studied and exploited. There's also early John Carpenter references to his weirder sci-fi mind-bending elements (long live the new flesh!), and topped with Steven Spielberg's unique family-oriented perspective where kids in peril undertake some great adventure. It's a very wild, serious, entertaining and emotionally resonant concoction that seems so perfectly out of time.

Written and directed by newcomers, The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things unfurls efficiently with absolutely no filler. Binging on this show definitely brings out its more cinematic underpinnings, because really, it's an 8-hour movie. Every episode seamlessly moves into the other with cohesive style and pace. It helps that the creators directed the majority of the series, a rarity in scripted series.

Much of the success can also be attributed to the incredible young cast who gives very rare, natural performances. Their camaraderie feels like these kids actually grew up together. Even the mostly unknown adult ensemble pulls off great performances. Winona Ryder is strangely not the standout with her quirky, affected performance that is a bit over the top. Add to this very understated costumes, props, sets, and lighting that complete the mood of quintessential 80s filmmaking.

This is a must-watch for fans of 80s horror/sci-fi and highly recommended for general audiences. It may not have the flashy effects, jump scares, or be saturated with CGI, but this is a very special series and one of the best that Netflix has produced.