Monday, November 9, 2015

Crimson Peak: What Went Wrong

If you enjoyed the grandeur of Guillermo del Toro's gothic haunted house film Crimson Peak, you were probably in the minority and will likely not see a film like this again. In my review, I called it a once in a generation type of film because a big budget opus with top tier cast in a Hollywood horror event film rarely comes along. Crimson Peak's dismal box office literally put the last nail in the coffin. Budgeted at $55 million, it made just over $29 million in 4 weeks of release.

An article at Forbes breaks down the further embarrassing details, including a list of cheap, forgettable movies that made more money on opening weekend: The Messengers, One Missed Call, The Eye, Darkness Falls, Stay Alive and The Rite. Yikes. So what when wrong? The article dissects the problems astutely:

1. A high concept film. Period films – that are not prestige Oscar bait – rarely do well with audiences. Add to that the gothic romance part that seems to discourage diehard horror movie fans. It struggled to find the right audience.

2. Early reviews. There's film festivals for people who love genre films, and there's the local newspapers who typically hate genre films. Fantastic Fest audiences loved the film but their reviews were embargoed until local newspaper reviewers could see the film. As a result potential audiences saw the local newspapers negative reviews first before the distributor could release the more favorable reviews.

3. The director's social blunder. Guillermo del Toro's 2-week social media blasts where he stressed that it wasn't a horror film was certainly off-putting for me – and I'm a diehard fan! Imagine what it did to mainstream movie audiences who don't understand what a gothic romance is or that del Toro doesn't know how to speak in a common denominator to the masses? This movie was a classic horror film through and through.

4. Geeks don't bring in bucks. The director, the stars, the concept though geared to a very specific audience seemed to have broader appeal on paper but surprisingly it didn't entice mainstream audiences who preferred the kid-friendly Goosebumps and Hotel Transylvania 2. The "R" rating kept away the lucrative teen market who devours horror films, although given the subject matter, I can't imagine teens lining up to see this anyway. Crimson Peak is a film for adults who love the genre and I'm guessing most of them are waiting for home viewing.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Post-Mortem 2015

Another Halloween is dead and buried! As a purist, I teardown my front yard display before noon after Halloween. I'm hoping some of our neighbors will think, "Did that really happen or was it just a bad dream?" Although they are more likely thinking, "Thank goodness that house is normal again." Now to figure out how to store all that awesome stuff. 

We had perfect weather for Halloween night and ended up with 366 trick 'r treaters! Being on a Saturday I noticed the lil' ones had a late start around 7pm (usually they're at our front door by 5pm). Then the streets suddenly filled with hordes of walkers for two solid hours tapering off by 9:30pm. It's such a great way to meet neighbors and extended neighbors.

This year, I brought out Hekate the three-headed witch, first featured in 2013 although I added a tall hunched body, new arms, cat claws, and a toothy sneer. You take the hat off a witch and she suddenly becomes much more sinister! I imagined that she was in some deep forest shack where the elements have taken over, tree roots growing through the house, spiders everywhere, while she conjures up a skeleton army. A projection on the window (from the excellent had skeletons beating on the window! A photo album and video will appear on very soon, and make sure to follow or bookmark our new My Scary Halloween Flickr for even more photos. 

We hope you had a SCARY Halloween and look forward to a restful winter hibernation. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Have a Scary Halloween!

Don't forget the rules of Halloween!

Rule #1 – Always wear a costume.
Rule #2 – Always pass out treats.
Rule #3 – Never blow out a jack-o-lantern.
Rule #4 – Always check your candy.

Now go watch Trick 'r Treat, carve a pumpkin, and have a scary Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Eerie Elegance's Day of the Dead

Eerie Elegance with Britta, Webmistress of the Dark at the helm has done it again! She and her team have created one of the best Day of the Dead displays I've ever seen, drawing inspiration from the 2014 animated film The Book of Life. If you live in the Bay Area you still have a few opportunities to catch the "live" Mariachis de Muerte band as they play and tell you original stories of their ancestors. The animatronics used to bring this skeleton crew to life rivals what you've see at Disneyland considering this a group of passionate home haunters. Simply stunning!

For more information visit Eerie Elegance's Day of the Dead page. For those who live outside of the area, a video and full posts are coming soon! For more information on how this spectacle was created like Eerie Elegance on Facebook, or follow the in-depth blog Britta Blvd.

Exorcism: LIVE!

I was raised Catholic and that means that I had a fear of the supernatural instilled in me at a very young age. Every thing that went bump in the night was undeniably a demon trying to devour my soul. Then at the age of seven, I watched The Exorcist on primetime. Even though it was edited for TV, the horror of seeing those demons affected me profoundly.

All this comes as a preface to Destination America's special, Exorcism: Live!, the first "live" televised exorcism of a house in the country's history. The event is scheduled for October 30 and is taking place in the original "Exorcist House" in St. Louis. It was in this house where several rites of exorcism where performed on a young boy in the late 1940s to free him from the clutches of demonic possession. This story served as inspiration for William Blatty's novel The Exorcist which subsequently became the notorious film.

And now the crew of Ghost Asylum will join medium Chip Coffey to explore every nook and cranny of  this hell house with high technology in hopes of freeing the house of its demonic entities. Whether or not anything reveals itself is the most troubling question. Likely nothing will appear but what if something does – even if its just a glimpse? Are we ready to see the face of evil? I'm reminded of that troubling quote from Nietzche that was later modernized in American Horror Story: Asylum: "If you look in the face of evil, evil's gonna look right back at you."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween By The Numbers and Why It Matters

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article saying that consumers will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year (down from a peak of $8 billion in 2012 ). That spending encompasses a large sector of retail (with pop-up stores like Spirit Halloween), entertainment (haunted attractions) and even the farming industry (oh glorious pumpkins)! While it still trails behind other major holidays, it's also the only one that doesn't involve direct gift-giving (which bloats the numbers across the board).

What was once considered a children's holiday now appeals to 18- to 34-year old millennials (the #1 target demographic for most business) and even older adults who let loose on one dark night in October. One of the major causes is considered to be social media, since sharing of pictures seems to be fueling the spread of cultural glee. (Read the full story here at

Why It Matters

So there's all this data and you might be wondering why it's important. For decades Halloween has been dismissed a triviality and the numbers don't lie. People are spending serious money on the holiday and this consistent spending, year after year legitimizes it as a bankable commodity.

For passionate Halloween fans, like myself who runs this blog, and the countless Halloween artists out there, it somewhat validates our dark passions in a very real and tangible way. Now many of us are not it for the money, or make a business of Halloween, but our endeavors promote those who do. We keep the machinery alive and well, like worker bees in a colony. We find a cool product or site and share it. We see a scary movie and we tell others. We discover a new artist and promote their work.

To all our neighbors who stare at us weirdly, friends who question why we spend so much money to haunt our homes, and concerned loved ones who think we might be mad and/or borderline hoarders: we are part of a cultural revolution to keep spooky traditions alive. It is holiday that's not based on religious beliefs or governmental decree. It's a cultural holiday that's transformed over the ages and across the continents meant solely to encourage fun, fright, and maybe even a connection with that inner child buried by years of grown-up burdens and responsibilities. So let loose, go buy a pumpkin, and enjoy your Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2015

For Trick 'R Treat Fans

One of the best movies about Halloween is Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat, the anthology horror film that defines what the holiday is about and why traditions are so important – your very life depends on them! The movie has yielded a frightfully fun following, and while Trick 'r Treat 2 has been announced, it has not yet gone into production. In the meantime here is some stuff to tide you over.

I'm not an earnest comic book reader so my experience is fairly limited but I enjoyed Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead and think it reads like a teaser to the upcoming sequel. Written by Dougherty and his cohorts, one wonders if this comic will be the basis for Trick 'r Treat 2, especially since he mentions the sequel in the introduction. It's beautifully illustrated and definitely a must-have for fans. Available on Amazon.

For discernible collectors, this limited edition Trick 'r Treat original film score is a double LP pressing – on orange vinyl of course – and features the expanded score along with a Spooky Sound FX album culled from the movie's excellent audio FX track. The gatefold cover also features gorgeous new artwork. Available from Waxworks Records.

Fright Rags is offering a limited edition t-shirt and retro plastic mask packaged in costume box. Also check out their four other fantastic tee designs and Sam's sucker socks!

Finally for you party hosts out there looking for a creepy treat to offer your guests, why not make these simple cookie pops from Sugared Nerd? These chocolate cookies resemble Sam's sucker while being easy to decorate with tingly mint icing. The trick to cutting out the cookie shape is very clever: use a round cookie cutter for the main shape and then use any other cookie cutter with a wiggly-shaped edge to create the "bite".

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Home Haunters Check In

With just over a week until Halloween, it’s time to check in and find out if you are:

  • EXCITED (Halloween is going to be epic!) 
  • FATIGUED (So over this year. 2016 will be way better.)
  • ANXIOUS (I will never finish anything in time!!!!)
  • GUILTY (How did I buy so much stuff?)

We at want to reassure you that it will all turn out awesomely frightful and fun. Now go relax with a horror movie, some pumpkin cider, and a handful of Kit Kats from the candy bowl – we won't tell if you don't.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Crimson Peak: Review

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is an old-fashioned haunted house movie and at the center is a somewhat old-fashioned love story. However, the foreboding atmosphere and the impeccable art direction are the focal points, and the real star is Allerdale Hall, a sprawling gothic mansion with crazy details only a madman like del Toro could bring to the screen. The mansion, like its inhabits, is rotting at the seams with walls that drip a never-ending ooze of liquid red clay that instantly evokes blood. (I rarely recommend this, but this is best experienced on an IMAX screen to fully allow the film to engulf your senses.)

Yet the screenplay with its rather slight story and straightforward approach don't quite match the grandeur and opulence of the set decoration. Nonetheless, the action moves swiftly, and the pace although uneven keeps the audience entertained and enthralled by the very dark possibilities that lurk around every corner. The film is also aided by a highly charismatic cast that elevates the proceedings. Tom Hiddleston proves to be a beguiling leading man, Mia Wasikowska is delightfully smart, Jessica Chastain is simply sinister in a performance that devours the screen.

With so many odes to classic gothic cinema it was disheartening that del Toro again relies on cartoonish CGI to create his ghosts – some of which are truly terrifying! Yet there's a certain familiarity about them and they clearly share the DNA of the ghosts from Mama, a 2013 film del Toro produced. Considering the lengths he went to create this world, one wonders how practical effects combined with more subtle CGI would have given these frightening moments more presence and weight.

This type of period movie may not have the broad appeal of a contemporary horror film, but for fans of the haunted house or gothic romance subgenres, this is a decadent feast to be savored and relished. It's the kind of movie that comes along once in a generation with its overwrought, sumptuous imagery and portentously gloomy sternness. It's creepy, full of dread, often bloody, exquisitely thrilling, and even occasionally scary – a perfect movie for a dark Halloween night.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Simpsons: Halloween of Horror

The Simpsons airs its first-ever Halloween episode tonight! Wait, what? Unlike the wonderfully oddball standalone Treehouse of Horror episodes, this Halloween of Horror is just another episode within The Simpsons universe that happens to take place on Halloween. Early reviews say the episode "feels creepier than a typical Treehouse of Horror story because it's 'real.'" Will it work to put our beloved characters in actual peril? Tune in tonight and find out.

 And don't worry! The standalone special Treehouse of Horror airs next week!