Friday, March 16, 2018

Department 56 Adds to "Nightmare" Village

Department 56's has added a few pieces to their Nightmare Before Christmas line (available June 25). So far this series has replicated what's been available through Disney and Bradford Exchange although with much better detail, larger size, and much better quality. This year we get Lock, Shock & Barrel's Treehouse, the Town Square Fountain, and Zero's doghouse. I hope they keep going and give us some more odd buildings like the round monster building, the witch hat buildings, the cat building, the octopus tower, or maybe even the spiral hill.

Town Square Fountain, #6001202, $40

Lock, Shock & Barrel Treehouse, #6001201, $130

Zero And His Dog House, #6001203, $20

Elsewhere, Department 56's Halloween Village series adds another interesting witch building (Emeralda's Shoe Shop) and a few less inspired buildings that don't scream out to me. I'm not sure what happened since Enesco bought the company but it feels like Halloween has veered towards the dull and stodgy (and enough with the train cars!). Perhaps they've realigned to their target demo (which skews older based on the the village organizations I've met with) and they want to be inoffensive as possible? 

Esmeralda's Shoe Shop, #6000660, $115

The Bone Grinder Mill, #6000663, $140

The Black Cat Flat, #6000661, $160

Last Laugh Asylum, #6000659, $155

Monster Mash Party House, #6000659, $160

But all is not lost when I saw two accessories: Tree of Terror and Row of Skulls. Both of these are actually pretty scary and maybe even disturbing. I wish they would bring this kind of sinister feel to a couple buildings. Where is black and sinister gothic mansion/monster house like the one from Stephen King's IT? Department 56, please create a focus group with a few of us younger village collectors and let us be your Halloween consultants!

Row of Skulls Curved, #6001747, $18.50

Tree of Terror, #6001754, $30

All photos in this post are from

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy National (Pet A) Spider Day!

March 14 is National Save a Spider day and it's a perfect day to start eradicating some of that arachnophobia. Spiders save us from being overrun by other bugs such as mosquitoes, flies, ants, and aphids. Spiders only bite humans in self-defense and while all have venom, few are dangerous. Scientists are studying the use of some spiders' venoms as a more natural pesticide, as well as treatments for Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and other diseases. So go out and pet a spider! Actually, on second thought, don't. They may interpret your love pat as an attack.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Valdemar Legacy" Conjures Up Lovecraft

Some films fly by without a blip, especially if they are foreign horror films. While browsing on Amazon Prime Video I came across La Herencia Valdemar (The Valdemar Legacy). This gothic yarn from Spain was released waaaaay back in 2010 and never really got a U.S. release, other than being unceremoniously dumped onto Amazon. It's remotely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and while not a great film, is definitely an interesting trip into Necronomicon territory.

The movie starts as a modern day haunted house film and then abruptly shifts to the 19th century when the rise of spiritualism led to many charlatans. The elegant melodrama revolves around a childless couple who run an orphanage outside a remote village. The husband gains an interest in the occult and soon the couple is holding seances (for guests like Bram Stoker and Lizzie Borden!) as a means to finance their selfless work. But things take a dark turn. The plot circles back to modern day but ends on a cliffhanger because – TWIST - there's a second movie!

Unfortunately neither Amazon or any other streaming service (or DVD seller) has La Sombra Prohibida (The Forbidden Shadow). Thankfully, the interwebs easily revealed a (legal?) source to stream (not download) the entire movie. Part 2 picks up right where we left off with the heroine way back from the first 10 minutes of the first film. A bunch of often nonsensical chaos ensues (including a cameo from Howard Phillips himself!) and its Lovecraftian themes emerge clearly. Part 2 is not as successful as the moderately successful first movie, but it does bring the entire story to a resounding close.

While Valdermar I & II don't feature the best effects or production values, especially the action heavy second part, I admire the ambitious storytelling, grand cosmic themes, and the many strong performances that draw you into the tangled plot. Few films swing for the fences like this and I'm surprised there isn't a cult following for this saga. Perhaps there is in Spain? Here in America, mainstream audiences hate subtitled films, even though some of the best horror films are coming from abroad. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft may be disappointed that this isn't an adaptation of any specific stories but nonetheless, this is an entertaining supernatural saga that's worth checking out.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Shape of Oscar

A creature feature, horror comedy and family film about skeletons won Oscars!!! Congratulations to Best Picture THE SHAPE OF WATER, with Guillermo del Toro, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay GET OUT, and Best Animated Film, COCO. It's so rare when genre films get serious recognition and today we celebrate!

Poster artwork by James Jean

Thursday, February 22, 2018

SyFy's Channel Zero Scores 10s Across the Board

I'm not sure where my head was in October 2016, but my eyeballs completely missed SyFy's horror anthology show called Channel Zero. With thousands of streaming options on top of pay cable, it's easy to miss great shows. I'm so happy I stumbled across this show after seeing previews for the third season which started earlier this month.

Each season is based on a popular story from the Creepy Pasta site that I can't seem to shut up about. Season 1: Candle Cove, is full of dread, taut tension, and bizarre visuals that I can't seem to shake even now. At six episodes, the show is easily bingeable over the weekend, and probably better watched this way. The story and plot systematically unfold with almost no exposition. Characters jump right into the weirdness in the first episode, and immediately we're introduced to a creepy puppet tv show that only kids can see – and it's influencing them to do terrible things! It's surreal nature means that the show follows no real "horror rules" making the proceedings quite tense. You just don't know what to expect (like all that damn tooth horror). The production is lean but well filmed and the effects modest, but the fine actors really stand out and make this a stellar show (Paul Schneider and Fiona Shaw looking at you).

Comparisons to American Horror Story are inevitable but I don't think they're in the same league. AHS is brash, pulpy, gory, glam trash held together by a top notch cast and an extensive marketing budget. Channel Zero is just so damn better. The stories, characters, and the direction all work together to create a true sense of horror that AHS lost after it's second season. Perhaps I've overlooked SyFy for horror/weirdness but that's two great series (along with Happy!) I'm retroactively gagging about.

Don't believe me? The first two seasons (Season 1: Candle CoveSeason 2: No-End House) are available to stream in their entirety through March 21 on, and the SyFy app. And watch the new cycle, Season 3: Butcher's Block, Wednesdays at 10/9C. I'm looking forward to Season 3 although I might wait to binge on it all at once (not what the network likes to hear but it's the truth). I recommend that you do so as well.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Unusual Decor for Your Halloween Village

It's only February and I'm already thinking about my Halloween village. I was at Petsmart looking for stuff my black cat demands, and walked through the fish section. I stumbled across this awesome aquarium decor and thought some of these pieces would be interesting accents for my village. I ended up choosing the octopus because the scale was perfect for the ghost ship I already own. The pieces are expensive because they are non-toxic and stand up to being submerged in water (but still less expensive that usual Department 56 pieces). I really loved the many rock formations and gnarled tree limbs too. Some of the plants are even blacklight reactive if you wanted to have a really surreal effect. Check them out at Petsmart.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Be My Scary Valentine

For those who love the bloody horror of love but didn't make it to Hellmark store, here are some ecards to share! Tip: send immediately.

Monday, February 5, 2018

TurboTax Horror Ads Are the Best

It's tax season and like many Americans I am terrified. TurboTax is here to save the day and assure us there's nothing to be afraid of. Their new campaign features a series of horror ads that start creepy but end cute. SEE–Taxes aren't so scary! Brava/Bravo to the Wieden + Kennedy, the Portland-based agency behind these fun ads.

"The Noise in the Attic"

"The Dark"

"The Thing in the Woods"

"The Thing Under the Bed"



Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Happy!" Is the Cure for Winter Doldrums

We can talk about HAPPY! all day but let's make one thing clear: this twisted, crazy show deserves some serious love. It's based on a 2012 four-issue comic book that combines elements of crime, comedy, drama, with some very divergent things. I know I know. The premise sounds ridiculous: a former cop on the verge of suicide is befriended by – an imaginary friend! – an animated unicorn who needs help rescuing an adorable young girl. The girl was abducted by a deranged and frightening Santa Claus who seems to be collecting kids for some nefarious reason. From there things get very twisted with a sadistic torture specialist, a mob family, an odd kids TV show personality, really big bugs, and mom who dives head first into the absurd to find her missing daughter.

Christopher Meloni as Nick Sax is at his most grimiest and unhinged as a pill-popping, boozing, general lowlife and he is hysterical. However, the star of the show is Happy, blue unicorn with a dazzling pink horn. Voiced by Patton Oswalt, his disarming and charming naivety is quickly challenged by the real life on the streets of New York. Being partnered with Nick to solve this crime erodes his innocence (and ours).

As for the production, the camera work is dazzling. The characters, plot and writing are fantastic, and for those out there who like gore, there is plenty of splattered brain meat to go around. Be warned that this is a boundary pushing show with plenty of mucky, offensive, filthy unpleasantness. Yet it's remarkably watchable, absolutely fun to watch, and shocking to see this quality on SYFY.

The season ended on Wednesday but all eight episodes are available OnDemand from SYFY. The best gift of all is that SYFY has renewed it for a Season2!