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