Monday, October 12, 2015

Bad Trick Or Treat Ideas: Canned Goods

bad trick or treat candy ideas

If there’s one thing I’m NOT doing on Halloween night, it’s collecting cans for the homeless. I am, however, at your front door begging – BEGGING – for treats. If you think a can of Progresso Reduced Sodium Italian-Style Wedding with Meatballs is gonna cut the mustard, you’re dead wrong. If you plan on passing out a few cans of baked beans because you were too lazy to go to the store and pick up some candy, just remember this: canned goods are perfect for breaking car windows. Especially yours. While you’re driving. On the highway. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

U.F.O. Abduction AKA The McPherson Tape (1989): Abducted Footage

UFO abduction 1989 ..

During a child’s birthday celebration, the Van Heese family finds their rural Connecticut home under attack by aliens. Without a way to leave the home or call out for help, the family tries to fight back, as the youngest of three brothers videotapes the entire frightening incident.

Written and directed by Dean Alioto, U.F.O. Abduction is a 1989 found footage horror film inspired by popular books such as Whitley Strieber's novel Communion and other stories of alien abduction from the time period. Wanting to get his first film under his belt, Alioto took the idea of alien abduction and spun it into a film that – mixed with an inexpensive home-video style of filmmaking – could be made for the extremely modest budget of $6,500. The result is a film that has an authentic feel to it, at least in terms of the visual aesthetic. The situation the characters face and the way they sometimes react to it, however, is an entirely different story.

The film opens with a simple dinner table scene, where the Van Hesse family is enjoying a 5th birthday celebration for the youngest of the family. There’s a fairly natural family dynamic at hand, at least in terms of how everyone is interacting with one another. Many conversations are going on at the same time, which is a normal occurrence at many a family table. Though as much as it adds a realistic feel to the film, it doesn’t make for interesting viewing when looking in from the outside.

UFO abduction 1989 .

Shortly after the family sing happy birthday, the power goes out, at which point the film becomes dark and a little discombobulated, adding to the realism of the situation. This leads to a scene where – while out trying to fix the circuit breaker – the three brothers notice some strange lights coming from the woods. The three men decide to investigate the area where the lights were coming from, but what they discover, however, is a spaceship and a handful of grey aliens. 

Afraid for their life, the brothers take off running back to the house after the aliens noticed the three men spying on them. Back at the house and fully armed with shotguns, the brothers argue as to whether or not they should all stay put, leave the house for safety or go out and kick some alien ass. Indecisive, the family realizes they need to cool down for a minute, and they do so by eating some birthday cake and having the little girl opening her birthday presents. This is a huge standout in a film that is trying to portray a sense of realism. At what point can a person ignore, even for the briefest of moments, that they just had an encounter with an alien lifeform? Yet, somehow they do. In fact, it gets to the point where they act as if the occurrence had never even happened.  

UFO abduction 1989 ...

This seems to be a bit of a theme in U.F.O. Abduction. The characters react in one of two different ways: freak out and become completely irrational in the silliest of ways, or act completely lackadaisical as if everything is okay USA.

Outside of the previous example, these varied reactions come to play during two key scenes in particular. One being the reaction the brothers have when the little girl shows them a picture she drew of an alien she saw outside of the window. This sends the brothers into a frenzy, meaning they act like raging lunatics running around with loaded shotguns. What’s really funny about this scene is, up until this point, everything was hunky dory, which is interesting considering they had already “made contact” with the alien life forms.

As this is happening, the aliens begin to attack the home, at which point one of the men shoots and kills one of the aliens. The men decide to bring the alien’s corpse inside the house and store it in one of the bedrooms, which leads to my second example of the two extreme reactions that the family has to this alien invasion. Shortly after the three brothers leave to hunt down the rest of the aliens, the remaining family members, all female, decide to play a game of go fish. WHILE A DEAD ALIEN IS IN THE NEXT ROOM. No need to expound upon that, as I think the situation speaks for itself.

UFO abduction 1989

U.F.O. Abduction pre-dates The Blair Witch Project by ten years, though the film was hardly seen by anyone other than U.F.O. enthusiasts. This is really where the film becomes most interesting, at least in terms of historical merit. Shortly after seeing a truncated direct-to-video run, the master print of the film was lost in a fire and the film was basically forgotten about, even by the director, Dean Alioto. It wasn’t until a few years later where a bootleg version of the U.F.O. Abduction began floating around U.F.O. circles under the title The McPherson Tape. This bootleg was conveniently missing the opening and closing credit sequences of the film as well as was presented as a true event of an alien invasion, convincing many people that it was a real event caught on tape. In fact, there are many people out there who still believe that the footage is indeed that of fact. 

As crazy as that sounds, the tale of U.F.O. Abduction grows all the more wild nearly ten years later when Dean Alioto was approached to helm a remake of the film to air on the UPN network. After completing the movie, Alioto ended up getting pushed out of the picture by unhappy (and new) studio heads, who disliked what Alioto had delivered. Before releasing the film as a one-hour TV special titled Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, the studio had the film edited down, added some new interviews and removed bumpers that warned viewers that the film was a work of fiction. Their intent clearly aimed at making people believe that the remake of a fake film was in fact real. And guess what? Many people believed it, and still do to this very day.

UFO abduction alien abduction

I highly encourage reading Dean Alioto’s vastly more detailed explanation of the events that led to Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, as it’s quite fascinating:

Dean Alioto on the making of Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County

In the end, U.F.O. Abduction is most certainly ahead of its time in terms of concept, but as a film it doesn't deliver much of a punch. However, much of that can be blamed on the fact it doesn't really try to throw too many. it is, after all, a low-budget film trying to go for as much realism as possible. In that sense, it succeeds. Unfortunately, however, some may find the film a tad underwhelming, especially when there have been so many found footage films that have nailed the technique (and plenty more that haven’t). Nevertheless, with a storied background that proves to be more interesting than anything the film could deliver on its own, U.F.O. Abduction is an interesting piece of film history that will forever be discussed and analyzed deep within the confines of the internet.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Goosebumps At 33: Night of the Living Dummy II

Goosebumps TV shows

Previously on Goosebumps At 33…

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 3

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 3

Goosebumps return of the mummy 4

Well hello there, spoils and gruels! I’m excited to welcome you back to yet another season of Goosebumps At 33! We are now in our 6th season of this silly segment, which only begs the question: who would’ve thought I’d milk this dead cow for so long?! Milked to death or not, this season of Goosebumps At 33 is sure to be LEGENDARY!! Or at least mediocre. Maybe somewhere in between there. Either way, it’s sure to be something.  

In any event, for any of you who aren’t sure what this segment is all about, I encourage you to hit up this introductory post for more info. For the rest of you warriors, grab yourself a couple wine coolers, pull up a seat and settle in as I tell you the horrific tale of…


Goosebumps Night Of The Living Dummy 2

After her dummy breaks one too many times, a young ventriloquist named Amy (Maggie Castle) receives a new one from her parents. Well, it’s not actually a “new” dummy, as Amy’s parents bought it at a pawn shop. Because their daughter is worth nothing more. In any event, the dummy, who goes by the name Slappy,  happens to be alive and begins wreaking havoc for Amy and her family. Naturally, Amy is the fall guy for all the shenanigans that Slappy pulls, as her parents and siblings refuse to believe her stories about Slappy being the cause of all the problems. As bad as all of this is, Amy’s also a pre-teen ventriloquist, which ensures a life of ridicule and loneliness, something of which she has clearly accepted based on her penchant for wearing overalls.

Goosebumps night of the living dummy 2....

What’s immediately obvious from the onset of Night of the Living Dummy II (or Night of the Living Dummy 2, if you’re not vain) this family is, like, THE WEIRDEST. For example, the episode opens with Amy and her siblings participating in show and tell with their parents. Okay, now, who has show and tell with their parents and not at school? They’re their parents! They already know all the dumb crap their kids have! The next day, the dad plays “If You're Happy and You Know It” on guitar and sings it for the entire family, in the living room, while wearing a cowboy hat and a vest. What kind of family does this type of crap? The Duggars? People who partake sister wivery? As it turns out, it’s all part of what this creepy family calls “The Family Night Stage.” Let’s face it, it should probably just be renamed The Socially Awkward Kids Will Live Alone and Die Alone Only to Have Their Cats Eat Their Rotting Corpse After They've Passed Stage.

Goosebumps night of the living dummy 2..

In any event, it’s during "The Family Night Stage" where Amy is given the opportunity to show off her badass new ventriloquist skills. Shortly after she begins, however, Slappy takes over the performance and starts dissing each member of the family. This doesn’t go over well in such a clean-cut and controlling household, so Amy’s pretty much getting all sorts of shade tossed her way. From there, Slappy causes a number of problems for the family, and in a variety of ways, and of course everyone blames Amy for everything that's happening. As things begin to escalate into possible violence, however, Amy comes to realize that she must figure out how she can put an end to Slappy’s reign of terror before someone is hurt.

Airing on January 12, 1996, Night of the Living Dummy II is certainly a notable episode of Goosebumps for being the celluloid introduction of one of the most beloved characters from the book series, Slappy. What’s interesting about Night of the Living Dummy II is the fact that it is the first appearance of Slappy while being a sequel, and this is because Night of the Living Dummy was never adapted into an episode. The reasons for this are unknown, or at least I wasn’t able to find one. Regardless, despite being a sequel, Night of the Living Dummy II stands on its own as a story, and a mostly satisfying one at that. 

Goosebumps night of the living dummy 2.....

Slappy is the perfect type of villain character for a scary children’s story, as ventriloquist’s dummies are inherently creepy, and are so without even having to try. While not nearly as effective to an adult such as myself who is watching Night of the Living Dummy II for the first time, I know from experience that Slappy was and is likely quite frightening to children. I too was somewhat afraid of ventriloquist's dummies as a kid, and that was a direct result of a short film simply titled The Dummy, which used to air on the USA network.

Nevertheless, Night of the Living Dummy II is an enjoyable episode of Goosebumps, and most definitely a fun way to start off a brand new season of Goosebumps At 33!

Until next time, kiddies, keep your nightlight on and your head under the covers…

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Salute Your Shorts: Flicker (2013)

Flicker 2013 Short halloween film

It’s Halloween night, and shortly after stealing a jack-’o-lantern off a scarecrow, a young girl learns from a friend that the jack-’o-lantern is cursed. Naturally, the young girl doesn’t believe her friend, and proceeds paint and even mock the jack-’o-lantern as she waits for her friends to come over so they can see her new prized possession. When her friends don’t show up on time, however, the girl finds herself stuck in the house alone as strange things begin to happen. Was her friend right about the jack-’o-lantern being cursed, or is she just being a little paranoid on this frightful Halloween night?

Written & Directed by Robert Zellner, Flicker does a nice job of building tension through camerawork, music and pacing. There’s a sinister feel throughout the piece, but not in a fashion that’s mean spirited, though it’s certainly in a way that is very fitting to the Halloween season. In terms of tone, Flicker feels very much inline with something that you’d see in an episode of Goosebumps, though on a much shorter and cheaper scale.

The 7 minute short is bookended by some minimal stop-motion animation of the scarecrow, which is possibly the most impressive element of the short. There’s not a lot of movement involved, but these moments work as nice and simple visual treat that adds value to the overall package.  

Flicker is cheaply made and a tad silly, but it's a fun watch and it's heart is certainly in the right place, which is really all that matters in a short film of this nature.

Salute Your Shorts 3

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Houses October Built (2014): This Old Haunted House

The houses october built movie review

Five friends go on a road trip to find the most extreme haunted houses in America, all while hoping to uncover and document something more sinister than your average haunt. While the group come across a few creepy things along the way, their trip turns up very little outside of sporadic rumors about a traveling haunt that is considered the craziest of them all. As they increase their search for this mysterious haunt, things start to take a dangerous turn when a group of very disturbed people begins to mess with them, putting the friends in a situation far more intense than they had ever anticipated. 

Directed by Bobby Roe, The Houses October Built is a found footage style horror flick that does little to differentiate itself from the pack in terms of execution. Where the film does sometimes excel, however, is in its overall concept and some of the ideas that are able to bleed through the thick layer of predictability.

The houses october built movie review 1

The film is essentially a documented look at a group of friends as they travel from haunt to haunt, all the while trying to gain some insight into what makes some of the people who work at these things tick. For some, working at a haunted house is a fun and thrilling way to spend the Halloween season, while there are others who could potentially use the platform as a way to work out some anger on unsuspecting patrons. Throughout the film, the group of friends hear stories about how there’s always the chance that some haunted house employees could be a danger, and no one would know beforehand as there are no pre-employment background checks and other things of that nature. Furthermore, and this is specific to the Midwest locations in the film, many of these haunts are located in very rural areas, where sometimes things can be, well, a tad sketchy.

One of the more frightening elements of The Houses October Built is the fact that it’s difficult to differentiate between what situations and people are actually dangerous and what aren’t. They’re dealing with haunted houses, after all, and the actors at these haunts – especially at some of the more successful ones – will very rarely break character. In fact, many times they’ll do whatever it takes to scare a person, short of harming them of course. Or at least that’s what we hope. The truth of the matter is, you really never know what lengths people will go to mess with you, let alone how far they'll actually go. Worse yet, who’s to stop them before it’s too late?

The houses october built movie review 2

As far as the cast is concerned, the five friends have a very natural rapport with one another, which is likely due to them being friends in real life. While they’re able to play off one another in a natural and realistic fashion, they're not exactly the most fleshed out group of people, let alone the most likable. There's a certain level of disrespect and ignorance a few individuals give off at times – especially in terms of how they look down on the “backwoods” people who are running these haunts –  and that is exactly what puts them in such a rough situation with the locals. Are they so bad as characters that they deserve to be terrorized in the fashion that they are? Not in the least, but it's not always about what one deserves, especially within the confines of a horror film.

An unfortunate component of The Houses October Built is the naivety that plagues the five main characters as a collective. As events unfold throughout the film, at some point one would assume these characters would see enough warning signs to pack up and head the hell home, no matter what anyone else says. It's certainly a trait attributed to found footage films – specifically the one character constantly talking everyone into seeing this thing through to the end, no matter how sketchy things may get – and it's a fairly frustrating element at times, especially in the final act.  

The houses october built movie review 3

One of the more enjoyable elements of The Houses October Built are the haunted attractions the characters visit. Not only does the film do a good job of showing how effective a haunted house can be – especially a really good one – it conveys the enjoyment that can come from being in such a freak show like atmosphere. It certainly works much better than the unnecessary strip club scene that serves no other purpose than to fit some obnoxiously fake boobies into the film.

The Houses October Built is a fairly predictable affair and certainly simplistic in terms of narrative, but it builds tension by presenting a situation that, while a tad far fetched, is plausible. At least in terms of the unsafe situations in which the naive characters put themselves in. If only the film could have fleshed out its ideas a little more proficiently and made better use of some of the more effective imagery – such as the little girl in the white mask, who is utterly frightening. As a result, The Houses October Built is nothing more than a minor and slightly stale treat to be enjoyed around the Halloween season, and nothing more.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Bleeding Rainbow: Pumpkin Cinema (2014)

Pumpkin Cinema the best movies for halloween book

For many, one of the highlights of the Halloween season is indulging in an endless variety of horror films. Whether you’re someone like myself, who uses the season as an excuse to go all out and watch as many horror movies as possible, or the average person simply looking for a few good scares, horror films are as important to Halloween as pumpkins and trick or treating. If there’s one thing that both the hardcore horror fans and casual viewers have in common, outside of the desire to watch a horror movie, it’s the fact that a major decision must be made: what movie should I/we watch?

This is where Pumpkin Cinema: The Best Movies for Halloween comes in.

With over 100 movie recommendations, Pumpkin Cinema promises “to make your Halloween fun and frightening,” by ensuring that you won’t waste any of your precious Halloween time on crappy movies. Author Nathaniel Tolle does so by setting down some basic guidelines: the films included are fast paced, they either take place on Halloween or during the fall season, they’re under two hours long, and they aren’t mean-spirited and cruel. So something like Martyrs is out of the question. I’ve always considered that one a Christmas film anyway.

halloween book

Outside of an introduction, Pumpkin Cinema is broken down into 4 sections: Fun-Sized Films and Creepy, Crawly Compilations, which looks at a number of shorter Halloween offerings, including specials such as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Witch's Night Out as well as film compilations like Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation and Terror in the Aisles. Halloween on the Small Screen: The Best Television Episodes and Specials is focused on a variety of special Halloween episodes for television shows such as The Facts of Life, Martin and the master of Halloween herself, Roseanne. The Attack of the Top 5 Lists features a number of top 5 lists for anyone looking for something specific like Vincent Price movies, films featuring ghosts and other things of that nature.

The fourth and most important section of Pumpkin Cinema belongs to Feature-Length Flicks-a-Fright that Go Bump in the Night. Taking up a majority of the book’s 176 pages, this section features reviews for a variety of feature-length movies, covering everything from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Ernest Scared Stupid to Black Sunday and Troll 2.

halloween kim richards

Throughout the book, it’s clear that Tolle has a true love and passion for his subject matter, and this comes through in his writing and painstaking dedication to putting it all together. The magic of Halloween courses through the book, as Tolle’s words convey the innocence and nostalgia that comes with the season for many of us who gleefully take in every ounce of Halloween horror possible. Pumpkin Cinema is, quite simply, the perfect guide for all of your Halloween horror needs, no matter how different they may be from one person to the next. Whether you’re a seasoned horror fan, a group of tween girls or even a family looking for a safe scare, Pumpkin Cinema truly has something for everyone to choose from.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chucktober 7: H2-Oh Snap!


Welcome back, toys and squirrels, to the 7th annual celebration known as Chucktober! Seeing as this is the 7th year (which is only 3 years away from 10, so that makes it special), I’ve put all my effort into ensuring this is the best Chucktober yet! Or, at the very least, the seventh best.

In any event, the lineup for this Chucktober is packed, stacked and ready to attack, so take a moment to see what I have in store for you!

Goosebumps TV shows

Pumpkin Cinema the best movies for halloween book

The houses october built movie review

UFO abduction 1989 ..

Salute Your Shorts Banner

The halloween that almost wasn't review

bad trick or treat candy ideas

The basement 1989 review..

It’s okay if you cry… it’s a lot to take in. And really, you’re a little unstable, so I had a feeling that this would happen. Here, have some orange juice… you good? Okay, then…



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