Thursday, October 20, 2016

Salute Your Shorts: The Closet (2014)

the closet halloween short film

After spending yet another Halloween night all alone, a young girl (Marlena-Marie Grubl) begins having vivid nightmares. When she awakens and hears noises coming from her closet, she fears that something may be out to get her.

Written and directed by Michael Winiecki, The Closet is quite short – coming in at about 4 minutes minus credits – and simple, focused on little more than a girl hanging out in her bedroom on Halloween night. While being simplistic in terms of narrative, the film succeeds through solid execution, conveying a level of professionalism that is always welcome with these types of short movies.

A notable element of The Closet comes from the ‘80s gothic punk tone it gives off. This comes through most obviously with the music choices and both the costume and set design. With her slightly pale makeup and penchant for striped clothing, the lead character, who is credited as “Goth Girl,” has a look that would indicate she's into Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and other bands of that nature. Plus the fact that her bedroom is adorned with punk band posters certainly cements the style of character the filmmakers were going for.

The gothic overtones – which vibe in a fashion similar to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – adds a lot to the success of the short on a personal level. It makes the short feel as if it defies a specific time period. And that, mixed with strong camerawork, editing and sound design, make The Closet an enjoyable, albeit brief, Halloween treat that is more than worthy of your evening.

Salute Your Shorts 4


Sunday, October 16, 2016

The 2016 Halloween Party Music UBER MEGA-MIX!

halloween party music playlist

The darkest clouds are up ahead, as the season of sorrow hangs overhead.

The spookiest sounds pulsate oh so light, but grow they will throughout the night.

The skeletons dance with little care, as witches cackle and let loose their hair.

Listen closely my little dear, as the sounds of THE 2016 HALLOWEEN PARTY MUSIC UBER MEGA-MIX IS HERE!!!

It simply wouldn't be Halloween without my yearly hand-curated Halloween party music playlist. Well, I guess it would be Halloween, but it would be a whole lot less uber, and that's really just not, uh, uber.

Anyway, as I do every Halloween season, I've made some minor tweaks to the playlist, adding a few new tunes, changed the order, etc. Basically doing whatever it takes to make this the only Halloween party playlist you, your friends and your family will ever need. You're welcome.

Jump on in, kiddies, because the water is warm! With pee.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Scary Movie (1991): House of Bore-ors

scary movie 1991 halloween horror 2

When a paranoid young man attempts to enjoy an evening of fun and frights at a local haunted attraction, he soon comes to believe that an escaped lunatic has found his way into the house of horrors and is now killing off the patrons.  

Written and directed by Daniel Erickson, 1991’s Scary Movie is a lesser-known Halloween set horror film that has an interesting concept but struggles to execute it in a satisfying fashion. Much of the film takes place outside of the haunted house, where seemingly every single person living in the small town is in attendance, patiently waiting for the attraction to open. This includes Warren (John Hawkes, in his very first role), a skittish and socially awkward young man trying his best to keep up with the cool kids and, more so, the girls. Specifically one girl who carries a salt shaker, a cucumber and toilet paper in her purse (don't ask).

scary movie 1991 halloween horror 1

Meanwhile, a mental patient escapes while being transported from one hospital to another. The local police begin their search and become quite concerned that the escaped lunatic might be making his way to the haunted house to wreck havoc on unsuspecting patrons. Simultaneously, Warren catches wind that mental patient has escaped and, much like the police, comes to believe he has actually made his way into the haunted house. This causes Warren’s level of paranoia to skyrocket, and when he finally finds himself inside the haunted house, he has to do whatever it takes to try to make it through with his life and, more importantly, his sanity.

What is most notable about Scary Movie is in fact the character of Warren, as he is the major focus of the film. However, despite a solid performance by Hawkes, Warren is, to say the least, an extremely tedious character, and this is just simply due to how annoyingly skittish he is. This is compounded by the fact that much of the first act focuses almost solely on him being both awkward and paranoid in his social surroundings. As a result, throughout the course of Scary Movie, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel any sort of sympathy for Warren. Worse yet, it’s hard to not outright hate him.

scary movie 1991 halloween horror

One undeniably successful element of Scary Movie, however, is the atmosphere, specially all the scenes outside of the haunted house. With the party like ambience, the fog, the chilly fall night, and the haunted house as the backdrop, it brings about memories of going to haunted hayrides and other such Halloween attractions growing up. Sometimes the wait and build up to an attraction is just as enjoyable as the actual attraction itself, and that is fairly well represented in this film.

With Warren being the one weak spot in the film, albeit a major one, I can't help but think Scary Movie may have worked better if it were simply focused on the usual group of stupid teens getting hacked and slashed, as opposed to resting on the shoulders of such a repulsively obnoxious character. I appreciate the attempt at doing something a little different character wise, but in this case, it ends up hurting the film more than it helps, regardless of its atmospheric Halloween setting and clever ending.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Salute Your Shorts: Trick and Treat (2013)

trick and treat halloween horror short film

A man spends Halloween evening waiting for trick or treaters to show up to his secluded farmhouse. Things take a strange turn, however, when all the Halloween candy begins to mysteriously disappear.

Written, directed and starring Cameron Chaney, Trick and Treat is a no-budget, Halloween-set short film that, as most shorts of its ilk, features a simple but fun premise. The short is primarily set on the front porch of the man’s home, which is clearly far from any sort of neighborhood where kids would normally be trick or treating. As the day grows into night, and with still no trick or treaters in sight, the man begins eating the candy out of boredom.

Shortly thereafter, and with a belly-full of sweets, the man runs into the house to “relieve” himself. When he returns, however, he discovers that the candy bowl is completely empty. As he begins looking around to see who may have taken the candy, he notices that there are a handful of empty candy wrappers right near the mouth of a jack-o-lantern. Is the jack-o-lantern somehow actually eating all the candy, or is the man’s mind playing tricks on him?

Trick and Treat succeeds because Chaney delivers on the basic story in a way that is, quite simply, fun. The short is genuinely earnest, and that comes with being made by a young filmmaker who clearly enjoys making movies. Granted, there's certainly nothing about Trick and Treat that stands out beyond your typical 5-10 minute Halloween-set short, but the fact that it is so earnest and, more so, fairly entertaining makes it worth 7 minutes of your time.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Thursday, October 6, 2016

SlashDance: Night of the Demons (1988)

Banner SlashDance final

Stashed within the confines of Kevin Tenney’s Night of the Demons is a moment where time almost seems to stop, making way for a dance sequence so memorable that it was an easy choice when deciding on the inaugural entry of SlashDance. The setting is Hull House, where a bewildered Sal (Billy Gallo) watches as a demon possessed Angela (Amelia Kinkade) goes into a dance so decadent that even the devil himself cannot help but blush.

night_of_the_demons 1988Despite being strange in the eyes of the straight-laced Sal, the dance seems innocent enough at first, as Angela erotically tosses her body about to the beat of her own demonic drum. Things become a little more interesting, however, when a boombox mysteriously kicks on, and the screeching sounds of Bauhaus’ Stigmata Martyr come hurtling from the speakers. The sequence grows progressively intense and hypnotic in a way that is in tune with the music blaring from the sticker-laden boombox, as Angela spins herself and the viewer alike into a seductive trance of sexual chaos.

What makes this dance scene work so well is simply in the way it’s brought to life. Not only is Amelia Kinkade an incredible dancer and Stigmata Martyr the perfect song, the sequence is impressively constructed. This is most notable when the strobe light kicks on, something that adds a pulsating level of drama to Angela’s movements. It’s obvious that there are a few randomly cut frames that make it look as if Angela is quickly disappearing and reappearing in different places, something that makes the dance even more hypnotically confusing for both Sal and the audience alike.

While Night of the Demons is a fairly hokey, albeit entertaining ‘80s horror romp, the Stigmata Martyr dance scene stands out as an interesting achievement that elevates past the film itself, leaving an iconic imprint on the genre. It’s a moment that transcends the film as a whole, and that’s saying a lot considering we are talking about a movie where Linnea Quigley partakes in a memorable lipstick nipple breach.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

‘There's Something Following Me’ Delivers Big Halloween Scares with Little-to-No Budget

there's something following me halloween VHS short film

After missing her bus, Cody Richards (Amanda Wells) finds herself having to walk home alone from school. Despite reports that a local youth has gone missing, and numerous warnings from one of her teachers, Cody isn’t too worried, as she has walked home from school a number of times without any incident. However, today is different than others, as it’s Halloween, and unbeknownst to Cody, an unknown force has sinister plans for the free-spirited young girl.  

Coming in at a brisk 40 minutes and made with little to no budget, There’s Something Following Me is a Halloween-set short film that not only harkens back to the more family friendly horror films of the 70s and 80s, it’s a throwback to the VHS era, which is shown both in its visual aesthetic and the fashion in which it was released.

there's something following me halloween VHS short film 1

Extremely low grade in every sense, the short gives off an authentic retro vibe that succeeds because the filmmakers clearly have a great understanding of how to achieve such a vibe without ever feeling insincere. In terms of picture quality, There's Something Following Me purposely has a low-definition look about it, as edges are blurry and the picture slightly washed out. As a result, the film has a wonderful aesthetic, which is only compounded and complemented by the fact that it was released exclusively on VHS.

To go along with the visual aesthetic, the film captures a specific time period through its locations and set design. What immediately stood out for me, unsurprisingly, is the vintage Halloween d├ęcor strewn throughout both Cody’s school and in her neighborhood, which is very much appealing to someone of my sensibilities. Accompanying the locations and set design, the simplistic yet well executed story is marginally creepy, as it is focused more on building atmosphere and tension than spilling blood. As a result, There's Something Following Me works quite perfectly as a mostly kid-safe horror film that, most importantly, never panders or plays it too safe.

there's something following me halloween VHS short film 3

Something else worth noting are the scenes of Cody walking home from school, which is very reminiscent of Laurie Strode walking home in Halloween. This comes through in the location, the way these scenes are shot and pieced together, and of course the score, which consists of a simple yet effective piano piece. And really, all of it works quite well as a nod to John Carpenter’s classic as well as on its own merits.

While There’s Something Following Me will live on with a small handful of people who have been lucky enough to discover it – due to its low budget nature and the format it's released on – it's a little unfortunate that many will miss out on this one, as it certainly deserves a place in the hearts of anyone who has love for independent horror and, more so, Halloween as a holiday. Thankfully, however, the filmmakers have uploaded the film to YouTube in 4 parts. Furthermore, if you’re still rocking a VCR, you can pick up the VHS, which has some cool special features and a handful of other shorts, for a relatively fair price via Briarwood Entertainment.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Chucktober 8: Resurrection!!


Welp, despite coming fairly close to completely skipping the festivities this year – you know, due to life (petting cats) getting in the way and all – I somehow managed to pull up my bootstraps and am here to present to you the 8th annual Halloween extravaganza event of the season in the world of all time ever, Chucktober!!

It's absolutely insane for me to think that this is the 8th Chucktober. It seems like it was only yesterday when I starting this whole thing. Though, that's likely due to alcohol-induced memory loss. Anyway, there really was a point when I made the decision to go ahead and skip Chucktober this year. With having a young demon child of my own (who is literally carved out of Halloween, as I've learned… not that I have had any influence) and a fairly busy work schedule, I simply wasn't able to make the time to do all the normal prep that goes into one of these things.


Hallowbaby doing Hallowthings

Buuuuuuut, a few weeks back I felt a slight sadness at the thought of not doing ANYTHING for Chucktober – especially seeing as it's been a part of my life for 7 years now – so I took as much time as I could spare and was able to put a few things together. Granted, this will be a light Chucktober, but as my grams always used to say, a little Chucktober is better than no Chucktober. Grams was a Saint. Also, there ARE 7 years worth of Chuktober for you to dig into, so if you find that you are extremely bored one evening, feel take a trip to Chucktober past. Just don’t come back crying if you pick up any venereal diseases along the way.

With all that nonsense being said, here's to yet another season of sickness, and without any further ado…



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