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Friday, October 24, 2014

Goosebumps At 33: The Return of the Mummy

Goosebumps TV shows

Return of the Mummy!

Goosebumps Return of the mummy

While visiting his cousin Sari (Annick Obonsawin) and uncle Ben (Elias Zarou) in Egypt, young Gabe (Daniel DeSanto) finds himself in for the ultimate adventure, filled with thrills, chills, spills, and endless refills! Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I had some serious momentum going on and simply couldn’t hit the brakes. Anyway, Gabe’s uncle Ben just so happens to be an archeologist, so during his Summer break, Gabe is joining both his uncle Ben and cousin Sari on an important archeological dig with the intent of unearthing the tomb of Prince Khor-Ru. 

Goosebumps return of the mummy 1

Being a complete doofus, Gabe somehow becomes separated from Ben and Sari while inside the tomb. This causes Gabe to take a complete bitch turn, as he proceeds to scream and cry like a child. It’s pretty annoying, especially considering that Gabe is definitely going through puberty. At least that’s what his screeching bitch voice indicates. In any event, during his crying bout, Gabe accidentally stumbles upon the tomb of Prince Khor-Ru, which causes him to cry some more.

Soon enough, Gabe is reunited with Ben and Sari, which gives Sari – who has the face of an 80-year-old woman, but is actually about nine – ample opportunity to make fun of Gabe for being such a crying crybaby who cries all the time. Now, it’s typical in the Goosebumps mythos for a younger kid to make fun of an older kid. And more often than not, it’s a young girl making fun of an older boy, which is emasculating on so many levels. However, when you’re a corny-ass, crybaby like Gabe, you totes deserve it.

Goosebumps return of the mummy 3

In any event, Gabe and Sari eventually find themselves separated from uncle Ben and some random reporter lady who serves a purpose of some sort. This leads to Gabe and Sari coming face-to-face with the titular creature, and from there things get wet and wild, as the mummy begins to unwrap himself and pour baby oil all over his well-preserved bod. It’s totally erotic. Anyway, at some point there’s a reveal involving the Prince Kohr-Ru’s sister who is trying to resurrect him for some reason that I didn't quite understand. After the whole baby oil thing, I was simply too distracted to maintain any sense of comprehension.

Overall a solidly enjoyable episode, the clear standout in The Return of the Mummy is its Egyptian setting. Per my experience, the world of Goosebumps is relegated to suburban neighborhoods, high schools, crack houses. or wherever you might find your average preteen, so it’s refreshing to see such a vastly different setting. It’s also nice seeing another classic movie monster make an appearance on the show. And outside of the weird tan lines beneath his tattered wraps, the mummy looks fantastic.

Goosebumps return of the mummy 4

That about does it for the fifth season of Goosebumps at 33. Hopefully all you fine ladies and gents enjoyed this year’s batch of reviews as much as I did, and I really look forward to Goosebumpin’ n’ grindin’ with you again next year!

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Boo (2010)

Halloween Short film Boo

“Ghosts can do a lot of cool stuff!”

It's Halloween night, and a babysitter (Eliza Skinner) is spending her evening passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, however, the candy she is stuck passing out are raisins, which doesn't go over very well with the trick-or-treaters (let alone me). In an attempt to no longer be the jerk passing out raisins to kids on Halloween, the babysitter calls the homeowner to see if she has anything else to pass out, but is soon disconnected.

Soon after, a trick-or-treater dressed up as a ghost (Andrew Katz) shows up at her door. But this isn’t your normal trick-or-treater, however, as this ghost is actually floating. Furthermore, the ghost has the ability to disappear and reappear at will, which the babysitter concludes is nothing more than a cool trick. While the babysitter is mildly entertained by this strange trick-or-treater at first, concern quickly creeps in as the ghost begins playing multiple pranks on her, mostly being relegated to flaming bags of poop.  

Written and directed by Michael J. Goldberg, Boo is a genuinely funny short horror comedy that nicely mixes toilet humor and cuteness. Coming in at a hair under 12 minutes, Boo is a nicely put together short and features some great special effects. The biggest standout, however, comes in the form of a good comedic performance by both the short’s leads, Eliza Skinner and Andrew Katz. Despite being a human and ghost interaction, the two actors are somehow able to convey some good chemistry, which makes their on-screen back-and-forth quite entertaining.  

Give her a watch below, and remember, raisins suck.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fun Size (2012): Half-Wrapped

Fun Size 2012

It’s Halloween day, and Wren (Victoria Justice) has been invited to a party by the hottest guy in school. Unfortunately, Wren is stuck having to babysit her little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), putting the kibosh on any party plans she may have. That’s only the beginning of Wren’s problems, however, as later on in the evening, Albert goes missing while they are out trick-or-treating. Joined by her best friend April (Jane Levy), Wren recruits two school nerds, Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau), to help her find Albert before her mother discovers that he’s missing. What ensues is a wild night filled with excitement, danger and even a little romance, resulting in an evening where fun has no size. I don’t know what that last part means.  

Written by Max Werner and directed by Josh Schwartz, Fun Size is clearly an attempt to recreate the teen adventure comedies of the 1980s, and while the film has its heart in the right place, the results are ultimately mixed. The film mainly focuses on Wren, a hip hop loving bookworm who’s going through some growing pains after her father passed away a year earlier, something of which has also left a negative effect on her entire family. Wren’s mother (Chelsea Handler) is dealing with the grieving process by dating a 25-year-old guy, whereas her younger brother, Albert, hasn't spoken a single word in over a year.

Fun Size 2012 movie review

These character archetypes are far from original, especially within the dynamic of the film as a whole. Each character’s arch basically serves as an intertwining subplot of the film, with time dedicated to Wren trying to find Albert, while Albert is out having what is basically the adventure of a lifetime, something of which leads to the best moments of the film. All the while, Wren and Albert’s mother is off at a party with her 25-year-old boyfriend, which leads to some moderately uninteresting moments of clarity for her character.

The adventure elements aren't as adventurous as one would like. The film’s also quite simple-minded and far from challenging to the viewer, and kids film or not, that's not an acceptable attribute. With that being said, however, Fun Size is still a fairly enjoyable watch, despite its many prominent issues. While things are lacking in the adventure department, the moments with Albert – who spends much of his evening playing pranks with his new buddy, a lonely convenience store employee named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) – are fairly enjoyable to watch. I think what works about these moments is the slightly charming and often humorous relationship between Albert and Fuzzy.

Fun Size 2012 movie review 1

Where Fun Size is most successful is the way in which it delivers on the Halloween goods, and let’s face it, that’s why we’re all here. Well, at least me. In any event, Fun Size goes all out with the Halloween decorations, as each and every home is awesomely (and unrealistically) decorated to the hilt, and the streets are filled with hundreds of children out enjoying an evening of trick or treat. It’s over-the-top and unrealistic in every sense, but I simply adore it and truly wish this was how Halloween was in every single neighborhood across the country.

Aside from being pandering and formulaic, the Halloween infused charm and occasional wit of Fun Size is enough to make it an enjoyable enough watch. It’s no secret that I'm a complete sucker for any movie or television show with scenes featuring a number of children out trick-or-treating on a well decorated street. I also understand that this component does more for me than maybe it should. The Halloween aesthetic certainly softens me up, leaving me quite vulnerable to enjoying movies more than I normally would, something of which I am not at all ashamed of.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"People Are Talking" Halloween TV Special featuring Steve Vertlieb

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb.png 1

While wandering the crowded halls of YouTube recently, I came across this enjoyable Halloween special that aired sometime in the early 1980s (maybe ‘81 or ‘82). The show in question, People Are Talking, was hosted by Richard Bey, and this particular episode features a genuinely interesting interview with film journalist and historian Steve Vertlieb.

One thing that I enjoy about this special, specifically the interview with Vertlieb, is the fact that horror films aren’t being chastised, something of which was very common for this type of show during the time period. Instead, this interview and the special as a whole is more of a celebration of what makes horror enjoyable for people of all ages. There is some discussion about how horror evolves to reflect modern society as well as how horror films can be a positive escape for some people.

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t an obvious undercurrent of fear and trepidation about the genre in question, which is most obvious when the conversation turns to snuff films, a topic that is delved into when a caller asks if Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse was indeed one of these snuff films. The thought that this caller actually believed that people were being murdered in The Funhouse because the deaths looked so real is absolutely bananas, though it is also very reflective of the times. On a side note, the look on Richard Bey’s face as Vertlieb talks about snuff films is priceless.

The special also features some great moments in which audience members share what scenes from horror films have frightened them the most. It’s hard not to smile as middle-age moms talk about House of Wax and Creepshow. Also strewn throughout the special are clips from films such as Tales of Terror and Carpenter’s Halloween as well as random check-ins on an audience member having some “horror makeup” applied to her face.  

While the video runs over 12 min long, unfortunately it is not complete, as the special is cut off at the first commercial break. Regardless, there’s more than enough here to enjoy for horror fans and those of us who love Halloween, so I highly encourage you to give it a watch. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Goosebumps At 33: My Hairiest Adventure

Goosebumps TV shows

My Hairiest Adventure!

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

When first introduced to Larry (Andrew Bartkiw), he is being chased down by a pack of wild dogs. As this is happening, Larry – as heard through a voiceover – complains about how asinine it is that dogs are considered man's best friend. He then goes on to complain that he has allergies, which only leads me to one conclusion: Larry is a real asshole.

After being chased around by the vicious creatures for a bit, Larry decides to climb a tree to get away from the dogs. Larry’s moment of relief is short-lived, however, as the tree branch he’s sitting on breaks, even though it’s like 13” around. Oddly, though, when Larry lands on the ground, the dogs don’t attack him. In fact, they simply sit there staring at him like he's an asshole. Because he is an asshole, and dogs can sense that kind of shit.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 1

At some point, Larry’s friend Lily (Courtney Greig) rescues Larry from the dogs that aren't attacking him. And thankfully so, as without Larry, I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to witness the greatest garage band practice scene of all time. We’re talking a keyboard solo performed with a gusto not seen since Elissa in the masterful thriller #HATES

After the band finishes rocking the afternoon away, one of Larry’s band mates finds an old bottle of tanning lotion. Immediately the band has a serious discussion about how getting nice and tan would really help them make a great impression for an upcoming audition, so they proceed to rub the tanning lotion all over their skin. Because that’s what you do when you find a random bottle of old tanning lotion in a garage.  

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 3

Soon afterward, Larry notices an inordinate amount of hair growing from the top of his hands. His immediate response is to shave it off; however, the hair almost immediately grows back and eventually spreads up his arms and all over his body. Not that we see his body. I mean, this is a kids show, ya know. Anyway, this newfound hair growth is certainly a concern for Larry, but things get even stranger when his friends begin to go missing. Worse yet, their parents suddenly have absolutely no knowledge of their now missing child’s existence.

Taken from the 26th book in the series, My Hairiest Adventure is a clear nod to the werewolf genre, and like some werewolf tales, there is a clear tie to puberty. Which, in all honesty, seems a little out of place in an episode of Goosebumps. I mean, there’s actually a scene where Larry asks Lily if she’s started to notice any hair growing in strange places after using the tanning oil. If that’s not an inappropriate thing to ask, I don’t know what is. Actually, I do, but I’ll keep that to myself.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

Overall, My Hairiest Adventure is a very light episode, in that it’s not all too creepy. Well, minus the whole puberty thing, but that’s a different kind of creepy. If there is one major standout in the episode, however, it’s that Larry is a whiny, angsty, lowlife crybaby. In other words, an asshole. Outside of Larry the asshole and hair in strange places, My Hairiest Adventure is far from a memorable episode of Goosebumps, though it does have one great little payoff that ties in with the shows famous opening. It’s not much of a saving grace, but worthy of note. 

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: The Backwater Gospel (2011)

The Backwater Gospel Halloween Short film

Set in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, a small, isolated community is plagued by the lingering threat of a mysterious undertaker, who always seems to show up just before someone is about to die. The townsfolk are absolutely frightened, which is only heightened by a guitar-strumming tramp (Zebulon Whatley) who sings a song warning the townsfolk that the undertaker is on his way. Led by a propaganda-spewing preacher (Lucien Dodge), the townsfolk, who have the intelligence of an ingrown toenail, come to believe that the tramp is to blame for their impending doom.

Directed by Bo Mathorne, The Backwater Gospel is a Danish animated short with a simplistic but relevant message. The entire basis for the short is how easy it is to sway the masses, especially when they are afraid for their lives. The fear of death causes the townsfolk to act completely irrational, which leads them to take some very unchristian-like actions. And all along the way, the preacher does nothing but feed into the fears of the townsfolk, because in the end it is he who is the most afraid.  

While the narrative of the short is fairly basic, the strength of The Backwater Gospels is the way in which it’s presented to the viewer. With a style that is best described as gritty, the film is gorgeously animated and exudes a legitimate sense of dread and despair, something of which greatly heightens the dark subject matter. The animation stands out most during the short’s final moments, in which the proverbial shit hits the fan. This is where The Backwater Gospel becomes quite violent, but the way the violence is visually portrayed is through black silhouettes, something of which adds a fantastic level of style to the piece.  

Take a moment to check out The Backwater Gospel for yourself, and afterwards, please feel free to let me know what you think!

Salute Your Shorts 4

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bad Trick or Treat Ideas: Bag of Popcorn

bad trick or treat candy ideas

Hey, I like popcorn as much as the next person, but trying to pass off 3¢ worth of stale air as a Halloween “treat” is simply unacceptable. I take no issue with spending an evening rotting my teeth out whilst chowing down on the copious candy goodies there are to be had, but I have absolutely no desire to spend said evening picking kernels out of them. Plus, I’d much rather not eat a snack that you dished out with you bare, filth-covered hand.

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