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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Great gifts ideas for... Alexander DeLarge


There's no feeling worse than the pressure of coming up with that perfect Christmas gift, especially when the big day is coming quicker than a teenage boy discovering I Dream of Jeannie for the first time. Relevant crass jokes aside, when it comes to gift shopping, some loved ones are more difficult than others. Generally, parents are bathrobes, framed photos of your shitty family and gift certificates to restaurants where the average price per plate is $8.99. Now, when it comes to shopping for someone such as your uncle Alex, well, things get a little more difficult. Especially seeing as he's a bit of an arrogant snot. Nevertheless, he's our arrogant snot, so creatively shop we must, which is where this handy gift guide comes into play.
  • Ovaltine Rich Chocolate Gift Set: We all know Alex enjoys himself a nice glass of milk plus before a night of the old ultraviolence. And really, I think it’s the plus part where many of his issues stem. A glass of delicious vitamin and mineral-filled chocolate milk should feed Alex’s taste buds in a way that will make him to forget about the whole “plus” part, which should, in turn, keep him out of trouble.
  • Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops: Let’s face it, dude could really use some love for them eyes, as nothing is worse than not being able to close them for hours on end. If you don’t believe me, try to not blink for 60 seconds. I’ll wait…
SEE?!?! It totally sucks.
  • Beats By Dre: What better way to enjoy an old friend such as Ludwig Van and the dreaded Ninth Symphony than with a pair of Beats By Dre? They’re hip, stylish and best of all, perfect for the road, which is valuable on those days when a long walk while reflecting on the previous night’s in-n-out is due.
  • Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Laundry Detergent: Nothing gets blood and semen out quite like a good whitening detergent with bleach alternative, and a gift of this magnitude will show that you really pay attention to detail and truly care about the Alexander DeLarge in your life.
There you have it. Now you are armed with a handful of brilliant gift ideas to ensure your ol’ uncle Alex is right, right this holiday season.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Satan’s Blade (1984): A Warm Turd On A Cold Day

The slasher boom brought about an overabundance of films ranging in quality, budget and notoriety, and if ever there were a genre with deep cuts, the slasher genre is it. It’s not much of a surprise, as it doesn’t get any simpler and more cost effective than a group of people being stalked by an unknown killer in a single location, especially when that location is as free of charge as nature is. Of course, delivering on the quality takes far more work than slapping together a group of friends to spend a few weekends in the woods being chased by some guy with an axe. There needs to be tension; there needs to be a sense of dread; there needs to be a certain level of craftsmanship on display; and there needs to be some sort of passion injected into the project.

This is why a slasher film such as 1984’s Satan’s Blade is such an interesting one. On the surface, Satan’s Blade is a terrible slasher film. It’s not particularly well made, sharing more in common with a public access show than something like Halloween or Black Christmas. The performances, while being consistent, are amateurish and best comparable to that of an eighth-grade school play. And even the story – which focuses on two groups of vacationers being stalked and slashed by a guy who, as it turns out, is possessed by the spirit of a killer mountain man wielding the titular blade – is somehow convoluted, despite being so simple.

All these elements considered, Satan’s Blade is genuine and, dare I say somewhat ambitious. Sure, much of the movie reeks of ineptitude, which comes in the form of an abundance of static shots and even an entire sequence where the killer and the lead character fight in the living room with the lights off. Despite this, however, there are times where the film shows signs, slight as they may be, of artistry.

One of these moments in particular is an effective dream sequence where a killer is attacking a group of women in a hotel room. The claustrophobic location alone is enough to create unease, but things become all the more terrifying when being forced to watch as the killer, who wears a simple yet frightening mask, viciously murders each woman in the room as the others watch in fear, knowing it will only be a matter of seconds before he comes for them. The sound design and the fashion in which the sequence is shot only adds to the effectiveness of the scene, making it a true standout in a film that maybe doesn't warrant it.

One element of Satan’s Blade that really stands out is its location. Shot in and around Big Bear Lake in California, the winter-set mountain location is simply gorgeous to look at and certainly a high point of the film. Of course, the location may be a tad overused, as there are an overabundance of nature shots clearly used to fill time and ensure the film is feature length. Regardless, a good setting can add a lot of value to a film, and the snowy mountain locations make for the perfect backdrop to spill a little blood, which thankfully comes in abundance.

Courtesy of a sleeveless mad man wearing tan construction gloves and wielding “Satan’s blade,” the death scenes are aplenty in the film’s short 82 minute runtime. Now, while the kills are consistently simplistic throughout the film – mostly relegated to straightforward stabbings, manly in the back – there remains a brutality about them that is unexpected, especially when you consider how unimpressive they are. In fact, I believe that the simplicity of the kills are actually a benefit, as the lack of flash feels grounded in reality and slightly more effective as a result.   

Satan’s Blade is the only film writer/director L Scott Castillo Jr. ever made. It’s not much of a surprise, seeing as there were a slew of one and done slasher film directors in the heyday of ‘80s horror. If you were lucky, there was money to be made, and a number of folks went and tried to cash in on the craze. I honestly don’t think this was Castillo’s intention, as the results are certainly that of someone trying to get every idea they have out and onto the screen, almost aware that this was their one big shot at doing something special. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking for a big payday, but at the very least there as some sense of care put into his project.



A sane person might consider a film like 1984’s Satan’s Blade to be a terrible movie. A sane person, however, has more than likely never even heard of a film like Satan’s Blade, let alone seen it. Let’s face it, movies such as Satan’s Blade only speak to a certain demographic of movie fan, specifically one driven by people who are able to brush off a turd and find that glint of polish just below the surface. To say it takes a special kind of person would be an understatement, and really, it’s those people who are keeping a certain segment of cinema alive, and all during a time when the odds are (or at least should be) most stacked against them.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Salute Your Shorts: Tim Sullivan's A Christmas Treat (1985)

Tim Sullivan A Christmas Treat

It's Christmas Eve, and as Jason is being tucked into bed, his parents warn him that if he doesn't get to sleep soon, Santa will not be bringing him any gifts. It isn’t long before Jason does finally fall asleep, only to excitedly wake up in the middle of the night and rush downstairs to see if Santa has brought him all he wished for. Much to his surprise, Jason finds Santa himself, as he's leaving behind a plethora of joy just waiting to be celebrated by the young boy. Excited beyond belief, Jason takes this opportunity to try and meet Santa, but what Jason neglected to consider is there's a reason why good little boys and girls are encouraged to sleep through the night, and no matter what, should never try and see Santa for themselves.

Brimming with 80s Christmas decor and set to the comforting sounds of Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, A Christmas Treat is a holiday-themed horror short that perfectly hits the nostalgia mark by recreating the joy of Christmas from the perspective of a young child. Of course, the brilliance of the short is that it builds up all of these youthful memories and warm feelings, only to take it all and turn it into a complete nightmare. Albeit, a very fun and satisfying nightmare.

Written and directed by a 21-year-old Tim Sullivan when he was studying film at NYU, A Christmas Treat garnered Sullivan a Short Film Search Award from Fangoria Magazine, which is really impressive considering this was his first film. It’s not much a surprise that it received such positive attention, honestly, as A Christmas Treat is indeed a treat, and certainly one that is well worth 4 minutes of your time this holiday season and during holiday seasons to come.

Salute Your Shorts 4.5

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The End of Chucktober aka the Post-Halloween Hangover

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It’s pretty fantastic having Halloween fall on a Saturday, as it gives all of us the perfect excuse to enjoy the wicked holiday all weekend long. However, despite finishing up a watch of Hollow Gate after falling asleep halfway through the night before, and enjoying a few Halloween episodes of Roseanne during Roseanne’s Halloween Hangover on WE (which is an awesome thing to do, by the way), the deep down feeling that the party’s over is impossible to shake.

As the day goes on and the rotted jack-o’-lanterns find their way into the trash to finish their slow dissolve into fly infested nothingness, the sadness of it all starts to settle in, knowing that it’ll be yet another long year of anticipation for the fun to all begin again. As somewhat depressing as that may sound, with the exit of another Halloween season comes the opportunity to reflect upon it, and when all's said and done, it was a good season indeed.

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This year’s jack-o’-lanterns courtesy of my inflatable wife (right jack-o) and myself (left jack-o).

As per usual, the last few months have been filled with the usual intake of Halloween-themed snacks and goodies as well as a number of delicious seasonal beverages. That stuff is always a highlight for a junk-food junkie and lush like myself, that’s for certain. The only thing that might top overdosing on Halloween treats is spending a month plus watching horror films and various Halloween specials throughout the season, which actually goes well with all the Halloween junk food, as I have perfected the art of eating and watching my television at the same time. What can I say, I’m multitalented.

As mush as I love junk food and horror films, this Halloween was enjoyable for reasons other than orange-colored treats that may or may not cause cancer, and that comes in the form of my daughter, Hallowbaby herself, Clara.

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Don’t be skerred, fall-jacket Jason.

Clara was born on October 25th of last year, which as luck would have it, meant her first birthday fell on the Sunday before Halloween. Now, for those of you who don’t know (and really, why would you?), the town I live in does trick or treat the Sunday before Halloween, unless Halloween lands on a Sunday, of course. This basically gave us an excuse to do a Halloween theme for Clara’s first birthday party, which was graciously hosted at my in-laws’ house.

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Clara’s first birthday cake, designed by yours truly. The main cake is vanilla and the cupcakes chocolate, because daddy don’t play. 

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Hallowbaby digging into some smash cake aka cake that gets smashed by an infant and is a nightmare to clean up.

Timing wise it couldn’t have worked out any better, as immediately after we got home from Clara’s party, trick or treat had begun. While I don’t love the idea of trick or treat being held in the afternoon (usually from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM) and on a day other than Halloween, I am always thrilled by how many spooky boils and ghouls show up at my door looking for a handful of treats, and this year was no different. I didn’t keep count, though I really should have, but I am willing to bet at least 50 kids came to my door, and each one was greeted with a fistful of Halloween candy, which only ensured our home will A) be the cool house and B) never get egged.

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It’s hard to make out, but four adorable girls who came to our home for trick or treat - then proceeded to sit on the corner of my lawn and dig into their stash - wrote trick or treat on my sidewalk. My black heart melted, naturally.  

In any event, Halloween itself was enjoyable as well, being filled with special Halloween cookies, the flickering of Yankee Candle candles, tons of Halloween-set movies and horror films, and even a trip out to the local fairgrounds for a little Halloween fun, with a heavy focus on the word little. As great as the big day was, however, it was Clara’s birthday mixed with trick or treat that turned out to be the real highlight of this Halloween season, and I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more.

Here are some more notable photos from the past month of madness for you to dig into:

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Clara’s babysitter did a little art project with the kids, and this was the result. It is Clara’s first art piece, and fittingly it’s Halloween related. You know, because she is Hallowbaby.

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Clara doesn’t care much about TV, but for some reason she was drawn to Roseanne’s first Halloween special, BOO, which only proves that she has a good chance at one day being crowned “the master.”

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Again, not really into TV, which only makes Clara’s interest in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Halloween morning a pretty special moment for me. Hallowbaby is clearly not a uniform; it’s a lifestyle.

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And lastly, I freed my lovely inflatable wife from the basement so she could take this adorable photo with Clara, in full Hallowbaby attire, on Halloween.

At any rate, I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween, and I also hope you enjoyed all the Chucktober festivities I put together this year. Naturally, things are going to slow down here on the blog now that October has passed, but I do plan on trying to put together something for December. Until next time, however, thanks for reading my endless blabbering!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Basement (1989): Tales from The Unfinished Cellar

The basement 1989 review..

After four poorly-dubbed people find themselves mysteriously trapped in someone’s unfinished basement, they come face-to-face with The Sentinel, a spirit who informs the group that they have found the portal to hell, and now they must confess their sins. Not their sins of the past, however, but the sins they will commit in the future!

Written and directed by Timothy O'Rawe (Ghoul School), The Basement is a shot on Super 8 anthology film that went unreleased until 2011 when Camp Motion Pictures released the film as the main feature in a 5 film Retro 80s Horror Collection. Interestingly, not only did the film go unreleased, it actually sat in storage, unedited, for 2 decades before the film’s director of photography, Michael Raso, took to restoring it in 2010.

The Basement is an extremely low-budget riff on 1972’s Tales From the Crypt, in that a group of less than desirable people come to learn that the poor choices they make will lead to their undoing. This leads to four not-so-inspired tales of terror, starting off with The Swimming Pool.

The basement 1989 review

Focusing on a Black Widow-esque female character who lures men into a swimming pool for one final swim with a sea creature that sort of looks like a garden hose, The Swimming Pool is both a horrible and a wonderful way to kick off the anthology. The segment is bad in every way possible, but it’s bad in the silliest of ways thanks to the dialogue and performance by the lead actress. Of course, the entire situation is so preposterous – especially in how cheaply executed it is – that it’s difficult to believe that the segment is actually a part of reality. As I alluded to at the start of this review, The Basement has some of the very worst  ADR work I have ever heard in any film – which is quite the feat considering some of the movies I watch – and this is most true with The Swimming Pool. To be fair, however, a movie this bad only benefits from such incompetence, simply because it adds yet another layer of unintentional humor.

The second segment, Trick or Treat, is A Christmas Carol style tale about a disgruntled teacher who hates children and Halloween, and he has no problem expressing his distaste. However, his angry ways come back to haunt him when on Halloween night he is visited by a variety of creatures such as demons, witches, and the undead, all warning him that he basically needs to stop being such a jerk. Trick or Treat is one of the best segments of The Basement for a few reasons, one being the heavy focus on make-up effects, which are actually quite impressive despite the low budget. Something else that really stands out in the Trick or Treat is a dream sequence where the teacher goes on a classroom-murder spree, killing off all of his students, one by one, in a variety of bloody ways.

The basement 1989 review...

The third segment is Zombie Movie, a moderately enjoyable story that takes place on the set of a low-budget zombie film that becomes infested with real zombies. The main focus of this segment is a sleazy director who has no respect for horror, let alone the film he’s making. To him, it’s all about making a quick buck, and he has no problem being a complete dick about it. It’s obvious that Zombie Movie is commenting on the studio horror films and sequels that were churned out for a quick profit at the time, which is funny as people still seem to have the same complaints nowadays, despite looking back fondly on horror cinema from the 1980s. Funny how that works.

The final segment, Home Sweet Home, is about a young writer who buys a run-down home, despite being warned that it’s haunted. Shortly after moving into the dark and creepy house, one of the writer’s best friends shows up, and the two spend the evening getting wasted and talking about how this will be the perfect house for them to work on future horror projects. Unfortunately for the friend, however, there will be no future, because he is soon murdered by a demon. Overall, Home Sweet Home is a weak entry in The Basement, though it is kept afloat by some impressive creature makeup effects. The only other notable aspect of the segment is the fact that, as opposed to the characters in the previous segments, the lead character really doesn’t do anything wrong to make him deserving of spiritual reprimand. Makes almost as much sense as the 50 tea lights that are surrounding the bed that the main character and his girlfriend use to make sex.

The basement 1989 review .

The Basement is only 109 minutes long, so minus credits you're looking at about an hour or so of movie. With there being four segments, such a short runtime equals very little time to do much with each segment in terms of building up suspense. With most films that might be an issue, but in the case of The Basement, I think it helps. Spending too much time on each of these already anemic segments could be a cause for boredom, which is the worst sin that any B-movie can commit.   

Overall, The Basement is an astoundingly inept film made by people whose hearts were in the right place, which is a huge part of making a truly bad movie an enjoyable one for those who savor such entertainment.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bad Trick Or Treat Ideas: Religious Propaganda

bad trick or treat candy ideas

Look, I have no beef with whatever you’re into. You do you the best you can, so long as you keep it to yourself. However, the second you push your agenda on me – as opposed to giving me a variety of king-sized treats – well, you, me and a dozen eggs are gonna have some words.

Giving me some religious propaganda on Halloween is not going to make me convert; it’s not going to make me think; and it’s certainly not going to make me happy, so keep that shit to yourself and go out and buy a few boxes of king-size Snickers before I leave a king-size flaming turd on your doorstep.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Goosebumps At 33: Be Careful What You Wish For

Goosebumps TV shows

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!

Goosebumps be careful what you wish for TV

Despite being the tallest girl on the team (and likely the tallest in the state), Samantha Byrd is terrible at basketball. Her awkward frame and clumsy tendencies create issues both on and off the court, resulting in Samantha being the butt of a number of jokes among her classmates. The most popular diss that is directed towards Samantha is "why don't you go fly away, Byrd?", which is clearly a clever and well-thought out play on Samantha’s last name. I can’t even imagine how long it took her classmates to think that one up.

Goosebumps be careful what you wish for

At any rate, while on her way home from school, Samantha has a run in with a lost, eccentric middle-aged woman named Clarissa. When Samantha helps the woman find her way, Clarissa returns the favor by giving Samantha an amulet and granting her three wishes. Naturally, Samantha takes this as an opportunity to become the best player on her basketball team. While she does indeed become the best player on the team, it comes at the expense of her teammates, who have suddenly lost all of their skills and can barely dribble a ball let alone shot one properly.

As is the case with any tale featuring a character being granted three wishes, Samantha finds herself having to try to fix the mistakes from her previous wish while also benefiting herself in some way, which can only result in even more issues. And boy are there issues. Everything from turning everyone on the entire plant into flies to turning an old enemy into an obsessive best friend, Samantha finds her situation getting worse by the wish. Will Samantha be able to set everything right, or will she be doomed to live with her mistakes for good?

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Airing on August 10, 1996, Be Careful What you Wish For is your typical Goosebumps fare, dealing with everything you’d expect from an episode of the television series, including bullies, very bad decisions, overalls, and even an eccentric character tossed in for good measure. And of course, no episode of Goosebumps would be complete without a twist ending, and Be Careful What You Wish For delivers a twist ending that’s hysterically satisfying.

While there have been better and certainly creepier episodes of Goosebumps, you really couldn't ask for a better way to end this season of Goosebumps At 33, as Be Careful What You Wish For is an enjoyable and worthwhile entry into the beloved children’s series. It sorta makes me wish this season wouldn’t end...

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The 2015 Ultimate Halloween Party Music UBER MEGA-MIX!

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Dust of your dancing shoes and, while you’re at it, your dancing partner (at least after you’ve dug them up first) and get ready to get ghoulish, because it’s time to unleash the 2015 Ultimate Halloween Party Music UBER MEGA-MIX!

With a number of new additions (and a few subtractions), this year’s playlist is new and improved and tailor made to get you in the ghostly groove! Better yet, not only is this year’s playlist a MEGA-MIX, it’s an UBER MEGA-MIX, which makes it 100% more UBER than last year’s playlist, therefore, 100% more awesome.

At any low-heart rate, hope you enjoy cutting a rug to this Ultimate Halloween Party Music UBER MEGA-MIX, but please be warned: we are not responsible if the rug cuts back…

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Salute Your Shorts: Sweet Tooth

Sweet tooth halloween short film

After a young trick-or-treater has a run in with a bully on Halloween night, the young boy’s father shows up, and soon it becomes apparent that the bully messed with the wrong kid.

Created by Zachary Shore as a part of his first year CalArts film character animation class, Sweet Tooth is short, simple and to the point, all the while retaining an effortless and unexpected charm. The beautifully hand-drawn animation has a muted, almost black and white look to it, and the sketchy, unfinished appearance of the animation adds a nice visual aesthetic to the short.

Sweet Tooth comes in under two minutes, yet delivers a tasty little slice of morality. Quite simply, there’s always someone out there who’s bigger and badder than you are, so be careful who you mess with because it might come back to haunt you in the form of a vengeful vampire dad.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Post of Chucktober Past: Great Story, Emily

I’ve been doing this Chucktober thing for seven years now and there’s a whole lot of content as a result so I thought it would be nice to take a trip down memory lane and revisit a post from Chucktober past. Really, that’s not all too complicated, so I won’t waste anymore time on unnecessary details outside of saying that this post originally appeared on October 27, 2010, and it’s one of my favorites. Hope you enjoy!

Great Story, Emily

I've had a really tough time figuring out what to dress up as for Halloween, so I took to the internet as my guide and found this news report focusing on the hottest costumes for 2010!! Boy, I sure hope it helps with some creative and original ideas that'll stand out amongst the masses!

First off, while I do dig the clown outfit, Emily Deem should probably consider going as a mute. Not necessarily for Halloween so much as she should just become a mute.

So the first costume is brought out, and it's the Mad Hatter from that Tim Burton movie. I just love how Foot Locker describes the costume as being comfortable because Jesus can wear his own pants with it. I was more or less thinking the costume sucked because Jesus has to wear his own pants because, you know, the costume doesn't come with any. Also, is the hair awesome, Emily? Is it really? I'll pass on this one.

Finally, when the one costume I was waiting for the entire time makes an appearance (the Alice costume, naturally), I learn that the shoes are extra?! I totally can't afford all of that, and all the other girls at school are definitely going to laugh at me if I don't wear the right shoes. They really do make the ensemble pop.

The last costume is barely even worth mentioning, as we’ve already seen the idiot store owner wearing it for the last two minutes. Oh, but now it's on a little girl, so it must be cute, right? Wrong. If they wanted to do a family theme, they should go as father and disappointed in her father daughter. That would be more fitting.

You know what, forget it… this stupid news report didn't help me find shit. And seriously, Emily, do you think getting a news camera wet is a good idea? I love how her lame flower joke fails when she misses the camera the first time, and she’s then forced to reign it back in with her wit and charm. But the best part of this whole thing is the condescending female studio anchor saying "That was fun" with the excitement of someone that just found out they will be raped by an alligator everyday for the rest of their life starting in one hour.

Unless my luck should change, it looks like I might be wearing my go to costume for the 27th year in a row…

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Thanks for nothing, Emily.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (1979) The Night Dear John Saved the World

The halloween that almost wasn't review

After learning that Halloween is in jeopardy, Count Dracula (Judd Hirsch) calls upon his fellow monsters to step up their game and make Halloween what it once was: scary. Not all of the monsters are interested in cooperating, however, putting Dracula in a position where he must do whatever he can to change their mind and, in turn, save Halloween for all of mankind.

Originally premiering on ABC, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (AKA The Night Dracula Saved the World) is a 30-minute, Emmy Award-winning made for TV film that regularly aired on Disney Channel through the late 1990s. The film opens with Dracula watching a news report claiming that he, as in Dracula, has invited a number of his monster friends over to his castle for a conference the day before Halloween. According to an unnamed source, the purpose of this conference is the eradication of Halloween as we know it.

The halloween that almost wasn't review ...

As it turns out, this news report is part of a smear campaign meant to make Dracula look like the bad guy in the event that Halloween is indeed cancelled, which greatly angers Dracula. As a result, he calls upon all of the other monsters, which include everything and everyone from a Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and a werewolf to a zombie and a witch. Eventually, Dracula learns that the person causing all the trouble is actually one of his compatriots, and someone who's very important to Halloween and horror in general: Winnie the Witch.

Winnie the Witch is not only tired of being the ugly duckling and the butt of jokes, she's also jealous of Dracula for being the face of the holiday, while she's relegated to being nothing more than a background character. As a result, Winnie demands some changes, and if these changes aren’t met, there will be no Halloween, as Halloween cannot begin until Winnie flies passed the moon. This leaves Dracula and the rest of the monsters in a position where they must do what they can to get Winnie back on board, or forever lose Halloween.

The halloween that almost wasn't review .

The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is notable for a number of reasons, one of the biggest ones being the impressive cast, which includes Judd Hirsch as Dracula, Henry Gibson as Igor, Mariette Hartley as Winnie the Witch, Jack Riley as Warren the Werewolf, and John Schuck as Frankenstein’s Monster. Interestingly, Schuck would later play Herman Munster in a reboot of the beloved TV comedy The Munsters titled The Munsters Today.

Seeing as The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is a children’s special, the monster featured are on  the fun/safe side, but not in a way that betrays the monsters. In fact, they’re presented in a fashion that makes them accessible, which is great for young budding horror fans, or at least adult horror fans who have children they are looking introduce to horror. Being mainly set in Dracula’s Castle, the special does a nice job of creating atmosphere with the use set design, sound design and fog, all of which make for the perfect gateway to the Universal Films and even some of the Hammer productions..  

The halloween that almost wasn't review ..

Adding to the kid-friendly element, the special also takes some time to explain the history of Halloween. This mostly consists of the typical stuff we, as adults, have all heard before, with a parent telling their child that people would dress up to ward off the demons and spirits as well as explaining the origins of the name Halloween. it's a nice touch, and certainly a good way to introduce younger kids to the history of Halloween.

When it comes to retro Halloween-themed television specials, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is right at the top of the heap. It hits all right notes, being fun and kid friendly while also being the perfect gateway for kids to be introduced to horror and Halloween in a fashion that’s more than just costumes and candy. It’s a monster mash-up worthy of being rediscovered.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Goosebumps At 33: Say Cheese and Die

Goosebumps TV shows

SAY CHEESE AND DIE!

Goosebumps say cheese or die ..

When a group of friends break into a warehouse owned by a creepy neighborhood outcast named Spidey, they come across a camera that, as you would guess based on the title Say Cheese and Die, does more than capture your memories. I suppose the fact that the camera doesn’t quite work as advertised is due to the fact that it looks more like a 1950’s alien sci-fi toaster from the future where the past is… err, in the past.

In any event, when Greg (Ryan Gosling) uses the camera to take a pic…

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps

Oh, I’m sorry… I seem to have gotten a little distracted. Let me try that again:

In any event, when Greg (Ryan Gosling) uses....

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps ...

SHIT! It happened again! Not sure what’s come over me. Okay, one last time!

In any event, when Greg (Ryan Gosling…

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps ....

Ryan Gosling.

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps ......

RYAN GOSLING.

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps .....

Ryan.

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps .......

Gosling.

Ryan Gosling Goosebumps .

OH! I see the problem now! Ryan Gosling dream-boated his way into my review! Jeez, I’d be upset if I wasn’t so completely enamored at the moment. I mean, this is Ryan “Good LAAAWD” Gosling we’re talking about here. That boy sure do be distracting, and distracted I sure do be.

IN ANY EVENT, when Greg (Ryan Gosling) uses the camera to take a picture of his friend, the photograph shows something entirely different from what he took a picture of. In fact, the camera seems to be capable of predicting the future, or at least altering it so something bad happens to anyone who has their photo taken.

Goosebumps say cheese or die

While you’d think it’d be simple enough for Greg to just NOT take people’s pictures, it’s actually a lot more difficult than one would expect. For some reason, this episode takes place in a world where people are not afraid to be rudely imposing, especially to anyone with a camera, and this is shown by the inordinate amount of people who insist that their photo be taken, no matter how much push back comes from Greg. Of course, Greg could simply take the camera back to where he got it from, but that would require him to have to return to Spidey’s creepy factory. As dangerous as this option sounds, Greg really has no other choice, so return it he does. What happens when he does so, however, may lead to his untimely demise, as Spidey isn’t too pleased about Greg and his mark-ass friends knowing about the camera and its powers, and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure the word doesn’t get out.

Airing on February 9, 1996, Say Cheese and Die is an interesting episode for a few reasons. Outside of staring international hunk, Ryan Gosling, it’s easily the edgiest episode of Goosebumps that I’ve come across, at least on a technical level. The episode features some pretty showy camera angles and movements, which are not typically found in Goosebumps. It should be noted that the episode’s director, Ron Oliver, has done a ton of television, with the big stand outs being that he directed a number of episodes of both Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? He also helmed Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, which is only more proof of his Canadianness.  

Goosebumps say cheese or die .

I think it’s fair to say that Say Cheese and Die is a satisfying episode of Goosebumps. It has some good scares, a nice fall setting and a few funny moments. One of my favorites being when Greg’s mom refers to a Ford Taurus as “a car with a lot of muscle.” While not quite having a traditional twist, the episode features a thoroughly enjoyable ending, which is always a huge element to a successful episode of Goosebumps.  

Oh yeah, and it should be said that Scott Speedman plays a cop. But who cares about him. 

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Salute Your Shorts: The Initiation (2010)

The Initiation halloween short film

While spending his Halloween trick-or-treating all by himself, the new kid in town runs into some local kids who immediately talk him into stealing a jack-o'-lantern. Despite the risk, doing so would make him an automatic member of their gang (of two), which means no one would mess with him. As simple as stealing a jack-o’-lantern may seem for the young boy, it may come at a steep price.

Coming in at just under three minutes, The Initiation is a very straightforward short film that actually suffers from being too straightforward. Where the short fails most is in how it neglects to deliver a twist of some sort, which is quite unfortunate, as a twist – no matter how big or small – is what one would expect from a short film set on Halloween. As a result, the resolution feels a little lazy and certainly too simplistic to be satisfying.

The short is clearly a no-budget affair, which is probably most obvious from some of the acting, which is well below amateurish. While I can certainly forgive poor acting in a project such as this, it wouldn’t have hurt the filmmakers to maybe shoot a few more takes for the numerous flubbed lines one specific actor delivers.

Overall The Initiation is only three minutes long, so you're really not wasting too much time if you want to give it a watch. At the same time, however, it's kind of difficult to recommend watching such a bland short film even with such a short runtime. Quite frankly, The Initiation is not in any way, shape or form a memorable experience, let alone one worth having. 

Salute Your Shorts 1.5

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.

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