Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't post to my blog as much as I had planned to this month. Publishing 31 stories this month on Amazon Kindle, ended up taking up a lot more time than I expected it to (who would've thought? /facepalm). As I believe I mentioned before, this blog along with with Laura's House of Halloween, will remain up year round. I will continue to add content as time permits.

Now, if I may, I'd like to say a few words about Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was always a big deal to me. It captured a sort of bittersweet melancholia that no other holiday does. I think part of it has to do with pretending to be someone else for one night a year. You could be the person you wish you were, or you could dress as something to scare your friends, or even something cute and sweet. It didn't really matter what costume you chose. In the end, you were someone else. Halloween gave us the excuse to let our hair down and be free, and everyone accepted that. It was all in the spirit of the holiday.

As you get older and you begin to outgrow trick-or-treating, Halloween takes on another life. It's a time to reminisce about the days of being young and carefree. For many adults, it's an excuse to be their old silly, lighthearted selves again. Halloween is a kid's holiday, it's tailor-made for them. Adults have their role to play as the distributors of candy and carrying on traditions. It's about keeping that magic alive generation after generation. And there is a sort of magic to Halloween. The world (the areas that celebrate Halloween anyway) transforms on Halloween. It becomes the norm to dress up in costume and to not give in to conventions.

Halloween is the outcast's holiday, the people who never quite fit in. Because the things that make them outcasts, whether it's dressing differently, having different ways of thinking, or just plain being unable to conform to what society deems normal, suddenly becomes normal on Halloween. You can be macabre on Halloween and no one bats an eye. You can be outrageous, sexy, terrifying, weird, funny, whatever you want. For someone like me, who is macabre and strange 365 days a year, Halloween is a way of expressing myself, as it is for many strange, macabre people or people who don't quite fit what is "normal" the rest of the year. They say you can't go home again, but Halloween feels like home. I feel like it welcomes me with open arms every year.

Halloween is not an evil holiday, not by a long shot. It's an outlet for our daily fears and anxieties. It's a way of laughing in the face of death and being "in" on the joke, hence why we can dress as ghosts and skeletons and zombies, without digging deeper and having to deal with what death is really like. I believe this has been true since the dawn of Halloween. It was always a way to deal with our fears as human beings, without having to look them square in the eye. In that way, celebrating Halloween is actually a healthy way of expressing ourselves.

This is just my take on Halloween. Everyone can interpret the holiday as they like. Anything goes. We create our own definition of what Halloween means to us, and in the end, isn't that what truly makes Halloween special?

So Happy Halloween, everyone! Go out, stay in, whatever you prefer. Just be safe and enjoy yourself :)

Why I Love The Monster Squad
Let me take you back to a simpler time known as the 1980's. Horror movies were rife with supernatural serial killers who kept the body counts high and the sequels a-coming. Along comes a little PG-13 movie, starring a cast of kids and classic horror monsters. The movie struggled to find an audience because it seemed to have too many adult themes and language for young children, the PG-13 to turn off the teenagers going to see the R-rated films, and adults who saw it as a kid's movie. Well, luckily I had a dad who loved those classic monsters and a mom who was lenient with PG-13 movies, so I got to see The Monster Squad at the tender age of five.

Honestly, as far as horror movies went, I always found it to be pretty tame. There was plenty of light humor, not a lot of gore to speak of, and honestly, I just found the movie really cool. It benefits from having a gentle giant character in Frankenstein, who befriends the children, which as a child myself, put my mind at ease that the kids would triumph in the end. Obviously, as an adult, you tend to know that a PG-13 movie starring a group of kids, isn't going to kill off said kids, but when you're a child yourself, all bets are off. I mean, hell, Dracula DOES blow up their treehouse in the hopes that they're inside, so it's not like it was out of the realm of possibility. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I think the reason this movie works so well for me is because of the commitment and sincerity of the adult actors, namely Duncan Regehr and Tom Noonan as Dracula and the Frankenstein monster. You could pluck these characters out of this so-called "kid's movie" and put them in any horror movie and they'd feel just as genuine. Regehr, despite being the antagonist to a bunch of kids, is pretty damn merciless and scary. He never becomes the bumbling fool, as so many villains do in kid's movies, and he never plays Dracula in a campy "I vant to suck your blood, blah!" sort of way. When a character has been around as long as Dracula has and has become almost a caricature of himself, it's very difficult to breathe new life into him. But Regehr pulls it off perfectly. He definitely looks like Dracula in the traditional sense, but he plays him in a new and refreshing way. No stereotypical accent, no seductive scenes...hell, he's never even seen sucking anyone's blood. And yet you would still know it's Dracula at first glance, and his performance is convincing throughout the movie.

Tom Noonan plays the Frankenstein monster a bit more traditionally, but with a great amount of empathy. You can feel his struggle between being loyal to the kids (especially Phoebe, who initially befriended him) and his "master", Dracula. This is another character who has become a caricature of himself and is very tough to pull off as a real, three-dimensional character again, but Noonan does it beautifully. When I was a kid, I always wished I had my own Frankenstein monster to protect me, as Phoebe did, but it's funny, as I've gotten older I actually find myself relating to him as a character. Who hasn't felt like an outcast or struggled with making the right choices? And the latter comes to a head at the end of the movie in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever seen put to film. And it doesn't feel like a shoehorned emotional scene for the sake of "getting" the audience. You completely understand why it had to play out the way that it did, even if you didn't want it to. I'm being vague so as not to spoil it, but if you've seen the movie, I'm sure you know what I mean.

I have to give props to Jon Gries as well, who plays the Wolf Man in human form. He's never even given a name (simply billed as "The Desperate Man" in the credits), but he also plays the part of a tortured soul amazingly well. He has few lines compared to Dracula and Frankenstein, but every one of his scenes stands out to me and are very memorable. His scene in the police station where he shouts, "Lock me up!" as the full moon is rising is so intense, it gives me chills. But my absolute favorite scene of his when he calls Sean and Phoebe's dad from a phone booth to warn him about Dracula, while also in the midst of transforming into his werewolf form. His half-man, half-wolf state and him growling, "He's gonna kill your son" haunted me for a good way. That scene always really stuck with me, and is still my favorite werewolf transformation put to film.

Although the movie could be called a horror comedy, what I love about it is that the monsters are never really played for laughs. The kids are the comic relief but aren't hamming it up. They behave like real kids do and crack smart-alleck remarks. I also like that they aren't anti-adult. I know that sounds weird, but so many films featuring kids have this underlying "grown-ups just don't understand" tone, and that's not the case here. They go to the Scary German Guy (a lonely old man and a Holocaust survivor) for help, who is never presented as a skeptic when it comes to monsters. And Sean and Phoebe's dad, a cop, also becomes heavily involved in the monster hunt, even though he is skeptical at first. I like that everyone is useful and adds something to the movie. And I have to give credit to Stan Shaw, who plays the partner of Del, Sean's dad. His scene in the museum when they're investigating the missing mummy is, imo, the funniest moment in the movie.

Stan Winston did the special effects for the monsters in the movie, and it shows. He was an artistic genius. He had to come up with new but recognizable designs for the monsters, since the original designs are the trademark of Universal. I'll probably get some jaw drops for this, but I think his monster designs surpass the Universal ones. They just felt so real to me, and he made them look scary again, especially The Wolf Man. As much as I love the old Wolf Man movie starring Lon Chaney Jr, the makeup just never was a favorite of mine. It still looked too human to me. The Monster Squad Wolf Man actually looked threatening (those eyes, so creepy!). The Gill Man's design was stellar as well. You gotta love the practical effects of the 80's!

Monster Squad is timeless, much like the old Universal monster movies are. I think if I had never seen it as a kid, I would still love it if I saw it for the first time today. There's just so much to like about it. The special effects, the dialogue, the pacing. It doesn't talk down to kids and it doesn't get too cheesy for adults. It has the perfect mix of horror, comedy, action, drama, and mystery. That doesn't mean it's not without its flaws (why does the term "virgin" only apply to girls, for example?), but they don't detract from all the great scenes and moments the film has to offer. There seems to be a real sincere fondness and respect for the classic monsters from the filmmakers, and that is so rare to see. With so many remakes out there made for a quick buck, this little cult classic film shows how you can take an old idea and give it new life.

And that is why I love The Monster Squad.

(By the by, why WOULDN'T a wolf man have nards, anyway? Men have nards, wolves have nards...seems like a no brainer to me! Still trying to figure out the logic behind that.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

American Horror Story: Freak Show, Ep. 1

As soon as I heard what the theme was going to be for this season of American Horror Story, I was really looking forward to it. I'm a big fan of the old 1931 movie "Freaks", and from the promos, it looked like AHS was paying homage to it in several ways. I've always been drawn to carnivals and "freak shows". They've always fascinated me, and in today's politically correct world, even moreso. So, I went into the season premiere of American Horror Story with high expectations.

Let me start with some of the things I liked about the first episode (note, there will be spoilers ahead!). First off, I love the killer clown subplot. I actually didn't know about that ahead of time, took me by complete surprise, and it was really effectively creepy. I found myself looking forward to his scenes the most. I'm actually someone who isn't afraid of clowns in general, but this guy would give anyone nightmares. The make-up effects are really good, and his mouth put me in my mind of "The Man Who Laughs", an old silent film about a man with a permanent smile. I'm really looking forward to finding out more about the character, who apparently is called Twisty.

Jessica Lange is great as always, and I really liked seeing glimpses of her backstory. Seems like a very tragic character and so far (though it's a bit early to tell) seems to be a lot more sympathetic and humanized compared to the characters she played in previous seasons.

Finally, I'm intrigued by Frances Conroy's character and her son, who both strike me as creepy in their own way. I was getting a bit of a Norman Bates (Psycho) feeling from them. They're relationship seems a bit...odd, beyond just a spoiled man-child and his doting mother. Curious to see where this goes.

Now, the things I didn't like, and probably from above you'll see a glaring omission from the things I liked, and that would be the "freaks" themselves, which is hugely disappointing for me. Let's start with the double-headed Siamese twins, played by Sarah Paulson. Unfortunately, I find both personalities forced and obnoxious. I get that they're supposed to be opposites and could be a source of tension later on, but at the moment, I feel like they're just kind of blah. The CGI effect is pretty distracting too. I found myself caring little about their dialogue and paying more attention to the effect, which...and I'm sure I'll get lots of disagreements here...looks fake to me, especially where the heads attach to the body. Also, one scene in particular (one of the ones in the hospital), when one of the twins was talking (I believe it was Bette), the other one looked flat and dead, almost like they used a still image instead of video. I usually like Sarah Paulson's characters in AHS, but neither of these are working for me yet. Plus, the fact that they killed their mother leaves little room for sympathy.

And this is actually my major gripe so far. Most of the "freaks" are unsympathetic. There's really no one to root for. AHS is known for its morally corrupt characters, but there's usually at least one or two that are worth rooting for. One scene in particular made me dislike all of them in one fell swoop, and that was the film strip scene. I'm not going to go into extensive details, but it was too much for a premiere where you're just getting introduced to the characters. And there was really no reason for it, except to show them as depraved people as a whole. That's not really how I was expecting the "freaks" to be portrayed. I expected there to be some moral ambiguity, as that seems to be common in the series, but there was no ambiguity here. It was just flat out wrong and disgusting, and made me kind of angry. It painted "freaks" in such a bad light right from the get-go and dehumanized them, which is something society did back then, typically unjustifiably. The show is depicting them as monsters, which is really not what I was expecting. I realize it's only the first episode, but that scene is so unforgivable, I'm hoping some of the yet-to-be-seen characters will give me someone to like and root for.

I know I might be being a bit harsh, it's so difficult to hold back when I'm this disappointed. I love the series, I love that it brought true horror to television, but the season premiere just left a sour taste in my mouth. I'm not sure what it says about the show (or me) that the most enjoyable character is a murderous clown.

But it's still early, and I'm not going to give up on it that easily. Hoping for the best with next week's episode.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest - Why All The Hate?

One of the first video games I ever played was Castlevania on the NES. I loved it for its dark themes and unique gameplay. Though, it's a really hard game and when I was kid, I could never make it past the first boss. But still, I remember replaying that early stage many times just because it was so much fun.

Over the years, I've heard so much about Castlevania 2 being an awful game that I never bought it. I only ever owned Castlevania and Castlevania 3. I decided to finally play it for myself and draw my own conclusions.

It definitely has a different gameplay style from the other two games in the NES library. You start in a friendly village, where you have to purchase items and talk to people for clues. It reminded me a lot of Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link, which is actually one of my all time favorite games. So, I didn't mind the format too much. After leaving town, you go through woods and cemeteries and marshes, etc fighting enemies and looking for mansions that house parts of Dracula, which you must collect to piece Dracula back together to kill again. I'm a little foggy as to why this is the case, but the plot isn't that important IMO.

In many ways the game feels similar to the first one, where you play as Simon Belmont, you wield a whip which has multiple upgrades, and you collect hearts as you kill enemies. The hearts in this game is a form of currency you use to buy items in the villages you come across in your journey. What I really liked is once you have an item, it doesn't hearts to use it, with the exception of the diamond, which I never ended up using anyway. You have unlimited holy water once you acquire it for a mere 50 hearts, which acts as both a weapon and a way to find hidden items and false blocks.

A new element to this game is the day to night transitions. Now, I've heard a lot of people gripe about this feature, and to be honest, I kind of liked it. Yeah it would've been nice if you could skip the text, and it was especially annoying when the box would pop up when making difficult jumps, but overall it didn't bother me. For me, it gave the game a more dynamic feeling and it was really unique for its time, so the flawed design of it is kind of understandable.

Another complaint I see often is about the cryptic puzzles, which I completely agree with. If I had played this as a kid, I would've been so lost, so fast, I don't think I would've played it again. However, are they anymore frustrating than the cheap deaths found in the other Castlevania games? Eh, not really. I actually prefer trying to solve cryptic puzzles than trying to make impossible jumps while enemies are flying at you. This is of course a personal preference. The jumps in Castlevania 2, while occasionally difficult, are pretty minor. I can only think of one screen where I had to use multiple continues on a series of difficult jumps, so for my money, I was happy about that. That is unfortunately one of my major gripes with the series in general is that sometimes the deaths feel a bit unfair.

Compared to the other games, Castlevania 2 is actually really easy. Going into it, I didn't realize it had multiple endings depending on how long it takes to complete the game, so I took a really lackadaisical approach and got the worst ending. Um...oops! But once you're familiar with the game and the map, replaying for a good ending probably wouldn't be much more difficult. I have heard you have to limit your continues, which I imagine would up the challenge, mostly on the jumping parts. The enemies aren't that hard, and the bosses, including Dracula, are laughably easy. In this sense, it did feel like a bit of a letdown when I finally got to Dracula. I took my time, got all the items in the game, was looking forward to the final battle, and it left me with a very "meh" feeling. It sort of felt like the developers ran out of time to make a proper final stage and boss battle. So, that was pretty disappointing.

Maybe it's because Zelda 2 is one of my favorite games, despite the fact that a lot of people seem to hate that game too, I really enjoyed Castlevania 2 overall. I can see how diehard fans of the original would be disappointed by it, especially at the time if you were anticipating its release. It does take the series in a different direction, but that was really common in NES series. Zelda 2 was very different from Zelda 1 and Mario Bros 2 (the North America release) was wildly different from the first as well. These were three of the biggest series at the time, and I can see why the developers wanted to branch out a bit and try different things from the original.

Even nowadays, the strongest sequels tend to be the ones that take risks. Comparing, for example, Resident Evil to Resident Evil 4, it doesn't even feel like the same franchise, but both games are really fun in their own way, whereas carbon copy sequels tend to be kind of forgettable, even if they're fun at the time you're playing them.

So I don't really think Castlevania 2 deserves the hate it's gotten over the years. You don't have to love it, but I think it's worth appreciating it for what it was trying to be, and it's clear to me they were trying to make it an RPG, and maybe that wasn't the right decision for what was primarily an action/adventure series. But for what it is, it's not a bad game by any means and it has a lot of redeeming qualities.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Top 13 Halloween Party Songs

Well, it's finally time for another top 13 list! I'm pleased to bring you my choices for the Top 13 Halloween Party Songs. These are basically upbeat songs that have either a Halloween theme or some kind of horror theme to them. So, let's get started!

#13 I Put A Spell On You - Bette Midler

I admit, I prefer Screamin' Jay Hawkins version of this song, but Bette Midler's is much more upbeat and would be funner in a party atmosphere. It's a short song but has great energy and is worthy of any Halloween party playlist.

#12 Pet Sematary - The Ramones

Quite possibly the most mismatched theme music to a movie (tempo wise, not lyric wise) in history, this song is catchy as hell and has a great beat. Even if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, the song stands on its own well.

#11 Halloween - Aqua

This song is a little obscure, but is the one with the most traditional "party" sound on this list. I love that it pays homage to old slasher movies.

#10 Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr.

As a child of the 80s, I had to include Ghostbusters! This song just makes me smile every time I hear it.

#9 Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon

In my opinion, this is a classic Halloween song. Good, silly fun!

#8 (I Always Feel Like) Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell

With backing vocals by Michael Jackson, who doesn't love this song? Great 80s nostalgia, creepy yet comical, catchy beat...this is one of my faves!
#7 Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
There's a bad moon rising...let's dance!
#6 This Is Halloween (from The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Whether you prefer the original or Marilyn Manson's version, this song is a must-play at any Halloween party!
#5 Time Warp (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Rocky Horror has become a staple of Halloween, and Time Warp is arguably the most popular song from it...with good reason! It's a great song that's easy and fun to dance to. It's just a jump to the left...
#4  Halloween - The Misfits
Although perhaps not the most mainstream of songs (or bands), the Misfits' "Halloween" brings a different flavor to any Halloween party. If you're looking for music that is a little less "kid friendly", the Misfits has a great library of songs. I particularly like "Halloween" because it touches upon ancient rituals of the Druids and more of the "darker side" of the holiday.
#3  Don't Fear The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
A Halloween staple, pure and simple. Not much more I can say than that.
#2  Thriller - Michael Jackson
Even people who don't care for Michael Jackson, still seem to love Thriller. Thriller is one of the funnest songs to dance to, even if you don't know the official dance moves.
#1  Monster Mash - Bobby Pickett
You probably saw this one coming. Monster Mash might just be the most popular song associated with Halloween. It's fun, it's upbeat, and pays homage to classic horror monsters. What could be better?

So, that wraps it up! Do you agree with this list? What songs would you play at a Halloween party?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cinemassacre's Monster Madness Starts Today!

In case you aren't familiar with James Rolfe (most famous for his Angry Video Game Nerd reviews), he has a website called and every October he reviews a different horror movie each day of the month. He was actually the one who inspired me to do my own "31 days of Halloween" content (my Halloween Street series), so I feel it's only right that I help promote his great videos! They're really worth checking out, including all the ones from previous years as well (you can find them under Movies>Monster Madness at the top of the site). It's a great way to find horror movies you may have overlooked throughout the years.

Here's this year's promo for it:

Click Here to go directly to this year's Monster Madness page.

Email Fixed!

It was brought to my attention that my email address wasn't working. D'oh! If you've emailed me recently, please try again! It should be working now. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reason For Lack of Posts Lately (It's a Good Reason!)

So, as you may be aware, I'm an author, and I've been very busy trying to finish up a huge project, which is why I haven't had time to blog lately. I do fully expect to blog waaay more frequently in October. However, in regards to my writing project, it's actually Halloween related. Yay! I recently posted about it on my author blog but I'm going to re-post the information here as well. If you enjoying reading or know someone who does, please consider passing along this info on social media or your own blog or wherever you like. I'd really appreciate it! And by the way, I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but if you have a Halloween website or promotion or anything you're trying to get the word out about (Horror/Halloween related of course), please feel free to drop me an email. I may blog about it or share a link if it seems appropriate. My email can be found under the Contact Me tab above.

Anywho! Here is the original blog post from my writing blog:

Well, I've been very hush-hush about this project, but I'm finally able to announce it! I have a series of short horror stories being published this October entitled "Halloween Street". This is a massive project, as I will be publishing a new short story every single day in October for a grand total of 31 stories! Short teaser is below:

So what is Halloween Street exactly? Halloween Street is a series of 31 short stories taking place during the same Halloween night in the town of Hollowell. Although the stories may be read individually and in any order, there are subtle ways the stories intertwine which you will notice if you read the series in order. A new short story will be released everyday in October 2014 as part of my 31 Days of Halloween promotion.

And how did this project come about? This was truly a labor of love. Halloween has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid, but my enjoyment and obsession really grew when I became a teenager and my love for the holiday has only grown over the years. When I decided I wanted to start writing in the horror genre, I initially had a novel in mind to release first, but when I got the idea to do 31 short stories taking place on Halloween and releasing them all throughout the month of October, I had to run with it! It's been a tremendous amount of work, but I'm really proud of how the series turned out. There were times I didn't think the series would be done on time, but I pushed through and worked long hours to bring this to life. That is how much I truly love Halloween and wanted to express it through my work.

Now a couple things I do want to mention.

The series will be exclusively on Amazon Kindle, and with the new Kindle Unlimited subscription program (now available in the UK as well as the US! Yay!), you will be able to borrow every single one of my stories as part of your membership. If you don't have a subscription, the price per story is only 99 cents. I know limiting it to Amazon may seem restrictive, but because of the time sensitive nature of the publishing schedule it really wouldn't have worked out to publish them on multiple outlets. One thing I will mention is that all of my books/stories are DRM free, so if you don't have a Kindle, you can still buy my work on Amazon and convert it to the file format of your choice using Calibre or a similar program. To be honest, I don't know a ton about this subject, but I'm sure there's lots of info if you just Google it.

And on the topic of the time sensitive nature of the project, I do have to say that Amazon is typically very quick during the publishing process (in my experience, a book gets published within 12 hours or less), BUT (and this is a big BUT) as far as making sure a story is published every single day, I am at the mercy of Amazon. I have heard of authors experiencing unusual delays from time to time, sometimes upwards of 48 hours, which I do realize could make the "new story every day" promo a bit null and void. Like I said, I've never experienced such a delay, my books have been published in as little as 4 hours and never more than 12, but basically once I hit the "Publish" button it's out of my control. To be honest, this did make me a little leery to do the 31 days of Halloween promo, but I'm a Taurus and stubborn by nature, so I really wanted to stick with my original plan ;)

So that's it! I hope you're looking forward to this series release as much as I am! :) More info will be coming soon!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Eep! A Walking Dead Spin-off On The Way!

Just saw this at Entertainment Weekly. Filming of a new Walking Dead companion series is starting at the end of the year. New cast of characters and locale, but no more details then that. Which means, time to speculate and make a wishlist!

If the setting remains in the United States, I'd love to see how the zombie apocalypse is playing out in the northern states, maybe New England or someplace rainy like Seattle would be cool. I'd love to see more weather elements come into play to see how the survivors could manage in harsher conditions.

Major wishlist item though...would LOVE to see some characters from the Telltale Walking Dead game make their way onto the show. I just finished playing Season 2 and was reminded of how well the characters are written in the game, and it would be awesome to see them come to life in the series.

I wonder if this also means the series will air during the downtime of the original series. Could this mean year-round Walking Dead? Could I get that lucky?! I hope that's how it plays out, because two different stories running parallel to each other could get a bit confusing. Hmm. Can't wait to find out more about this! It's so exciting!

Yes, I'm a huge Walking Dead nerd. No, I'm not sorry for it ;)

10 Horror Game Bundle - $3.49!

Bundle Stars has a deal on 10 cult classic horror/scifi PC games, and it's only $3.49 for the bundle! It's called the Night Dive Bundle and includes the following games:

System Shock 2
Bad Mojo: Redux
Wizardry 6 & 7
Wizardry 8  
7th Guest & 11th Hour  
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream
Shadow Man

The 7th Guest was one of my favorite games when I was a teenager, and I bought the bundle to play it and 11th Hour again. I love the music from the games and have even used some of it on my Halloween website.

The only other one I've played before is Harvester, and it's touted as being one of the most violent games of all time. I remember it really disturbed me back then, and I'm actually kind of curious to play it again to see if it's as bad as I remember it being.

If you like classic PC games (some of them are for Mac and Linux as well), it's a great deal! 10 games for 3.49, how can you go wrong?

Again, the link is here: Night Dive Bundle

Steam is required to redeem these games, but it's free, and Steam is awesome to have for digital games. They have frequent sales and a ton of horror games to choose from!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Top 13 Favorite Scenes from The Poltergeist Trilogy

Before I get to the list, let me start with a small introduction to this series of blog posts. My Top 13 lists will often be very personal and probably even a bit biased at times, but I'll try to explain my reasons for choosing what I choose to the best of my ability. It's also my goal to post a new Top 13 list regularly, maybe even weekly, but that's not set in stone at this point. This blog is still very young and things tend to change with time. Also, you may be wondering why I'm doing Top 13, as opposed to say, top 10. Mostly, it's just for the unlucky connection to the number 13, the relation to Friday the 13th, and the best number I could think of for horror lists. Nothing too crazy, eh?

I thought I'd kickstart the lists with my Top 13 Favorite Scenes from The Poltergeist Trilogy. Now, I probably could've found 13 great moments from just the first movie alone, but I wanted to make things a little bit more interesting. Since most people seem to loathe Poltergeist 2 and 3, I wanted to point out the scenes I find memorable, creepy, and just plain good from them. Even if they don't hold a candle to the original (how many sequels really do?), they're still enjoyable to watch and each are entertaining in their own right. So without further ado, let's start this list!

#13  Poltergeist 2 - Robbie's Braces

I had a hard time deciding on number 13, but I remembered how much this scene scared me as a kid. It's also a callback to the tree scene in the first Poltergeist movie, so I thought it deserved to make the list. The effects don't quite hold up as well today, but it's still a pretty clever scene, and I can't recall a another horror movie ever using braces in a creepy way.

#12  Poltergeist - Stacked Chairs
The great thing about this scene is the build-up. First, the chairs just become "untucked" from under the table after Diane tucks them in, and then in one continuous shot between her walking from the table to the kitchen and back again, the chairs are stacked up top. This blew my mind as a kid, and even knowing how they did the effect now, I can still appreciate how tough it must've been to pull off well. It's a creepy and unsettling scene.

#11  Poltergeist 3 - Kane at Carol Anne's School

I swear, Poltergeist 3 gave me a lifelong fear of mirrors. In this scene, Carol Anne is at school and her classroom happens to have a two-way mirror. In the mirror, she sees Kane standing at the window, but he's not there when she looks at the window herself. To me, Poltergeist 3 made the best use of mirror scares in horror movie history. It's such a simple but effective scare too. You see something in the mirror that's not there when you turn around. Poltergeist 3 found new ways to do this scare over and over again without it ever getting old. The movie isn't without its flaws, but in my opinion, its creepiness, for the most part, works well.

#10 Poltergeist 3 - Bruce's Lingering Reflection

Another creepy mirror scene when Tom Skerrit's character, Bruce, is getting ready in front of a mirror, walks away, but his reflection remains still. Nancy Allen's character, Pat, turns around and witnesses the reflection walking away after Bruce has already left the room. The reason this scare works well for me is because it comes after a very normal scene. They're discussing Carol Anne living with them, an art gallery opening, and even ends on a silly joke about hiring a sexy maid. This scary moment comes out of nowhere, but not in a jump scare kind of way, and therefore becomes pretty effective.

#9  Poltergeist 3 - Bathroom Scene

As Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) is getting ready to go out, Carol Anne pops her head in the door to pay her a compliment. While the reflection Carol Anne remains in place, Donna hears a knock at the door, opens it, and finds Carol Anne standing there. This is yet another example of the creepy mirror scenes in Poltergeist. It's a great "fake out", as it's such a mundane exchange between the girls you would have no reason to think anything out of the ordinary was taking place.

#8  Poltergeist - Steven Confronting Mr. Teague

In the climax of the film, Steven (Craig T. Nelson) comes home to find all hell breaking loose, and he loses it. His boss, Mr. Teague (James Karen), admitted earlier in the film that the housing development Steven and his family live in was built over a cemetery. In his rage, Steven goes off on Mr. Teague for moving the headstones but leaving the bodies.

This might be a strange scene to pick for a Top 13 list, as there are so many scary moments from Poltergeist, but I just look forward to this scene every time I watch the film. The flashing light from the haunted house behind them, Craig T. Nelson as a father at the end of his tether, and James Karen's expression of absolute horror and dumbfoundedness make this scene stand out for me. When Craig T. Nelson lets out his crazed, "Why?! WHY?!", it gives me chills every time. It's just such a well-played scene by both actors.

#7  Poltergeist 2 - The Introduction of Kane

This scene where we lay eyes on Reverend Henry Kane for the first time is one that has haunted me since childhood. Julian Beck plays the role in such a convincing way, he manages to steal the show in every scene he's in. The kindness he shows towards Carol Anne, when we the audience knows that he wants to take her back to "the other side", is unsettling to say the least. In my opinion, he's the best part of Poltergeist 2. It's difficult to give a face to a faceless villain, but Kane is a genuinely creepy guy, and even looking back on the first Poltergeist film, his character fits in well in the established world. It's truly a shame that Julian Beck died before the movie finished and didn't get the chance to reprise the role in the third movie.

#6  Poltergeist 3 - Hall of Kanes

In my favorite scene of Poltergeist 3, Kane appears in the hallway mirror standing in the doorways of the neighboring apartments. Donna walks by without being able to see him, however, Carol Anne, who's home alone, hears each time the reflected Kanes slam their respective doors. The whole shot is done really well. I assume a double was used for Donna and they had to walk in sync, but I swear I can't see a single flaw, so maybe that's not the trickery used, I dunno. The fact that almost thirty years later I have no clue of the movie magic used is a good sign in my book.

I think the special effects in Poltergeist 3 were ahead of their time, and dragged down by perhaps a not-so-strong script. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the movie. If it wasn't part of the Poltergeist universe, I don't think it would get as much flack as it does.

#5  Poltergeist - The Clown Doll

Arguably, the scariest scene in Poltergeist is when Robbie's toy clown comes to life and attacks him. This was a great scene because the set-up happens in the first twenty minutes of the film and doesn't come back around until almost an hour and forty minutes in, but you never forget that doll throughout the film. When it reappears, you can't help but get a sinking feeling that something bad is (finally) about to happen with it. It's a great horror movie payoff and legitimately scary no matter how many times you've seen it.

#4  Poltergeist - The Beast Guarding the Bedroom Door

This was a tough call for me, only because this scene is so brief. But I had to go with it, because I love this creature design! The way it builds in front of the children's bedroom door and growls, it's scary as hell. And JoBeth Williams' expression of terror is spot on...she makes the audience feel her fear. When she tries to confront it, the damn thing grows and knocks her down the stairs. Now, that's intense! Overall, a great effect that stands out in the midst of many great effects in the film.

#3  Poltergeist - The Spirits on the Stairs

In the middle of the night, spirits come of the children's bedroom and descend down the stairs. Once they disappear, the family and paranormal specialists review the footage caught on camera to see that the circles of light actually look like human figures. I love this scene because it's both beautiful and creepy. It also gives some visualization to who the poltergeists are without giving away too much.

#2  Poltergeist - Steven and Mr. Teague Discussing Housing Development

Ok, ok, I know I'm probably gonna get a lot of "huh?" expressions for choosing this one and so high on the list too, but hear me out! This scene has no nostalgic merit for me and therefore I feel like it deserves to be given a great deal of credit. Let me explain. When I was a kid, I saw all three Poltergeist movies between the ages of 5 and 6 and rewatched them numerous times. I always found this scene incredibly boring. I mean, two grownups standing around talking about housing development? Bring on the freakin' ghosts already!

But as I was rewatching the movie recently, I realized how much I love this scene today, despite hating it as a kid. At first glance, it almost seems like filler to explain Steven's absence from work and the consequences of it. However, as you begin to examine the scene, it's so much more than that, and actually has little to do with that at all. We see Steven and Mr. Teague on the hillside, looking down at the houses in Cuesta Verde, where the Freelings live. Mr. Teague starts talking about developing new houses here on the hillside and offers Steven one of the new homes for being one of his top realtors.

Now, doesn't that sound like filler? Well, as Steven and Mr. Teague are talking, you see a fence in the forefront of the shot. As the camera pans out, you see what's behind the fence--a vast graveyard. This is where the pieces of the scene start to fall into place. Mr. Teague says they'll move the graveyard, and when Steven objects, he tells him how it was already done before--in Cuesta Verde.

The following shot is where this scene becomes truly effective. The camera pans into Steven's face as he realizes what's been done, some suspenseful music starts to play low in the background, and we start to see Steven becoming a little bit more unhinged than he already was. This also sets up the scene for later in the movie that I mentioned in #8.

The build up is slow but rewarding. The glimpse into Steven's psychological turmoil garners both a feeling uneasiness and sympathy. It's a scene that's easy to overlook, which is why I have such a fondness for it now. It's one of the most important scenes in the movie, and yet it's one that's rarely talked about and would never make any lists--until now, that is.

#1  Poltergeist - The Coffins Coming Up Through the Floor

In the climax of the movie, as Diane is trying to escape the house with Carol Anne and Robbie, coffins begin to rise up out of the floor. The whole climax is one of the most intense, edge-of-your-seat moments in horror movie history. It just keeps throwing scares at the audience relentlessly, starting from the scene with Robbie's clown doll coming to life. The coffins at the end are the icing on the cake. When they come up through the kitchen floor, you have that quick flashback moment of all the freaky things that happened in the kitchen (the stacked chairs, the chair and Carol Anne sliding across the floor), with the bodies just a few feet underneath. Everything comes to a head, and by the end of the film, you feel as exhausted as the family looks.

It's rumored that they used real skeletons on the set of Poltergeist and Poltergeist 2. If this is true, the coffin scene becomes are the more chilling. They certainly look real to me, but who knows for sure? Either way, the coffins rising out of the floor is one of my favorite moments in horror movie history, not just in the Poltergeist franchise, and that's why I chose it for the number one slot.

I hope you've enjoyed my first Top 13 list. I'm sure many will disagree with this list, and that's fine. I'd love to hear what your favorite scenes from the Poltergeist Trilogy are in the comments below! :)

Random Left 4 Dead AI Glitch

I was playing Left 4 Dead last night on PC, trying to get the Untouchables achievement with 3 bots. On about the third or fourth attempt (the AI are SO bad at dodging the rocks thrown by the Tank), I was setting up the gas cans on the Runway Finale of Dead Air, when I noticed the AI were all in yellow health and fading fast. I hadn't even started the radio yet! So, I found them near the safehouse, bunched up and surrounded by zombies, just taking a beating. They wouldn't shoot or heal or anything. Even their dialogue seemed to be broken.

Now, I've been playing Left 4 Dead for the better part of five years. I originally had the games on Xbox 360, but re-bought them on PC when the 360's disc drive broke. I have never run into this glitch before. So I exited to the main menu and tried again. Same thing happened. Exited again, chose a different character, same thing.

I wish the screenshot was better, sorry! This was my last attempt before restarting the game. As you can see I'm Bill, and AI Francis is beside me, making no attempt to help Louis or Zoey. Though as the saying goes, you can't help those who can't help themselves ;P

Fortunately, restarting the game fixed the issue. Still, for all the idiotic AI moments I've experienced, this one takes the cake. Anyone else ever experience this?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Killer Legends - a Chiller Documentary
Back in March, a documentary premiered on Chiller called "Killer Legends". Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills investigated the true stories that may have inspired some of the most well-known urban legends in history. Now, I'm not a big fan of documentaries in general, but this one really kept my interest, having always been a fan of urban legends but never knew any of the truths behind them. Honestly, I never thought there was any truth behind them. I often thought urban legends were just cautionary tales, claimed to be true in order to warn children of the dangers out there. So, I found this documentary fascinating, even if it is grim and disturbing.

The legends include The Candyman (the tainting of Halloween candy), The Babysitter (the babysitter receiving calls from a threatening stranger), The Hookman (a teenage couple fearing a man with a hook for a hand is stalking them), and The Killer Clown (dangerous clowns kidnapping children). To be fair, that last one I've never heard of in terms of urban legends, but the other three are definite classics that most people have heard of.

What's interesting to me about these stories is that the real life crimes are actually so much worse than the legends themselves, despite them always having been cautionary tales. For example (and I won't spoil it), but I knew ahead of time that the tainting of Halloween candy has never happened except for one incident, but I never knew just how heinous that incident was. It goes to show how much more frightening real life can be compared to fiction, even when fiction is based on true events.

On a lighter note, my favorite of the four legends in this documentary is The Candyman, and it's weird to call it a favorite considering the crime involved, so let me explain. It's the only one that directly involves Halloween, and the filmmakers included vintage footage and images from the time (the 70's mostly). I'm super nostalgic by nature, so I love stuff like that. That being said, I don't want to make light of how horrid the crime was and how it's often blamed for the killing of Halloween as people knew it, namely the innocence and spirit of the holiday.

The documentary is definitely worth checking out and has recently gotten a DVD release, in case Chiller doesn't repeat it in October (I'd be shocked if they don't, to be honest).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Please come in...

Hi, and welcome to my very first Halloween blog, in association with my over fifteen year-old website, Laura's House of Halloween! I'm Laura *waves* and this blog will contain all sorts of spooky things, like horror reviews/opinions, Halloween finds, Top 13 lists, and much more! It's a little bare right now, but I'm planning to add lots of content over the next couple of months, so be sure to check back often and please consider following my blog!

If you are familiar with my website, then you'll notice that this year it's moved to its own domain and has gone through some changes and updates (for the better, I hope!). Though, I'm a nostalgic person by nature, so many of the pages do look and sound the same. All the main pages are linked on the right side of this blog for convenient navigating. I will post updates here whenever I add anything new to my site!

Halloween has been a passion of mine all of my life. I've always loved horror stories/movies and monsters and ghosts and all that good stuff! Over the years, it seems Halloween has become less popular and it saddens me how stores have lessened their Halloween inventory (in my experience), and yet have Christmas stuff out in October. It's a travesty! And don't get me wrong, I like Christmas too, but not in October. October should always be about Halloween!

So, in my little corner of the web, it's Halloween 24/7, 365 days out of the year. Long live Halloween!