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!