Archive for are you afraid of the dark

Halloween Companion Number 2

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2014 by bluefall8

This would be the final entry of the 2006 Halloween season; as with the first Halloween Companion, it too highlighted a film and monster. I also waxed nostalgic with a timeline of Halloween past. This was originally posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006. 

Last week I went on at length about zombies, most of you will find comfort in the fact that I do not plan for the second entry of the Halloween Companion Series to be nearly as long. I will feature another Halloween ghoulie and another recommended flick but I also have something else. When I first conceived the idea of a companion blog to the Halloween themed Word of the Week I mentioned that such a blog would include recollections of Halloween past; tonight I plan to deliver.

Before I get to any of that however I have a small note worth mentioning. Stating the obvious here, I’m a huge fan of haunted attractions and before the season is up I plan to share this year’s experiences with you fine folks. With that in mind I’d love to hear about any haunted attraction stories you might have. Alright then let’s get to it, shall we?

I’ll begin with the recommended film which was added to the Halloween lexicon not so long ago. The film became one of my favorites when I first viewed it at the age of eleven or twelve. I speak of the stop motion animated gem that is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was intrigued by the dark imagery and the notion that a town’s sole purpose was to celebrate Halloween. It was a fun story with catchy, darkly humorous songs. Over the years I have caught myself either singing the tunes of Halloween Town or putting my own nonsensical lyrics to the same beat. The fat kid in the striped shirt never ceases to amuse me; fat little, weird lookin’, bastard. Bottom line: a fun, modern day Halloween classic in my book, should be watched by any and all Halloween or stop motion animation enthusiasts.

See that wasn’t so bad was it? Not nearly the length of my Night of the Living Dead tribute, was it? But now we need ourselves a creature, which to choose? I could go with one of the classics, a witch, werewolf, or vampire? A mummy perhaps? Or will it be a goblin, demon, ghost, or mad scientist? No, I think I’ll choose something to satisfy my carnivalesque urges. Yeah that’s right, I have carnivalesque urges. Therefore the featured monster is a clown. No, not those happy, juggling, dumb sons of bitches; I’m talking about those evil, demented, bloody knife wielding freak shows. You know the ones, when you see them you involuntarily shit your pants. The bulging, crazed eyes, shockingly bright, wild hair, and a grin so wide it can’t possibly mean anything aside from sinister intentions. Any clown is creepy but evil clowns can peer into a soul and devour it from the inside. Despite all of this inherent depravity I applaud them for the twisted element of fear they’ve brought to Halloween. Anyone interested in getting familiar with these strange creatures can read Stephen King’s It and watch the film based on the book. Such individuals may also be interested in the 1988 cut-rate horror flick, Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark featured an episode titled, “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner” that may also interest said parties. In fact there is a wealth of horror fiction that features murderous clowns; most of it is designed to frighten but some will undoubtedly elicit laughter. As long as you steer clear of the Insane Clown Posse you’ll be alright; if you’re a douche bag you can run right on in.

I was unable to decide on just one Halloween memory so instead of one in-depth recollection I offer in its place several short Halloween snippets.

Halloween 1995: Mike Blackwell and I pounded the streets of Lincoln Park amassing an impressive haul of candy. Our path would lead us to Coney Island on the corner of Dix and London where we would inquire about free Halloween Coney dogs, we received Better Maid original flavor potato chips; what a rip.

Halloween 1997: I was fourteen and it would be the last year I went trick-or-treating. I had moved from Lincoln Park the previous fall but returned for Halloween night with my cousin John. We visited Craig’s house and were promptly informed by Craig that we were too old to be trick-or-treating; he reluctantly gave us some candy. We also stopped by Mike Blackwell’s house; I hadn’t talked to him very often since I moved. Mike gave us some sort of liquid stink bomb which John would later throw at a house on Pagel Street.

Halloween 1998: An eccentric 15-year-old dressed up like a devil and performed disco dance steps while passing out candy from the newly moved into Applewood house. The legendary Disco Devil may have been born but this was otherwise an uneventful and disappointing Halloween. To add insult to injury the Wings were thoroughly beaten by the Stars.

Halloween 1999: One of the all-time memorable Halloween nights. Whatever was lacking a year prior was made up for ten fold on this bizarre, fun-filled evening. On this night a bright 16-year-old with a penchant for mischief led a rag-tag team of vandals into his old stomping grounds. Trick-or-treating was shelved in favor of the more attractive trick-or-thieving. It was a night filled with theft, vandalism, and laughter. Rachel, John, Luke, Stu, and JVD, you’ll all be joining me in Hell.

Halloween 2000: Arguably worse than ’98, utterly boring. I spent the evening with the girlfriend at the time passing out candy and regretting that I wasn’t out doing something fun with my friends. The night was saved when our gang of usual suspects joined forces with another unit of wayward bandits and together TP’ed the Jefferson administration building.

Halloween 2002: The second time around at the Applewood house fared much better. My hair was jaggedly spiked in all directions and shaded a healthy blue. I dressed as a zombie and frightened kids by acting like a dummy inside of a casket. Halloween music blared from within the house as a strobe light haunted the atmosphere and a fog machine sent intermittent spurts of mystery into the night. My brother and his girlfriend were among my guests as well as good ole Barry Dotson and the one and only Devil Douche, Branden Morrison. Jason’s girlfriend had also brought some semi-skanky friend of hers who, despite our endless harassment, refused to lick Branden’s swollen nipple commonly referred to as Swowwen Nippo. Following trick-or-treating we hit the Scream Machine haunted attraction at Heritage Park, a well rounded Halloween.

Halloween 2005: The holiday itself was lackluster as I was stuck working the calendar kiosk at the Southland Mall. I was however permitted to dress up and pass out candy as the mall participated in some such thing; I made the best of it. The season overall was pretty good. My brother, Disco, and I hit two solid haunted attractions: The Chop Shop in Grosse Ile and the Nautical Nightmare located in River Rouge. Both featured a number of memorable moments but perhaps the best came from the Chop Shop. We made our way down a dark hallway when a voice began to call out, “I hope you’re hungry!” We turned a corner and entered a small room; the walls were splattered with blood. Against the far wall a guy was hunched over a toilet with his face buried inside when he raised his head he was eating ferociously. He offered us some and when we declined he pulled a bloody tampon out of the toilet, began licking it and proclaimed, “This, your old ladies.” Damn, how we laughed.

I’ll be back again with a special entry on Halloween night. Until then.

CarnEvil 3D Waxes, Realm of Darkness Wanes

Posted in 2013, Realm of Darkness, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by bluefall8

After we departed Erebus we made the very short drive to the Realm of Darkness, where we expected nothing short of a great haunted attraction. A three year wait in between visits had breathed an air of freshness into Erebus, why should the Realm of Darkness be any different?

Unfortunately, a bad taste was put in our mouths before we even got out of the car when we were charged $5 for parking. You can say that $5 isn’t much money but really what is the purpose of such a fee? Why is it necessary to charge customers an additional fee to park? Haunted attractions aren’t cheap — the past two seasons in particular have bore witness to a marked increase in ticket prices. Granted an overwhelming majority of haunted attractions don’t charge for parking and for that I am thankful, but those that do risk an eroding fan base.

As a consumer I hate any service or product that has additional fees; I deplore the practice. Haunted attraction operators can attempt to explain it away all they like but  the best argument in the world will do nothing to dent the negative correlation customers associate with such fees. I apologize for going off on a tangent, but it irked me. As someone who visits many haunted attractions every season, often traveling an hour or two or more to get there — a parking fee is an insult and smacks of a money grab.

The grounds were nearly void of guests — an uninspiring site to be sure but not uncommon for a September night. A husky, bald clown with a mustache like a caterpillar provided a couple of laughs while we waited to enter the haunt. On his hip was one of the newer additions from VFX Creative Studios — an Attack Line puppet. These innovative puppets are available in four different characters — zombie, werewolf, scarecrow, and clown and are designed to be worn and controlled by an actor. The puppets feature realistic glass eyes and are equipped with articulation points through the mouth and neck. A good source of solid entertainment for any queue area.

CARNEVIL 3D OOZES WITH PROMISE

We entered the new attraction here first, CarnEvil 3D. Admittedly, none of us has ever been very impressed by these 3D attractions — the 3D effect often leaves much to be desired and  merely creates a blurry, tunnel vision effect that I find uncomfortable. When we have encountered a favorable 3D attraction it has usually been the actors would made it worthwhile and not the gimmicky presentation.

CarnEvil 3D however turned out to be pretty cool. The setting was established from the beginning of the attraction; a carnival sideshow. As we entered one room a colorful popcorn machine propelled the iconic snack into the air. A series of benches dotted the area, this apparently was where patrons were meant to purchase tickets. Comically macabre artwork lined the walls, my favorite was a brightly colored depiction of one so called Lobster Boy.

A pair of youths sat amongst the aforementioned benches and as we passed each one held an index finger aloft and laughed manically at something only they could see. Their eyes were blank and whatever madness held sway over their minds would not be broken by our taunts or inquiries. The pair put me in mind of the Ghastly Grinner who once terrorized an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? by infecting his victims with uncontrollable laughter.

The middle section of the attraction was a blur of neon colors and kitsch artwork, the embodiment of this particular blend was the aptly named Cyclops Boy. There was also Chuckles the Clown who did passionately urge us onward, but he could’ve definitely offered more in the way of interaction and improvisation.

Finally, we came to the advertised sideshow and what a collection their was of freaks and oddities, each contained within an individual cage. Here we meet Swamp Boy, conjoined twins, the Invisible Man, and a laughing clown who also displayed a penchant for chomping.

CarnEvil 3D was fun, offered a few memorable scenes, and was one of the more enjoyable attractions of this type that we have witnessed. It was in need of additional actors and more of an emphasis on story would’ve greatly enhanced the overall experience. How about an interactive game of chance for instance? Ring toss to win a twisted trinket, perhaps? Spin the big wheel to decide the fate of your party? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Rating: 3.25 stars

POWER OF THE WIZARD DIMINISHED

We returned to the queue line and after a brief wait were beckoned to enter the Realm of Darkness. A tall and portly ghoul waxed philosophical about the journey that awaited; he reminded me greatly of Mathias who guarded the door last year at Scarefest Screampark’s Castle of the Dead. He was theatrical, well spoken, and a worthy addition to the Wizard’s army of undead minions.

The formidable doormen beckoned us to peer into a mirror and then took his leave of us, shortly a skeleton appeared in the mirror and unleashed an angry diatribe that felt a little redundant considering the speech we had just been given. Worse, no scare would manifest as the bony fiend neared his noisy climax — truly a missed opportunity.

We found the Realm of Darkness as detailed an immersive as it ever was. A few areas of note included the doll room which featured a true to life shrieking dolly, an elaborate cemetery, and finally a funeral setting that induced goosebumps. Also of note was the snake infested cave and one wiry clown who utilized a bungee contraption to spring into action.

On the down side there is little new about the Realm of Darkness, much of the attraction felt merely scrambled. It reminded me of the shows that the Scream Machine has produced in recent years — not bad but certainly lacking and in need of a revamp.

Animatronics greatly outnumbered live actors and this lopsided ratio did not work in favor of the haunt. Furthermore, I was particularly disappointed to find most of the live crew a little stiff. In past seasons the cast here has ranged from consistently good to excellent but this year far too many fell somewhere between average to good. The pursuit of the Wizard too seemed to have been diminished. What was once an integral and exciting element of the show felt listless and contrived.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Don’t Adjust the Channel

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by bluefall8

As any reader of Horrorlust knows October brings with it an irrepressible army of the scary and macabre — from haunted attractions to spooky home decor, costume parties to Halloween itself — this month is a celebration of all things that go bump in the night. And if all of that isn’t enough for you, consider the killing fields that flicker across the boob tube this time of year. Many networks feature horror, haunt, or Halloween related programming during this, the season of the witch and with the popularity of the holiday at an all time high, there’s no doubt that viewers will be ensnared by a variety of spine tingling specials.

Among some of the best programming in my opinion is Fearfest on AMC which runs October 16-31. Fearfest debuted on AMC in 2008 and is precisely that, an around the clock horror marathon that lasts for sixteen calendar days. The event will kick off this year with the Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead. ABC Family also features a block of seasonal programming entitled 13 Nights of Halloween which runs from October 19-31. As you may have guessed from the name of the network, the type of shows you can expect are family oriented — The Addams Family, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas is what you’ll find here.

FX debuted a new show last night called American Horror Story. It was strange, perverse, and over the top — certainly not a classic but a fun, twisted watch. American Horror Story airs Wednesdays at 10 pm.

Anybody around my age will certainly remember the Goosebumps phenomenon that took place during the 1990’s. Well, if you find yourself craving a fix of R.L. Stine’s particular brand of storytelling then I’d suggest The Haunting Hour which airs on the somewhat obscure Hub network. An episodic horror anthology in it’s own right The Haunting Hour is quite obviously steeped in the same storytelling that propelled Goosebumps to such staggering heights a generation ago. It airs on the Hub network, Saturdays at 8 pm.

If all of that isn’t enough to sate your seasonal yearnings then allow me to suggest a few of my personal favorites which include The Twilight Zone, Halloween, Return of the Living Dead, Paranormal State, A Haunting, and of course George A. Romero’s zombie classics. And I’d be grossly out of line if I didn’t mention another childhood favorite, Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

I came home from work yesterday and had one of those wonderfully relaxing October evenings which consisted of lying in bed watching spooky movies. I hadn’t caught 2001’s The Others before and despite the sometimes plodding narrative and the often criticized end twist I found myself enjoying it. Who knows, maybe I just like Nicole Kidman. Following that I watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose which I’m ashamed to say was the first I had ever viewed the film. This was an expertly produced horror film featuring truly frightening scenes, superb acting, compelling storytelling, and a great original score — a must for any horror fan especially those with a taste for realism, it certainly put me in mind of The Exorcist.