Friday, April 13, 2018

How I Became Spooky - Ghosts

It's Friday the 13th. Regardless of it being April, there is a chill in the air. Where I live, we've been experiencing high winds and clouds that make the world outside downright spooky. As a result of that, I wanted to write a little something.

For most of my childhood, things scared me. I wasn't the child who grew up watching horror movies. Hell, Nightmare before Christmas scared me from an early age. But for some reason, I was always still fascinated by the unknown. That fascination grew into a love and became a huge part of my life. There were a lot of contributing factors to that, but there are certain things that take direct credit.

Allow me to share one of those with you today. It seems fitting to start at the beginning of the end.

My love of ghosts...

My mom owned a book when I was a child. It was a book all about ghosts. At least, I believe it was my mother's. I like to think it was. Either way, this book resided in my dad's office with a great many other books. But this one...caught my eye. Now. I'd read Goosebumps and Short & Shivery among so many other great ghost stories, but there was something different about this book. These ghost stories were real.

I looked through this book so many times that I can't even remember. There were plenty of pictures, so that always enhanced the words. These stories weren't written to scare someone and I think that was what drew me in so much. I was feeling educated, not terrified. These was one particular story that always stuck with me. It was about a ghost that was called the Smoker of Labrador. Similar to the Gray Man who protects people right before natural disaster, The Smoker of Labrador also saves people from a grisly fate. This ghost also adorned the spine of the book. It looked liked an angel. That image was burned into my mind forever.

Sadly, my mother passed away and I'm not entirely sure where that book disappeared to. Having two older sisters who also have a love of the paranormal, it may well be with one of them. I never asked. When I started to live on my own, one of my favorite hobbies became shopping at second hand stores. This increased by library of books, for sure, but I still never found that book. I didn't know the title or the author, so my search was limited to what my eyes remembered.

It took time, but eventually, fortune shined on me. I found the book.

The title, fittingly enough, was simply just "Ghosts". It was written by Robert Jackson and was part of a collection called Library of the Unexplained or Great Mysteries (Mine is different than this one, as mine is from the UK. I only know this as it has a cost in pounds instead of dollars on the dust jacket.). And, as I knew that it would, the picture of the Smoker of Labrador was right at the top of the spine. Obviously, the book came home with me to sit among my other books. But make no mistake, this book is more than just a book to me.

This book was an introduction. But it was also something I share with someone who is no longer with us. It's comforting in a way to think that the ones we lost are still with us. To know that at the end, there is something else. This book is a comfort, this book is a connection. It means more than I believe the author ever thought a collection of ghost stories would.

There are many more facets to my love of the supernatural and the otherworldly. But those are stories for another time. But I'll leave you with this. As I couldn't find an image online, here is a picture directly from the book of the Smoker of Labrador.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Up All Night IV - The Bedroom Window

The worst part about a window is that you might never know what's on the other side of it. As a child, I never really had a fear of windows themselves. But I was always afraid of what or who might be on the other side, in the darkness, looking in.

Now, I had read a story about the Croglin Grange Vampire in a book. Which book,I can't recall, but the story stuck with me. Particularly the part where the vampire runs his fingernails along the glass and it made a horrifying scratching noise. I was always a little iffy about what might be outside my window after that.

It wasn't until I moved into a house in California that I started to honestly think about windows. While that house was creepy and certainly haunted (Another story for another time), it was the window in my bedroom that scared me. 

This house was the first one where I recall my bedroom window facing the front of the house. As a result of that, I was always wondering what could be on the other side. I was never afraid of what might be in the backyard, but anything could have been in the frontyard.

During the day, it wasn't a problem at all, but at night it was scary. Always that thought in the back of your mind that something is looking in at you without your knowledge. I never really assigned an image to the thing in the darkness, though. I think that lack of definition probably made it worse.

Now, as far as I know, it never happened. Nothing and no one ever peaked through the blinds in the witching hour. But there will always be that lingering question in the back of my head as to if it did. It's enough to send a chill down your spine. 

Needless to say, all my windows have blinds now...just to put my mind at little bit at ease.

Up All Night III - The Staircase

Another haunting image from my childhood involved the staircase in my old house in Texas. The house had two staircases, one by the entrance of the house and one more secluded by the kitchen. Obviously, there was nothing scary about the kitchen staircase, but the one in the front was a large, almost spiral staircase. It lead to a landing, then a hallway, then right into my room.

(Here is the actual staircase. I took this from the real estate listing the house recently had.)

From where my bed was, I could see right to the top of the staircase. If there was ever a night where I left the door open, I would imagine just what could be coming up those stairs. Granted, whatever it was could have easily gone into either if my sister's rooms, but children's logic dictates otherwise.
Now, I thought anything could have come up those stairs. One of the more ridiculous notions was an evil robot Bugs Bunny after a night at Six Flags. There was also a time where I sat on the stairs in the middle of the night and scared my mom half to death. I still don't know how or why I ended up on those stairs.

But one night, something did come up the stairs...a very common sight is a shadow. Just a nondescript shadowy human shape. That night, this shadow came into my room and sat at the edge of my bed. I can't be sure for how long, but it was long enough to remember. It only happened the one time. Even remembering it now, I've got goosebumps.

There are always stairs, but most of the time they are certainly not scary, but you might not always know where they're going or who or what will be coming up them...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Exhumed - Monster Makers (2003)

The Exhumed returns with a frightening new addition!

Recently, I've found that Instagram is a great place to learn about movies that you've never heard of. This discovery has lead to quite a few purchases, especially imports. One of my recent finds was the 2003 Hallmark Channel film, Monster Makers. Needless to say, the name alone sold me and I had a copy in my hands less than a week later.

We all know Hallmark as a predominantly Christmas movie channel. They seem to do at least 10 new Christmas movies each year and start airing them earlier and earlier. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that, but now that I know that they did a Halloween movie once, it stings a little bit. Of course, before I decided to go and get upset at Hallmark before doing my research,

I have found that they haven't released any other Halloween specific content like this. They have, however, done quite a few different Fall themed movies. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff and, I say this with no shame whatsoever, I genuinely enjoyed all of The Good Witch movies that I've seen.

I have an inquiry into Hallmark to find out why there hasn't been a Halloween movie since 2003. I've yet to receive a reply. I guess Big Christmas has something to do with that.

Monster Makers premiered in October of 2003 on The Hallmark Channel. It's a love letter to black and white monster movies and to the people who love them. The film stars Linda Blair, George Kennedy, and Adam Baldwin. The film revolves around Tim Stoker as he and his mom move to into a new house owned by an old monster movie maker. One day, Tim discovers an unreleased movie in the basement of the house called "Monsters on the Loose". Once he plays the film on Halloween night, the monsters come off the screen and terrorize the town. It's up to Tim and a cast of characters, including a movie sheriff, to defeat the monsters and save the day.

It reads a little ridiculously, but it's a decent plot for a film like this. I've seen my fair share of these kinds of movies and Monster Makers ranks pretty high on the watchable list. Obviously, it's a film intended for kids to watch around Halloween, so you shouldn't expect too much from it.

The film has a lot going for it, but the thing that's the best are the new monsters that are created specifically for the film. Lots of movies would simply recycle Frankenstein, Dracula, or The Wolf Man. This film instead features three completely different characters who have enough traits in common with the big three that it's hardly a coincidence; Revenant, a living ghost that can possess anybody, Vermin, a were-rat who was a victim of a nuclear government experiment, and Manikin, a mannequin dummy who is looking to replace his plaster parts for real ones.

Honestly, these are pretty terrifying monsters. Manikin has one human arm and the rest of him is pieced together other mannequins. Revenant was also an interesting character, as a living ghost really makes no sense whatsoever, but the concept that he can possess people is interesting as it gave the actors a lot more to do. I feel that device was used a bit too much in the film, but what do I know? Vermin was probably the least effective, but you have to have a were-something somewhere.

Probably the shining star of the film is Adam Baldwin, as if we expected anything else. As Sheriff Jay Forrest, he is hurled from the screen into the real world. Unlike Jack Slater in the underrated "Last Action Hero", Forrest only experiences a brief set back when he finds out he's a fictional character. His interactions with the monsters and characters in a time period very different from his is hilarious. In once instance, he learns that the microwave can make popcorn in under three minutes. His delivery in this scene sums up why Baldwin is more than deserving of our adoration.

The film does, however, suffer the standard things related to some Hallmark Channel films. There is rather stiff acting, especially from Linda Blair, which was very disappointing. I didn't expect a ton from her, but at least a little bit of emotion wouldn't have hurt. Not to mention the ending of the film is almost directly ripped off from other movies. The cons here are definitely not enough to outweigh the pros. But really, if you're even reading this website, this movie is probably right up your alley.

You can buy Monster Makers on DVD pretty easily, but the VHS copy seems to be a bit harder to come by. I will be adding this one to my Halloween watch list, as it really puts you in the Halloween spirit. I highly recommend this one to the monster kid in us all.

I'll let you know if Hallmark ever responds to my request for more Halloween movies.

Bonus comments: Around 2003, the Disney Channel Original Movie content was starting to fade. "The Scream Team" was released in 2002, while "Halloweentown High" was released in 2004. That makes 2003 the first year since DCOMs existed that there wasn't a Halloween movie. It's probably simply a coincidence that Monster Makers came out that year, but it's not so crazy to think that this one could easily have been released on Disney Channel. It would have been a little different, for sure, but it makes me wonder if Disney passed on the script or if it was intended specifically for Hallmark. We may never know.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 14th = Second Halloween?

We live in an interesting time. That's good and that's bad. But one of the things that I consider good for humanity are memes. Hilarious anecdotes put on images for us all to enjoy. Some are nonsense, but some are topical. Like this one...

Now, Spongebob might be on to something here, as I've actually seen this taking root. For all those single folks out there, spooky couples, or people just plain sick of Valentine's Day; why not give Valentine's Day a good dose of a good way...

Here are my top 5 things to do on February 14th, AKA Second Halloween.

1. Trick or Treat?

Buying chocolate for a loved one is a staple of Valentine's Day. That means that candy is extremely plentiful right now. Go door to door and ask for some candy, because chances are, they have some to give.

2. Host A Party

Misery, as they say, loves company. A grand tradition of Halloween is to gather with friends and have a party. Order some heart shaped pizzas, buy as much alcohol as you can, and tell scary stories of exs past.

3. An Addams Family Marathon

No one knows unconditional love and spookiness quite like Gomez and Morticia. There's a reason those two are the epitome of the perfect relationship for so many.

4. Wear A Costume

I disapprove of slutty Halloween costumes, but on Halloween II: V-Day...why not? As long as you are in the safety of your own home, I see no harm in this. Bonus points if you've found someone to dress up with you.

5. Give Your Heart To Someone

I'd prefer metaphorically, but I'm not in charge of your life.

If that's not enough Halloween for you, Walpurgis Night is coming soon and then only a few more months until Halloween season. Ah...I can almost hear the faint sounds of screams, can't you?

Until next time, keep it spooky, kids.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembering Rockula

1990 was a very eventful year. For example, that was the year I was born. It was also the year that a film called Rockula was released. I could have sworn I'd written about it before, but I couldn't find where I did. I first found out about Rockula about four years ago, but it certainly stuck with me past the initial viewing.

Rockula is a movie about a vampire who finds his reincarnated love every 22 years and must try to save her from a pirate with a peg leg who kills her with a ham bone. It was released on February 23, 1990. Of course, with a name like Rockula, this film is a rock opera featuring various talents like Dean Cameron, Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby, and Tawney Fere.

In the years since then, Rockula has faded in obscurity. For the longest time, you could only find Rockula on VHS, Laserdisc, and YouTube. It was apparently on Netflix for a time and Amazon Instant Video. Recently, the film has resurfaced on Amazon Instant Video for a rental fee of only $2.99. It's quite a deal at that price. Here are the top 5 reasons to rent Rockula tonight.

1. Dean Cameron

The obvious first thing is actor Dean Cameron. If you're a fan of him from his award deserving portrayal as Francis "Chainsaw" Gremp in Summer School or as Dave Marshak in Ski School, you cannot deny that Cameron has a presence. He is probably one of my favorite actors and a close personal Facebook friend of mine. In Rockula, he is perfect as Ralph LaVie and as Ralph's mirror alter ego. Not to mention, this guy can actually sing! If you don't believe me, here is a song from the movie.

I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't at least thrown it out there that Cameron is still one of the finest actors out there. It's a pleasure to turn on your favorite show and see Dean Cameron just randomly on there, like Psych or Regular Show.

2. Toni Basil and Thomas Dolby

Eight years after their initial successful songs "Hey, Mickey" and "She Blinded Me With Science", respectively, these two one-hit wonders were the perfect co-stars for Rockula. Basil plays Ralph's mother, Phoebe, while Dolby plays the villain, Stan. It's pretty wild to see these two in this film, but Rockula is pretty out there already.

3. "Rapula"

Rockula wouldn't be the first guy to try to reinvent himself as a rapper, but I dare say that he is probably the one who did it best.

4. Mirror Ralph

As the vampire lore goes, a vampire cannot see his own reflection in a mirror. The thing with Ralph is that he sees an alternate version of himself when he looks in a mirror. This version is much more suave and sophisticated and quite the ladies man. Not to mention he is a source of pure grief for Ralph. It would be pretty weird to look in a mirror everyday and instead of your reflection, you see a completely different version of you. Maybe that's why most vampires claim to not see anything.

5. Bo Diddly

Bo Diddly acted in a total of eight things and Rockula was one of them. If that isn't enough to convince you to give this a watch, I don't know what is.

There are very few movies that I could play on repeat and not get bored with, but Rockula is certainly on that list. Do you and me a favor, invite Rockula into your home tonight.

It Follows - Review

One of the most highly praised horror films of the year is It Follows, but as with many films like this, it seems you either love it or you hate it. Well, I watched the film over the weekend and I want to tell you all about what I thought of the film.

I picked up It Follows release week at Target for $12.99 on Blu-ray. That might not matter much to you, but I love Blu-ray and I love a great release week price. That being said, I've had this film for about a month without watching it. Those closest to me sometimes get on my case about buying a film and not instantly watching it, but that is beside the point. With all the dark and stormy weather that occurred in my area over the weekend, I figured that it would be the perfect time to finally watch It Follows.

I assume since you know that this is a review, I'm not going to try to spoil the film, but if I do, I'm very sorry. Chances are, I will end up spoiling at least something.

Now, the trailer did a great job at setting up what this film is about. There is something called The It. If you have sex with someone who has The It, It follows you now. I mean...that's super self explanatory by the title. This film is extremely interesting to me because of that notion. It's absolutely horrifying, but we live in the day and age of sex being extremely common place and STDs running wild. The It, as the creature is apparently called, is a living version of that. I'll say it again...that's absolutely horrifying The It "is slow, but it isn't dumb". It literally follows you. Super slowly. No matter where you go, it is following you. It can be anybody, as its sole purpose is to get close to you and kill you. never stated.

The setting of the film is incredible. We start out in a small rural town like many others. If you've ever been to a small rural town, you know the kind of place I'm talking about. The place with one high school and where all the pools are above ground. The locations of the film really help set the world of the characters. There is something much scarier about having a horror film take place in a small town that almost seems shut off from the rest of the world. We are stuck in a place almost lost in time.

But what about the story, you ask? Unfortunately for It Follows, the script isn't as exciting as it needs to be. For the first half or so of the film, I was laughing. I didn't relate to any of the characters as they are all one dimensional and not worth caring about, but I found myself more interesting in the fact that Jake Weary looks like Joshua Jackson than I was with what was going on in the film. It was just so funny. One of the first times we see The It, it is a super old woman. As I stated earlier, It follows you super slowly. And as it being an old woman, I saw no terror whatsoever. The woman was clearly the It, so there was no suspense. It was laughable.

It isn't until a later point when the director uses the notion of the It being anyone to a great advantage. There are times where the film is spooky, but I'd never go so far as to call it terrifying. There were times where I was extremely enticed by the film and cheered at how fantastic certain aspect were, but these moments all revolved around The It. As I said before, the characters are so underdeveloped. There is the nice girl next door, her kind of slutty sister, the unrequited love interest (Who wants to have sex with the girl next door so badly that he is willing to get The It. Seriously, dude. She isn't into you. At any point in the film...ever.), the nerd friend, the rebel guy, and the outsider. Cliche works, but not here. Never once did I care about these characters. This isn't Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street where the characters are expendable and you don't have to care about (most of) them, because you and I both know that Freddy and Jason are the stars of those movies. If you find yourself rooting for the monster, perhaps the human characters need more development.

The director stated that John Carpenter and George Romero were big influences on this film. The opening shot and the score scream John Carpenter. It's almost absurd. I don't see the director becoming one of the next masters of horror anytime soon, but he is well on his way. If he follows this one up with a sequel or another suspenseful film, I'll see if I reconsider. At this point, the director, David Robert Mitchell, has only one other film under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

The director had a vision and I did enjoy seeing it come to life. If my review seems unkind or gives you the impression that I didn't enjoy the movie, it is because as good as it was, there was a lot of bad, too. I think It Follows is the perfect popcorn flick to share with your friends at a movie night in the next few months. The perfect film to embrace your crush as he/she gets scared. But maybe close over the fact that it's essentially a PSA for safe sex, as that might kill the mood. It follows (No pun intended) in the footsteps of many films that came before it (I had to watch Final Destination afterwards, as I couldn't stop comparing the two in my head) and will most likely not slip into obscurity anytime soon. It might even become a mega cult classic in the next few years, I really don't know. If you are curious about the flick, there isn't much reason to not give it a try. All I know is that for $12.99, I am satisfied.