Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Exhumed: The Ketchup Vampires

There are things in this world that become lost. Things that you think you will never see again. But sometimes they come back. This is the first in my series called The Exhumed. I will be finding things from my childhood memories of Halloween that have returned in some form or another.

First up is The Ketchup Vampires!

When I was a kid, I had tapes called The Ketchup Vampires. There were two and, if I recall correctly, the second one actually came first in the series in continuity. They were narrated by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Which I appreciate now more than I did then. These were so interesting to me and I loved watching them. But I forgot about them for many years.

Sometimes you just think about something you saw as a kid randomly. A couple of years ago, I started to re-collect VHS tapes. I sought out The Ketchup Vampires tapes, but they are pretty expensive and seem slightly rare. I knew these weren't on DVD in the US, but there are many things that come out in other countries that don't come out in the US. So, I looked around. I discovered that The Ketchup Vampires were actually a TV series called Die Ketchup Vampire.

Now, I don't speak German. As a result I didn't get this release. But it was fascinating to discover that it was actually a TV show. Now, I was a child when this came out, so it very well could have been on in the US as a TV show. But there was no release. I couldn't really find much information past that about the show.

The other day, I decided to look again after importing The New Addams Family from the UK. But what I found was far more fantastic.

The Ketchup Vampires was release on Amazon Instant Video! For the low, low cost of $10, you get 26 episodes of the TV show. That's 13 more than the German DVD release. Needless to say, I instantly purchased the show. I watched the first episode and I couldn't believe it, it was almost exactly the same. The voices were the same, the animation actually looked nice, but Elvira wasn't the narrator. Watching as an adult, you see just how campy this show is. It's out there and weird. But I LOVE IT SO MUCH! Even the theme song is intact!

I haven't watched past the first episode, but I can't wait. As there were only two tapes running probably threeish episodes versus 26 24 minute episodes, there must be so much more story that I haven't seen. A great start to the Halloween season.

The Pumpkins! All The Pumpkins!

You see that? That's a GIF. I'm getting fancy!

But in all seriousness, pumpkin is in EVERYTHING! It's officially that time of year again where you can go out and find all your favorite pumpkin products. But there are some good things and some bad things. But don't worry...I'll help sort it out for you.

1. Pumpkin Candles

To instantly get your Fall fix, light a pumpkin candle. But I must urge you to err on the side of caution, as not all pumpkin candles are created equal. Chances are if it is mixed with another product, it will probably smell awful. Be sure to smell the candle before you buy...otherwise, your home will smell bad...FOREVER! Trust me, I had a candle in my apartment bathroom once. That smell never went away.

I personally like the Spiced Pumpkin from Yankee Candle. It's perfect. You can find it cheaper at Ross/Marshalls stores.

2. Pumpkin-Flavored Coffee/Coffee Creamer

Starbucks has corned the market on this one, but I must say, I love Dunkin Donuts. Their iced pumpkin coffee and their ground pumpkin coffee (Only what you get at an actual Dunkin Donuts store, not at Walmart or Target) is just nothing short of delicious.

You can also buy Starbucks pumpkin syrup at their online store here. It tastes delicious. You can also seek out Torani or Monini as they both have various pumpkin flavors.

For a special bonus, add some pumpkin-flavored coffee creamer.

3. Pumpkin Soda

I enjoy many kinds of soda. But there are some that I have tired that I just poured down the drain. I almost feel unkind using an actual picture of the soda that I just couldn't drink. But...I feel I must. I had high expectations of such and why shouldn't I? Pumpkin is so tasty in everything else...why not soda? It tastes like pure pumpkin. Like someone threw pumpkin guts into carbonated water and then drained the pumpkin. It's disgusting. No spices detected. If you have found a pumpkin soda that is worthy of trying, please let me know. As I want to believe in something again.

4. Pumpkin Beer

Oh, pumpkin beer. In all your guises, you are so tasty. I work in the liquor industry and am extremely into beer. I have an Instagram for such (Not to promote myself). @which.craft is my handle. This is another category where you have to find what you like yourself and go with it. Lagers, stouts, porters, ales, shandys, etc. There are so many different kinds. Later this season, I'll be doing a piece later on pumpkin beer.

5. Pumpkin Baked Goods

Yes, this is kind of a catch all category. Bagels, cakes, pies, cookies, etc. There are so many things to enjoy and every single year, there is something new. I love going out and finding something new that tantalizes the taste buds. I'm still not sold on the whole pumpkin and chocolate mixing, as I've not found that perfect thing yet. But I will eventually.

What is your favorite thing that contains pumpkin? I always enjoy hearing about new things!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Halloween Tree

Today is Ray Bradbury's birthday, so here is a little insight into one of my favorite projects from one of my favorite authors.

In 1972, author Ray Bradbury wrote a book called The Halloween Tree. The story revolves around a group of friends who go on a journey to save their friend and end up learning about the history of Halloween along the way. The concept is ingenious and, as a result, it is still very popular amongst fans of Bradbury and lovers of Halloween.

The Halloween Tree was originally a screenplay that Bradbury was working on with famous animator, Chuck Jones. This version never came to pass, unfortunately. However, twenty odd years later, Hanna-Barbera teamed up with Bradbury for an adaptation of his story. Bradbury wrote and narrated this TV special that aired in October 1993. Slightly changing the story, the special won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing. That's not at all surprising.

Over the next couple of years, the special was released on VHS several times then disappeared. Yet, it was not released on DVD until 2012, the same year that Bradbury passed away. While the timing is certainly unfortunate, it was a nice tribute to finally have it released. The special is also available digitally on Amazon.

In 2005, a very special  version of The Halloween Tree was released with Bradbury's preferred version of the story and including the manuscript for the original Chuck Jones incarnation and the Hanna-Barbera script. This version is signed and limited and fetches over $100 per copy.

I, for one, am glad that The Halloween Tree lives on to this day in various fashions. This Halloween give it a read or watch the special. Because if you're looking for something to instantly jump start your Halloween season, it's this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy - Review

CAUTION! This article contains spoilers!



Every year, the Scooby-Doo franchise has at least one new direct-to-video movie release. For the last few years, these releases have diminished in quality. I mean, the last one featured WWE wrestlers...that was the first time I ever rented a new Scooby-Doo instead of buying it day one...and I still don't own it. When I heard of another release under the title of Frankencreepy, I was cautious optimistic.

I first saw the trailer on the 13 Spooky Tales DVD set, Field of Screams. My excitement more than doubled! A Scooby take on the story of Frankenstein was extremely exciting to me. I almost couldn't wait until release day, which thankfully, I didn't have to do. Wal-mart has it exclusively a week early. 

I hate to say this, but...my reaction is mixed. To summarize the basic plot, Velma inherits a family castle where her ancestor in Frankenstein fashion made a monster that terrorized the town and the family curse remains. So, it's up to Mystery Inc. to save the day.

Now, there are a lot of great things about Frankencreepy, but the sad part is, they are mixed with the bad.

First off, it isn't a standalone story. It's a continuation of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. I am a complete sucker for this series having any form of continuity. Taking a cue from the second live-action Scooby movie, the villains in this one are former villains of the gang taking revenge on those meddling kids. That's the most exciting part. The unfortunate thing about it, however, is that this surprise is ruined before the credits by having an almost clip show of those former episodes. It's pretty obvious that these characters will return in some form or another.

Frankencreepy really feels like it could have been two different movies. One about the gang solving the mystery of Velma's family castle and another where the former villains take revenge on the gang. You can feel this about halfway through the movie as it feels rushed. It's almost a hindsight is 20/20 scenario. Two great concepts come together to form one lackluster one.

A very personal nitpick is that there is a throw away line in the beginning that is a big plot device later. But it feels so inorganic that it almost hurts. Not to mention the extreme over usage of Sam Raimi style cutting. It was cool the first couple times, but it got really old...and kept getting old.

Frankencreepy struggles to be cohesive and you can tell that the person who wrote it was trying to craft a great new Scooby story, but I can't say he succeeded. Jim Krieg, who wrote Frankencreepy, also wrote episodes of Mystery Incorporated and What's New, Scooby-Doo?. Granted, he wrote one of the way lesser episodes of M.I. and almost all of What's New isn't terribly exciting, I'm giving credit where it is due.

And there was only one brief musical chase scene. That's, like, one of the biggest tropes in Scooby-Doo. 

So, I give Frankencreepy higher marks than the three installments before it (Mask of the Blue Falcon, Stage Fright, and Wrestlemania Mystery), but it is far from the bar setting installments like Zombie Island or Camp Scare.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Favorite Haunted Houses

Right now, haunted house movies are a making a comeback. A remake of Poltergeist comes out next year, another installment of The Amityville Horror franchise does aswell. Not to mention, Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak.

With all this happening, I took a little bit of time to think about my favorite haunted houses in TV/film and decided to share my list with you. This list is in no real order, however.

Murder House (American Horror Story) - I refuse to go into full detail on the haunting of "Murder House" in American Horror Story season one. It would ruin what I consider to be some of the best television I've ever seen. But I will say this, the things that happen inside Murder House are pretty terrifying. The first season is on Netflix and with the Halloween season approaching quickly, this should be added to your watch list.

The Amityville Horror House - Regardless of how you feel about the real life occurrences, or lack thereof if that is your point of view, the house is famous. It also has had a long and sordid past in motion pictures. The original cannot be topped, but many have tried. I look forward to the next film in the series, as it should be interesting to return to the house for the first time in ten years (As The Amityville Haunting does not count).

The House on Haunted Hill - If you can survive a night in this house, you get $10,000...if not, you'll wind up dead. The House on Haunted Hill is a classic. Not only is the house extremely spooky, what is inside is just as bad. This film proves that people can be just as terrifying as ghosts. The House was turned into a former insane asylum for the remake, but it works just as well.

Hill House (The Haunting) - Toted as one of the scariest films of all time, The Haunting features Hill House, not to be confused with the above house. The film revolves around the notion of a person, as well as the house, being haunted. Sadly, the legacy of this house is tarnished by an inferior remake, but you can always cling to the perfect original.

House - Of all the haunted houses, this one has some of the strangest stuff occurring. Roger Cobb, probably based on Stephen King, decides to live in his aunt's house after her passing, the disappearance of his son, and a separation from his wife. Things get weird when he becomes attacked by monsters and discovers a portal to the otherworld in his bathroom. If I had to say, House is the weirdest haunted house movie you will probably ever see. And, if you can brave it, there are three more "stories".

The Freeling House (Poltergeist) - In the quite community of Cuesta Verde, there is a house...built on top of a graveyard. The family inside is dealing with those repercussions. Of all the houses on this list, this one is the scariest. Why? Because the exterior is not scary. If you were to drive past this house, you'd never know that the family inside was experiencing such a horrific ordeal.

Bad Dream House (The Simpsons) - Featured in the first Treehouse of Horror episode, Bad Dream House is an amalgam of various houses on this list. Built on an Indian burial ground, looking like Amityville on the side, like a mix of The Addams House and The Munsters House in the front, and destroyed like The Freeling House, it's almost perfect. Bad Dream House lives on as one of the best segments of the Treehouse of Horror series.

Rose Red - From the mind of Stephen King mixed with The Winchester Mystery House wrapped up in a cocoon of The Haunting of Hill House, comes Rose Red. Airing in 2002 and lasting four hours, Rose Red is something I keep coming back to. I am enticed by every aspect of the house and in this four hour miniseries, I was legitimately scared a number of times. You can't help but watch it all in one sitting.

So, make some popcorn and be prepared to be scared. If you planned to sleep tonight, I'm sorry.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monster 500

Today, I went to a Toys Я Us for the first time is more years than I can honestly remember. I am not really the toy kind of guy anymore. Not because I am too old or cool, but because I am generally too broke to collect toys in addition to movies. Which is what turned today into an awful day, as I discovered these...

Now, if you're here, you obviously share my passion for spooky things. So, you're either aware of these or will be incredibly excited to hear about it! Monster 500 is a line of die cast cars that feature monsters.

As you can see, these creations are born right out of the mind of "Big Daddy" Ed Roth. Rat Fink would be right at home with these ghouls. While not the most original idea, these things are awesome. They look fantastic and the fact that each of their cars is representative of what they are just sweetens the pot. The alligator is driving a toilet! You can't beat that!

The first set of monsters consists of 10 great monsters and there are already 10 more monsters planned. I don't want to rip of the website, but there are racer bios and plenty more over there. Here is the link.

They come in single packs, three packs, and a few of them have big plastic versions that make sounds and light up! Oh...and did I mention there were playsets!?

It don't know about you, but this is quickly becoming my number #1 item on my Christmas list. But let's face it, I will buy it well before Christmas.

Now, normally, this doesn't bother me. The cars are $5 and the playsets are nicely priced. But...and there is always a but when it comes to toys...there are chase figures. Each character has a variant (Either glow, red, green, black or metal). Today...I will admit to you, my readers, I went to three different stores and didn't find a single one. It was not a successful toy run.

But wait...you mean to tell me that there is more?! Monster 500 has a video game app where you can race as the monsters. I'm not very good at it yet, but it is a lot of fun. There are codes in the packages that give you items in the game. It's ingenious. It's almost exactly like Mario Kart, if that helps.

Now that I've detailed just how amazing these things are, let's talk about something very important. These are only at Toys Я Us. I don't want you to go to Target or Wal-Mart looking for these. If these are your cup of tea, I certainly hope you go seek them out. If only so the children of today have great toys.

Happy Hunting to you all and I'll see you on the race track.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

First Look - Goosebumps: The Movie

For years and years, Sony has been trying to create a movie based on the extremely popular children's book series, Goosebumps. As a massive fan of the series and the TV show that it spawned, I couldn't be happier that it has gone before the cameras.

One of the best ideas that the studio could have had is to base the feature not on any books, but on an original idea based around the world of Goosebumps and its creator.

The best part about the film is that one of the greatest actors of all-time, Jack Black, is playing the role of R.L. Stine. Now, the two don't look alike...at all...but that doesn't stop it from being extremely great casting. Today, the first photos from the film have been released. Check them out below.

In addition to Black, Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush are featured as well. Minnette is no stranger to the works of Stine, having starred in two different episodes of The Haunting Hour.

The story of the film follows a young man who moves to a new town and befriends the beautiful girl next door, who just who happens to be the daughter of the famous writer, R.L. Stine. After unknowingly releasing the monsters that Stine contained in his books, it is up to the group to save the town and contain the monsters.

Combining a small town, real monsters, and young protagonists are key trademarks of the Goosebumps franchise. Not to mention the comparisons that will be drawn to Wes Craven's New Nightmare or John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness. Even if this film is awful, I will love and cherish it forever.

Just thinking that the book series has been adapted into a film and that the film is most likely cause a book version of the film to be written is almost too meta for me to handle. If R.L. Stine himself adapts it...the world just might implode on itself.

I will be writing more on the subject as the movie progresses. Should be very exciting!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Are You Afraid of the Dark? on DVD

For longer than I like to remember, Are You Afraid of the Dark? escaped having a Region 1 release in the United States. In the last year, this has changed. But in the past week, things have changed even more. First, a quick history lesson.

The show started to be released in Canada back in 2006 with the final season being released in 2008.. All seven seasons of the show were released, including a "Best Of" set. But those quickly went out of print and cost more than they are worth from third-party sellers.

In 2007/2008, the first four seasons of the show were released in the UK. The last season of the original run and the two seasons of the revival were never released.

In 2012, I was lucky enough to get season 1 for a little over about 1/10th of what it was going for and the "Best Of" set. Later that year, I got season two for roughly the same cost. I was thrilled to have some of the most classic episodes now in my possession.

Something seemingly wonderful happened in September of 2012. Amazon began taking preorders for Volume sets of the show, both containing 7 episodes.

However, they were not released for a long time.

Yet in Canada, the show began to be re-released in 2013 with seasons 1 and 2 being released within four months of each other.

A little over a year after Amazon began taking preorders, Volume 1 was released. As I had preordered, I was surprised when I got my shipping notification. About five months later, Volume 2 was released. As nice as the volume sets were, the episodes were from various seasons, which was confusing to say the least. It seemed all hope was gone, until two days ago.

tvshowsondvd.com posted a story about how season 1 of the DVD was released. It was almost too good to be true, but folks...I received this set today and I can't tell you just how great it is!

BUT WAIT! While finding all the correct dates for this article, another one appeared! Season 2 is also available from Amazon! My order is placed and I can't wait! Does this mean we could potentially have all the seasons by the end of the year? One can only hope.

But let me give you a little heads up on a few details about these sets.

 Canadian Release
(I own this release from Canada. I'm not sure how the newer release is different.)

US Release

The Canadian release features audio in English, Spanish, and French. However, there are no subtitles. This release also features something I personally am not a fan of. Instead of just the classic opening, they include a compilation of shots from other seasons/episodes featuring the closing credits music. It's jarring to have the opening and episode separated like that.

The picture is also slightly different from the US release. In some episodes of the US release, the skin tones are warmer, but in others, the Canadian release as the warmer tones. A bit confusing, I suppose.

US Release
Canadian Release
The US release features the intact opening and also featured subtitles. However, there is only an English audio track. As I do not speak Spanish nor French, it does not effect me, but it is something to consider if you do. Also, the episodes are on two discs, instead of three. As the data on the discs varies only slightly, it doesn't seem to effect the image at all.

 US Release
Canadian Release

The US release also features the episodes in correct broadcasting order, where as the Canadian release does not.

It's all very exciting. I'm extremely glad that Are You Afraid of the Dark? is finally out on DVD for the masses to enjoy. But you won't find this in stores, it's strictly on Amazon.

So, grab a blanket, get some popcorn , and don't forget to turn off the lights...because The Midnight Society is back.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Up All Night II - The Ending of Gremlins

Me? Scared of Gremlins? I know. It sounds awful silly. How could a movie that is so delightful keep me awake at night? Well, as with most things in life, there is a story behind it.

I used to live in a small town called Southlake, Texas. By small town standards, it's very different. But there is one aspect of the town that always scared me. A cemetery by the church I frequented as a kid. Now, the cemetery never bothered me very much. That was until that fateful day.

Living the lavish life I did as a child, I had the single greatest thing a child could ask for. We have a TV with a VCR in the car. The joy that thing provided on road trips will never be forgotten. Nor will the terror that it brought to my life.

Back in those days, we rented VHS tapes at a place that was called Blockbuster. Neither of those things really exist anymore, so this story becomes all the more chilling. One of my favorite films was Gremlins and it still is to this day. What happened next was sheer coincidence.

As Gizmo and Billy raced to stop Stripe at the end of the film, the family car started down the road that ultimately led to the cemetery. The unsuspecting child I was didn't know that his greatest fear was about to come into existence. As the chase grew to the resolution, so did the road grow to an end. Suddenly, we stopped at the light and this happened.

I looked at the TV. I looked at the cemetery. This was a back and forth that happened for what seemed like an eternity. My heart raced and I couldn't breath. I wanted to scream in terror, but I couldn't let out a word. It was at that moment that I realized what death was. Granted this wasn't my first experience of death in my life, but this one stuck and it stuck hard.

As a result, almost anytime that I watch Gremlins, a sleepless night is almost assured. How about you? Did the ending of Gremlins ever scare you as a kid? Sound off in the comments below!