Oct 31, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: HAPPY HALLOW'S


It's finally here. Go nuts. You've earned it.

Oct 30, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: EVE OF HALLOWEEN

days of a haunting
eerie sounds of a ghastly glow
take a footstep to the front
and enter the beginning of the maze
the hassle itself to bring yourself down
as laughs in the back creep under your skin
the hectic fear harassing the fact that it's there
yet bounds like vines in a grappling play
the eve of Halloween
in the nearing of a haunted house
as they put up the slaying
and wander into a man-made trap
fall into the amiss
deep down in the black mist
and frighten yourself by a stare
as you watch another fight along beside you
as the eve of Halloween comes taunting back once again


Oct 29, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: DVD REVIEW: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL


To drench yourself in my love for the WNUF Halloween Special, refer to my previous in-depth review. Everything I could have said about the film I believe was already said. Instead I'll be going through the DVD release that Alternative Cinema was kind enough to send me. Strictly put, it's essential Halloween viewing.

Writer/director Chris LaMartina gets things going with a solo audio commentary. If you're even a casual listener of audio commentaries, you may have found that when some folks go solo, they can tend to fill their recording time with long bouts of silence, having no one by their side to spur them on and ask questions. That's not the problem here. LaMartina hits the ground running with his inspirations behind the project, how it came to be, and what he ultimately envisioned. He speaks rapidly and throws a lot of information at you, none of which is ever superfluous. The nature of the film, which is essentially one huge montage, has him leaping from point to point, and in terms of words per minute, puts Tarantino to shame.

Much of what I wondered while watching the film for the first time - the origin of the footage used, if the filmmakers shot it themselves or sifted through public domain stuff - is answered. Basically, it comes from everywhere! He also confirms his shout-out to The Monster Squad, which makes me feel like a total nerd for even picking up on it the first time. Yay!

Also included are additional commercials created specifically for the film but cut from the final running time. They range from awkward to amusing to slightly faux-erotic (and even contain a reference to Motel Hell). You'll love the "safe sex" commercial. That AIDs gag amazed me.

The next feature shows a side-by-side comparison showing what the original footage looked like versus the final version, after copying one VHS to the next three times. It's neat strictly on a technical level and is quite brief. Generally some video labels, like Criterion, will do the exact opposite when showing just how well they were able to remaster a film. Not here!

Moving right along are an amusing collection of bloopers, line flubs, and alternate dialogue. (That fucking vampire in the crowd kills it every time.)

Finishing things off are "Rewinding the Fast Forward," which shows in their entirety the sequences fast-forwarded during the film; something called "Meadowlands Showcase," which, frankly, defies description; and some trailers.

DVDs are available directly from the distributor, Alternative Cinema, and I honestly can't recommend it enough. I have a very small collection of films I make sure to watch every Halloween week. Going forward, WNUF Halloween Special will be part of that list.



For decades, obscure film collectors and lovers of esoteric cinema have sought it... 
Finally, the search is over… Originally broadcast live on October 31, 1987, the "WNUF Halloween Special" is a stunning expose of terrifying supernatural activity that unfolded at the infamous Webber House, the site of ghastly murders. Local television personality Frank Stewart leads a group of paranormal investigators including Catholic exorcist, Father Joseph Matheson and the prolific husband-and-wife team Louis and Claire Berger. Together, the experts explore the darkest corners of the supposedly haunted Webber House, trying to prove the existence of the demonic entities within. Did they find the horrific truth or simply put superstitious rumors to rest?
SPECIFICATIONS: 82 mins. (171 mins. TRT) / Horror / Color / Not Rated / 4x3 / Region 0 / English / Stereo 
SPECIAL FEATURES:
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Chris LaMartina
  • WNUF Commercials
  • Bloopers and outtakes
  • “Rewinding the FF”
  • Trailers
  • Meadowlands Showcase Halloween Show
  • Aging the Video

 

Oct 28, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: EPIC PRANK


A flying grim reaper wreaks havoc on park-goers. Laughs ensue. 

#HALLOWEEN: SHITTY FLICKS: ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis. 

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up. 

 

Once upon a time, a homeless man dressed like a hippie clown said, “I’ll make movies, I guess.” He then made House of 1,000 Corpses, which was terrible; it featured people with a lot of hair doing a lot of screaming and included a fetishistic obsession with his wife’s butt. Then he made a sequel entitled The Devil’s Rejects, which was less bad; it featured a lot of hair, a lot of screaming, and maintained the fetishistic obsession with his wife’s butt.

Then, one day, this happened:


The Weinsteins: Rob Zombie, this is the Weinsteins. Would you like to make Halloween 9?

Rob Zombie: No way, that’s stupid. I’d rather remake the original.

The Weinsteins: But didn’t you famously say that remakes were the worst thing any filmmaker could do and why would anyone ever remake a movie that was already perfect?

Rob Zombie: Yeah, but, I’m an artist.

The Weinsteins: That’s true.

Rob Zombie: Can I make all the characters white trash and so annoying that you have no one to root for?

The Weinsteins: We’ve never actually seen the first film, but that all sounds fine with us. We’re artists.

Rob Zombie: I want to write my own script for it, too. I can spell and stuff – I know ALL my letters. I’m an artist.

The Weinsteins: We’ll leave you to it, as we’re courting Michael Berrymen to star in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn Something


The Halloween universe took place in a rather picturesque town called Haddonfield, Illinois, based on Haddonfield, NJ. (Yes, it's a real place.)

Wisely, Rob Zombie has chosen to maintain this setting, as you can see from the below excerpt from the actual script he wrote:


And so we're off to a good...oh...oh, dear.

Cheap shots aside (which I do not plan on ceasing), John Carpenter's original film is a subtle exercise is slow-burn suspense and terror. It is low on violence, even lower on blood, and features a cast of legitimately likable and sympathetic characters.

Rob Zombie's film contains none of those attributes. It is a loud, flashy, ugly, unapologetic rock concert filled with unnecessary gore, not just unlikable but downright hateable characters, and an unnecessary retconning of Michael Myers' past. It is dumb. It is a film that endeavors to showcase psychological disorders, but is written by a man who knows absolutely nothing about them. This same man knows even less about screenwriting with an attempt for originality. In Rob Zombie's Halloween, cops asks, "Whatta we got?" Receptionists say, "Go in, he's expecting you." Bullies make fun of mothers. Halloween 2007 exists because Rob Zombie watched a few movies on television and said, "I can probably pull this off."

He didn't.


Michael Myers is no longer a mysteriously evil little boy from a middle-to-upper class suburban Illinois household. Because Rob Zombie wanted to explore the "why" of Michael's evil. So, true to his word, the film opens and little Michael Myers is already out of his mind, and arguably evil.

Is there an explanation for it?

No, there is not. But he does still live in Illinois (in the white trash section). This is so his entire family can all unrealistically scream at each other and make absurd sexual threats. Just like real life!

Then Michael goes to school, where bathroom bullies accost him and make absurd sexual threats about his mother and sister.


His mother, Deborah, who is a stripper at the Rabbit in Red Lounge (hey, someone rented the first movie at least once!) is having a meeting with the school principal and Dr. Loomis, a child psychologist. After the principal lets the cat out of the bag and tells Mrs. Myers her son is fucking nuts (by letting the cat out of his drawer [in a bag], get it?), she kinda believes him but not really.

Then Michael kills the bully kid from the Geico commercial, all the while the audience drowns in this overwhelming amount of explanation that Rob Zombie said he was going to provide for Micheal's back story.

Later, at Michael's house, everyone continues to be really mean. Even though his mother is fresh from a meeting in which she was shown the dead cat Michael had in his locker and the dozens of photos of animals he's killed, she shrugs it all off and lets Michael go trick-or-treating, anyway. She can't take him, though, because she's gotta work. And since the rest of his family hates him, looks like he's shit out of luck and shit out of trick-or-treating.

It then hilariously cuts to Michael sitting outside on a curb, looking immensely sad, as "Love Hurts" plays. I must say I am a little surprised, as I didn't know we were suddenly in Kentucky Fried Movie. Any doubt of what movie you're in is then suddenly washed away because look, there's the ass of the director's wife.

Upstairs, Michael's sister is in the seedy throes of pre-sex with her even seedier looking boyfriend. He takes out the iconic Shape mask and asks her if he can wear it while they bump uglies. She says no, much to my chagrin, as I would like this boy's face to go away forever.

And downstairs, Michael looks sad, eats some candy, and then thinks, "Oh, right, this is about when I go fucking nuts for no reason."

This is exhausting, isn't it?

Michael proceeds to kill everyone and then shove a baseball bat up his dead sister's ass, because Rob Zombie once watched the original Halloween and said, "This is fucking boring where's all the faggot references?"


The only one Michael doesn't kill is his infant sister, whom he calls Boo. (Get it? Boo? Halloween? Can you stand the genius?)

Credit where credit is due: the sequence where Mrs. Myers comes home to her massacred family, which is complemented with the numerous news reports being transmitted at the site, is very well done and threatens to paint Rob Zombie as an actual filmmaker. With every character on screen freeze-framing so the only things moving are the lights from the police cars and Michael himself, it's actually a dare I say it well-executed sequence.

Likewise, the sequences of young Michael at Smith's Grove Sanitarium don't hurt, and even threaten to be interesting, but unfortunately not enough time is spent here. Everyone's acting is downplayed and actually good (even Rob's normally abhorrent wife) and the film is again, dare I say it interesting. Loomis' audio notes layered over the choppy 8mm footage of Michael under observation works pretty well.

These sequences are the biggest red herring in cinema, as you fool yourself into thinking the film isn't a total junkyard filled with needless backwoods profanities, unrealistic characters, and unintentional humor.

But don't worry, the movie then resumes its usual level of painful mediocrity as we cut fifteen years later. Dr. Loomis peaces out of Michael's care because he's honestly given up. Instead he takes to the touring circuit to plug his book on the Myers case. Luckily he has a bunch of "Michael making mean face" pictures to support his claims that Michael is actually a psychopath!

Fortunately, I am watching the "director's" cut of this film, which means I get twice the rape with none of the enjoyment. What's interesting about the director's cut of the film versus the theatrical is that they are nearly completely different films. Only a filmmaker with a definitive vision is capable of shooting an entire film, then shrugging and shooting a bunch of other shit to see what he can do with it.

I hear that's how John Huston did it.

So, after these two redneck hospital orderlies shove a female patient into Michael's room so they can rape her in front of him and maybe try to get him to rape her as well (?), they are VERY surprised when Michael, who is ten feet tall and has hundreds of different masks hanging all over his cell and who is clearly out of his fucking mind, suddenly springs into action and commits violence upon them.


After a quick cameo from Clint Howard (not his first appearance within the halls of Shitty Flicks), we then see the scene that propelled Zombie to make this film the absolute unquenchable desire to answer the so-far unanswered question in the pantheon of unanswered questions which propelled Zombie towards his ultimate goal of fleshing out the origins of Michael Myers: we finally FINALLY find out how he got his jumpsuit.

He killed a guy taking a shit (who was wearing a jumpsuit).

From this point to the end, the film becomes a beat-for-beat remake of the original Carpenter film, which means it's the same, only far less good. We can no longer even find distraction in all the awful "new" stuff. All we can do is sit and watch and be reminded of when this was done previously, and much, much better. Even the original film's soundtrack is utilized not re-orchestrated, mind you, but literally re-appropriated.

We meet Laurie Strode, perhaps the most famous heroine in all of horror cinema. Big shoes to fill even more than Dr. Loomis but Rob Zombie felt that Scout Taylor Compton was up to the task.

Let's just get this out of the way now: she just might very well be the worst and most irritating actress in all of everything. Try to contain your fury every moment she is on screen. Bet you can't it's really, really hard.

Her friends don't fare much better. Zombie's depiction of Lynda makes her worse than Hitler, and poor Halloween-series alumni Danielle Harris is saddled with a very obnoxious version of Annie. These girls curse like Tarantino, call each other "bitches," and do nothing to be individuals. They all talk the same, act the same, and annoy the same. They are not in the least bit likeable.


Followed by:


We revisit the requisite Halloween beats: Sheriff Brackett makes his appearance, Judith Myers' tombstone is stolen, Loomis deals with a bunch of Smith's Grove bureaucrats.

Then:

Laurie babysits Tommy Doyle, educates him on the boogeyman, and looks bored with her life.

Dr. Loomis attempts to convince Sheriff Brackett that evil has come to his town.

Annie brings Lindsey Wallace over to the Doyle house.

Annie dumps Lindsey on her good friend, Laurie.

Annie tells Laurie she's set her up with Ben Tramer.

Paul picks Annie up.

Dear god, we've seen this movie already. WE SAW IT THIRTY YEARS AGO.

Then:


Followed by:


"It's so fucking warm!" Paul adds.

I know that Zombie set out to create a thrill-ride filled with unimaginable terror, but instead all that happened was my boner.

Ah, and here we are: the third-act twist/non-twist, which is the big reveal that Laurie Strode is Michael Myers' sister. Once asked in an interview if he had lifted this from the finale of the original Halloween 2, he replied, "Honestly, no, I had completely forgotten about that." Funny, being that the famously used song "Mr. Sandman," which appears in Halloween 2, also appears here. Must be some kind of insane coincidence!

But hey, who am I to call Rob Zombie a liar? It's not like he ever goes back on his word. (Like that time he said he'd never make a Halloween 2.)

Halloween takes way too long to end, as Laurie is chased through two houses, a pool, and a police car (during which Dr. Loomis very amusingly shouts, "Michael, what the hell!").

The film ends as it began: limply, and with little care or talent.

So much of this film feels like a passionless Google project. I liken it to the Republicans Googling random GOP governors to see who would make a good Vice-President during the last election and finding Sarah Palin. Even the fucking font chosen for the open and closing credit reeks of "Jeeves, what's that font they used for Halloween?" "Copperplate Gothic!" "Thanks, Jeeves." (It's not.)

And as these closing credits begin rolling (and I see "Based on a Film by John Carpenter and Debra Hill," as opposed to "Based on the Film," as if the connection between the two films were tenuous at best), I must admit I am terrified. Truly. Not because of anything the film presented, and not even by the idea that this film exists and is now attached to the legacy of the original Halloween forever.

No, what’s terrifying is…people actually like this thing.

But hey, we’re all open to our own opinions, right? That's what makes us human, after all our own interests, passions, and ideas.

Having said that, if you want to slather yourself in cinematic excrement, be my...guess?

Where indeed.

Oct 25, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: RECOMMENDED VIEWING: THE BLACK CAT


Edgar Allan Poe’s nickname should be Mr. Halloween. An infamous author who made a living writing some of the most beautiful but intimidating horrific poems and short stories perhaps in history has become intimately associated with that last day of October. The content of his prose certainly lends itself to the day we’re here celebrating, but – like so many other things – we don’t really know why. Perhaps his infamous short story, “The Black Cat,” was all he needed to become permanently married to Halloween. His infamous visage has even become adopted by the Halloween decoration world; you’ll find him on greeting cards and t-shirts with terrible super-imposed costumes.

Masters of Horror,” a good-intentioned experiment created by not-that-good-a-filmmaker Mick Garris, was a two-season anthology show produced by Showtime. Though horror fans were immensely excited at this idea behind giving our most infamous horror directors one hour to go as balls to the wall as they wanted, sadly the show resulted with more bad episodes than good ones. “The Black Cat” was brought to us by the three-man team who also gave us Re-Animator; written by Dennis Paoli, directed by Stuart Gordon, and with Jeffrey Combs having the hardest gig of them all – bringing to life one of the most influential yet still mysterious authors of all time – “The Black Cat is probably the best episode of “Masters of Horror.” It is a beautifully directed piece of Goth that honors the original story and brings to visual life the more gruesome aspects of the story you may not have realized were present. (A recent re-reading of some Poe stuff, this time with more mature eyes, resulted in a discovery of his ability for both surprisingly graphic depictions of violence as well as his knack for black comedy.)


For those unfamiliar with the original incarnation of “The Black Cat,” it is about a man confined by authorities for something we don’t yet know, and he goes on to explain the circumstances that have led to his current condemnation. He explains that he and his wife were avid animal lovers and would periodically bring home any creature upon which they stumbled while out and about. The man admits to his captors that, over time, he began to suffer from alcoholism. One night, while in a drunken stupor, he purposely injures one of his pets – a black cat named Pluto. The man then kills the cat by hanging it from a tree.

And then the man’s house burns down, and he and his wife barely escape. Upon returning to the ruins, the man sees a very haunting indication that Pluto is still alive. Or is he?

The man in “The Black Cat” shares more than one similarity with Poe, so it was a rather inspired move to take the real Poe (upon whom he likely based his character) and implant him in his own story, taking over for “the man” and giving him a name. With this metaphysical approach, our filmmakers have fun with the merging of these two worlds, and it is very clever to see Poe stumbling through the nightmarish world he has created – both artistically and literally.

As for the performances, well, the recent big-budget film The Raven should be embarrassed that it exists in the same posthumous Poe world as Jeffrey Combs. One of the many horror actors relegated to trashy direct-to-video nonsense, Combs is staggeringly good in his performance as Poe. There is a reason that, following the airing of this episode, our three-man team began touring with an independent show entitled Nevermore: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (soon to become a feature film). Combs has received some of the highest accolades of his career with his one-man show/performance as the haunted writer. And it all began with “The Black Cat,” essentially a one-off television episode that soon blossomed into a one-night only live show event, which then matriculated into a cross-country tour. Here he plays Poe as a man we all assumed him to be: a talented writer with both a God complex and no confidence whatsoever; a man addicted to the bottle and madly in love with his wife; a man haunted by his own demons, which led him to his still unexplained death. Fake honker of a nose aside, he looks, sounds, and nails the part.


I love to watch this every October, as for me it nails what I think of when I think "Halloween." For me, in a sad kind of way, the most quintessential Halloween period is long behind us. Likely most realized by Washington Irving in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the idea of Halloween seemed most appreciated and pure during the time when people had stables next to their houses, not garages, and when towns had only a hundred citizens - all of them huddled around bonfires as the children played in their simple costumes that honored mythical creatures, not television personalities; when street lights were candles, and people kept warm with fireplaces; when belief systems were still so rudimentary that actual evil seemed like a real possibility, and therefore made the importance of the holiday's origins that much more awing.

There’s not much more I can say about “The Black Cat” other than it deserves to be celebrated just like any other 90-minute horror classic. Perhaps lost in the underwhelming haze that was “Masters of Horror,” “The Black Cat” is somber and gruesome and darkly funny; the real Poe would have been more than satisfied.

Oct 23, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: HALLOWE'EN IN A SUBURB

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
   And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
   And the harpies of upper air,
   That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
   Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
   Where the rivers of madness stream
   Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves through the rows of sheaves
   In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
   And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
   For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
   That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
   Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
   And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
   That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
   Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
   To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
   The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
   Shall some day be with the rest,
   And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
   And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
   Of horror and death are penned,
   For the hounds of Time to rend.

Oct 17, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: YOUR FINAL SACRIFICE

"When Michael Myers was six years old, he stabbed his sister to death. He was locked up for years in Smith's Grove Sanitarium, but he escaped. Soon after, Halloween became another word for mayhem... If there's one thing I know, you can't control evil. You can lock it up, burn it and bury it, and pray that it dies, but it never will. It just... rests awhile. You can lock your doors, and say your prayers, but the evil is out there... waiting. And maybe, just maybe... it's closer than you think."


Oct 14, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: MASQUERADE


#HALLOWEEN: TRICK OR TREAT

Don’t bother trying to find it. You won’t find anything about the name of the town or what happened here. This manuscript will be found long after the events that transpired in this place, but I hope against everything else that you’re someone in a position of power. I pray to God Himself that you can prevent this from ever happening again, but I don’t want to give you too much credit. Like me, you are only human, after all. They are not. They’ve been around for a very, very long time. 
Fat chance, really. You probably don’t want that responsibility, and even if you did take it upon your shoulders to track them down, you can’t single-handedly stop the children. Their manipulators are not “on the grid.” Whoever engineered this is in control of the world on a very disturbing level.

This is what I want you to do. Read this, if they’re still legible, and take what you will from them. Don’t go on a wild goose chase, and realize that when you find this book that it will not be in the place where I left it. They’ll move it somewhere else, to deceive you. I’ve left my mark on a tree there. Only then, when you see my name, will you know, “this is the place.” You may have even heard of it in the history books, but be assured, any rumors on Wikipedia or Google pages that you pull up will be guess-work at best. None of them are even close to the truth. When you find the place, there may already be another town just like it. That’s what I’m trying to stop. If we’re not successful, then just realize, above all things, that evil exists. I’m not talking about bad people, or tragic accidents. I’m talking about real, intelligent, ancient evil. It is calculated, and it is always one step ahead of you. Should you decide to take my place and become the paragon to prevent the corruption of the hearts and minds of children, I thank you in advance.

I told you that I’m human. I lied. I used to be, before All Hallow’s Eve on that fateful night. I’ve been alive since then, far longer than any human being, and the reason is because I love children. I’ve always loved them in their purity and their innocence. That’s why I was taken in by their ruse. That’s why I’ve finally decided to put all this down, centuries later. I won’t be here much longer, and someone has to take up the burden.

I’ve waited… until I saw them return. They’ll be back this year. They’re planning the same thing again, and I can’t stop them. Again, I can’t expect that much from you, but I’m only giving you all this so you’ll believe me. I have to be believable. If you think I’m crazy, you’ll ignore this, and more people will disappear. It’s time to tell you what happened. I’m rambling.

Back then, All Hallow’s Eve was the time for evil’s ascension. You’ve all forgotten. If you left your house on that night in the old country, you were a devil worshipper. “Halloween” was not the term we used. We fled to the shores of this country because we were persecuted for our lifestyle choices. We worshipped nature, the changing of the seasons, the solstice of spring, autumn, winter, and summer. In the purest sense of the word, we were Druids. Our names and accents were English, but we were servants of the earth.

We were some of the first to celebrate it as a holiday. The natives here were puzzled by our behavior, but also frightened by it, and so they left us alone. They misunderstood. We were not the ones to be afraid of. At the time, I was relieved. They’d attacked us in our settlements, time and time again, but as it drew closer to the end of October, they stayed away. Maybe in their own noble bonds with the earth and soil, they knew something terrible was on the horizon.

They were right. John Hunter’s little boy wanted to be a native, with a bow and arrow and a real headdress. Little Mary Taylor made a dress that was crafted after the local schoolhouse teacher’s prettiest outfit. She idolized her educator, of course. They all had their get-ups; they were the first trick-or-treaters in what was to become the United States of America, one hundred and fifty years later. We sent them out to frollick about the settlement, collecting apples and tarts and other sweet things in to their burlap goody bags. There were no Snickers or Milky Ways, and yet, the magic of this “holiday” held no less sway over them than it does the youth of our current time. They dress up as the Joker, the Power Rangers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These children were their predecessors.

I sent my daughter with Mary and John Hunter, Jr. Despite our mistrust and wariness of the Anglican church and the monarchs that presided over it, my little girl was dressed as the Queen of England. I refused to crush her fantasy world, and so I simply indulged her. We heard promises to return after sundown, to say yes ma’am and no sir, and not to linger too long if they were invited inside the households of our community.

We didn’t realize that the house on the edge of the settlement existed until we saw the children go inside. There were no lanterns or sources of light in the windows, no fire or harvest dolls on the outside of the dwelling. As we sat in the middle of the town hall, imbibing in the pleasures of distilled moonshine amongst our brethren, we watched our young ones gravitate across the middle of our town, to the foreboding household that had seemingly been constructed overnight. When we gazed upon it, it seemed as though the place were “shimmering.” It pained my vision to look upon the building, as if my senses were being forced and propelled in another direction. Such a thing is difficult to put in to words, but I seemed to be the only one who realized that our kids were all heading to the same place. When I questioned John Hunter as if something were odd about their actions, he stared at me as if I were insane.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “There’s no house there. They’re going to play by the stockades.”

The sun had set by that point, but as I said before, none of them were concerned. The natives hadn’t shown up for weeks. I decided to walk to the phantom dwelling that only I and the children could see, to peer inside and see who these new settlers were, and why it called to the youths as if it were a black hole in a sea of stars.

I tried to stand outside, to look through the window, but when I saw what was happening, it was too late. I breached the doorway with my buck-knife drawn, but there was nothing about the things inside that I could harm with a weapon.

There’s something deep inside of us, something embedded within the human spirit, that’s perfectly aware when we encounter something truly terrible. Fear, horror, evil, revulsion…. it all hits you in a spastic wave, like a fierce exploding bullet that shatters the innermost parts of your soul with a relentless and powerful fury. I saw it in that moment, standing in that darkened doorway.
 
They weren’t people.

They were halfway there, lingering over the unconscious bodies of my daughter and her peers in their hooded black robes of half-existence. There was one, in particular, who made me feel as though my eyes would pop like ripened cherries when I stared at it. It was the leader, the source of that tug, that pull... and it was slowly fading, disappearing like a gaseous black cloud of death, through my little girl’s nostrils and mouth. She was gasping for air, as if every breath after the one that preceded it were filled with acid... as if she were hungry for real, fresh air in her small lungs. With every breath, the figure faded deeper in to her, along with the rest of them.

I wish I could say that I was a hero, and that I hacked them all to bits; I wish I could say that I saved the day and made Halloween a night when the worst thing that children have to worry about is poisoned candy. It didn’t happen. There was one of them left, floating toward me on elongated, blackened tendrils of shimmering nothingness. By all real means of my imagination, it shouldn’t have BEEN there, but it was, and soon, it was going inside of me. The last thing I saw were their little feet, scurrying out of the phantom-house and in to the town. I FELT that something terrible was about to happen. I had no idea. Everything went black, and then, I was outside of myself. I was conscious, but observing my feet, my hands, doing things beyond my own scope of physical control.

They led me and our children in to our meeting hall, where, of course, the kids were embraced by the open, loving arms of their parents. I witnessed the betrayal, the brutal moments in which the truth instilled by the love for family and offspring would transform in to a cause for the destruction of our village.

They absorbed them. There’s no better adjective for what happened. One moment, they were there, and seconds later, they were nothing but dark essence, filtering in through the eyes and noses and mouths of their devil-children. It was over in minutes. A night that should have been a celebration of nature, of the seasons, had turned in to the end of everything that we knew and loved here in our new land.

I started to fight it. The kids knew. The moment I began to resist, to try and reclaim my limbs and mind from the corrupting influence within, their heads snapped back from their feast of souls to survey me in my struggle. My daughter’s eyes were sunken, black pools of the abyss, devoid of any emotion, any semblance of the bright-eyed stare that she once held for me in all her love and adoration for father. I miss that the most, really. The way she’d run to me when I came in from the fields every evening as the sun went down. I lived for that. What reason do I have to live now, other than to find her and stop them? I’m incapable. That falls on you, my friend.

They took the part of my daughter that counts, the part that I loved and cherished, and turned her into a servant. You ask me why I’m still alive, and again, it’s because I love her, so very, very much. Her body is a hollow shell, filled with the malice and blackness of evils beyond our world.

The black-robed things have grown as centuries have passed. They are from some place that is not of this universe, but their urgency, their hunger, to devour and destroy, is insatiable. It’s an exponential, amplifying contagion on mankind, and All Hallow’s Eve is their pinnacle, their Christmas. I’ve done my best to warn you throughout history, to leave my mark in places where their desolation has left nothing but dust on the wind and empty houses. A deserted football field in a Texas ghost town. A card room in the back of a night club in Chicago, right under the nose of civilization. Roanoke Island, North Carolina, before John Rolfe found it in the aftermath.
 
The thing that I expelled through sheer force of will alone has left me with an unusually long and empty life, devoid of anything but my desire for revenge. I have failed. I’m pleading with you. October 31st is not long away. My little girl, or what’s left of her, is going to lead them to the same place. It’s been re-founded, except now, it hums with sport utility vehicles and cell phones. I don’t want this to happen to your child.

Go to Roanoke, and stop them from repeating the ritual. Those bodies they inhabit now are frail, on their way out. It’s been almost five hundred years. They’ll need new ones on this Halloween. Look for a building that appears as though it shouldn’t be there. It will be across from that very tree where I signed my name, where I made my mark. I changed my title, named myself after the tribe of natives who knew it was coming…. who, perhaps, tried to warn us, but for some reason, we failed to heed or recognize their warnings. They were more closely attuned to the earth than us, and yet, they were still wiped out, eventually.
 
Trick or treat?

Go now. You don’t have much time.

- Croatoan

Story source.

Oct 13, 2013

REVIEW: JUG FACE


Jug Face is a tough film to breakdown and criticize. It is extremely well-made with what no one would refuse as an original story. It is an uncomfortable experience at times, and injected with the kinds of seediness you'd expect in a film featuring incest, filthy backwoods simpletons, roadkill for dinner, and Larry Fessenden. 

In Jug Face, a young girl named Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) looks her destiny literally right in the eyes and refuses it. This decision sets off a chain of events that will rattle her small backwoods community and leave behind a wake of blood. As simple a summation as I can make without sending readers less willing to sit through an uncompromising experience like Jug Face running for the hills. To offer up additional story details (as I'll do in a moment) is to risk turning off those looking for a more straightforward story about forest voodoo, but, you should know exactly what you're getting into.

Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle has crafted an interesting story here. It's layered enough to bring legitimacy to even the most absurd development, but purposely vague enough that the events of the present aren't overshadowed by the mythology of the past. And from a stylistic standpoint alone, Jug Face is very good. Its unique story is backed up by a great cast, including Larry Fessenden and Sean Young as Ada's parents, and Sean Bridgers ("Justified") as the simple-minded shaman of sorts. 


Deep southern territory is always an interesting place in which to set a story. It is in these areas where ties to religion remain the strongest and the most unshaken. At first its people were only characterized by their religion, but recently, under the political microscope, their religion has come to define them. And it's made them an easy target for mockery. Their beliefs mixed with their unfortunate histories of offensive ideologies (and add a dash of that long southern drawl) can sometimes make them seem simple, foreign, and even intimidating. So, when you've got a film in which a small group of inbreeding families live deep, deep in the southern woods and who offer human sacrifices to a magical pit in exchange for said pit's healing powers, and when the person being sacrificed is chosen by a ceramic jug made by a simple-minded man with ties to a mysterious force, well, you might just respond with, "Yeah, and? This is the south, after all. Who knows what goes on there?"

None of that is really supposed to read as offensive; instead it's supposed to shine a light on the extreme chasm between the northern and southern sensibilities that have been in place since basically the formation of the United States. The north thinks the south are simple and crazy; the south thinks the north are godlesss baby killers. This is not something with which I necessarily agree, but a person can only resist such broad beliefs and stereotypes before some of them begin to take root. (I bet I'm one of the few with the balls willing to admit that.) 


The events of Jug Face are far-fetched, ridiculous, and some might argue stupid. What's not far-fetched, ridiculous, or stupid, is that I could very easily read in tomorrow's paper that a small patch of isolated people living in the woods passionately believed in the power of a magical pit, human sacrifice, and anthropomorphic jugs. I'm not making fun. I'm saying this because this is where Jug Face is at its most affecting and powerful. When it comes to religion, people will believe anything. They will believe in the resurrected dead, angels, demons, magic, miracles, reincarnation, and anything else, so long as their parents before them believed it and bestowed it at a young enough age. 

Jug Face is creepy, seedy, disturbing, startling, and a little fucked up.

And I highly recommend it.

#HALLOWEEN: MOUNDSHROUD

“Miraculously, smoke curled out of his own mouth, his nose, his ears, his eyes, as if his soul had been extinguished within his lungs at the very moment the sweet pumpkin gave up its incensed ghost.”

Oct 11, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: CRAPPYPASTA: THE ACCIDENT

The one was a bunch of kids that always dressed up like it was Halloween and there parents didn’t like them so they told the bud driver to chain them up and take them to a quarry and run the bus of the cliff so the bus driver turnened into the quarry and the little vampire kid got out of his chains and killed the buss driver and drove the buss right off the cliff the all died and 8 years later on Halloween 4 kids investigated the place and the kids came out of the quarry and ate all the kids butt one
Um...[sic].


God love you, Crappypasta.

Oct 9, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: PUMPKINFACE RUM #CONTEST


Just look at that bottle, filled with smooth aged rum, and tell me you don't want it.

Of course you do. It's booze in a glass jack-o'-lantern, people. Who doesn't want that? Or ten of them?

Well, here's your chance to win one for yourself. The End of Summer and PumpkinFace Rum are partnering for this very fun and sinfully easy contest. But first, appreciate the distillery who has bestowed upon us all our new yearly tradition.

The Story


The pumpkin is a symbol of celebration to people around the world. The origin of the pumpkin can be traced to North American seeds dating back to 7000 BC. The word pumpkin comes from the word "pepon", which is Greek for "large melon" and later changed by American colonists to "pumpkin". Colonists would often slice off the pumpkin top, remove the seeds, and fill it with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They cooked the pumpkin in hot ashes until blackened then enjoyed its contents. Pumpkin Face Rum honors the spirit of this tradition by filling the bottle with the finest ultra premium rum in the world. 

Continue the tradition and celebrate the pumpkin!

The Rum

Pumpkin Face White - Beautiful, delicious, and naturally smooth. 
Pumpkin Face Reserve - A blend of decades old hand selected aged Dominican rums.  
Pumpkin Face 23 - Made in 1980, aged 23 years in Oak barrels, and rested for over another decade in Dominican Republic, this rum shows extraordinary elegance with complexity.

So how do you win one?

There are several ways, and they're all easy. Pick one and you're entered. Pick them all and increase your chances.
  1. Facebook users: "Like" the official PumpkinFace Rum page and share this contest page on your own wall.  
  2. Twitter users: Follow the official PumpkinFace Rum twitter feed and tweet the following message to @PumpkinFaceRum: "I want #PumpkinFaceRum!"  
  3. Instagram users: Upload a picture of a pumpkin or jack-o'-lantern and tag your photo with #PumpkinFaceRum.
Contest is open to folks within the continental United States only; those who enter must be 21 or older. Those under 21 will be immediately disqualified (and believe me, we will be checking). 

Contest ends 11:59 p.m. on October 16. Winners will be contacted directly via their Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. 

#HALLOWEEN: LEVITY



The greatest headline...ever.

Oct 8, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: THE BOY WITH NO SHADOW: AN INTERVIEW WITH LONESOME WYATT


Lonesome Wyatt and The Holy Spooks are no stranger to The End of Summer. Having featured this delightfully dark musical act three times before, finding a new way to describe it/him/them is a fool’s errand. Fact is, I could very well use the whole “so and so meets the guy from this thing” and dozens of other lazy comparisons ad nauseum, but all I really need to say is this: Listen for yourself, because if you're not, I feel sorry for you. Though he made a name for himself with Those Poor Bastards, an act that infuses country and Americana with goth and darkness, it is as Lonesome Wyatt and The Holy Spooks where something clicked with me in a way that it feels legitimately special. Add a scratchy layer of vinyl grain and Wyatt’s music could easily sound as if it were plucked right out of the 1970s, where society seemed suddenly enamored with death, evil, and the very real possibility of the devil walking amongst us.

While on a break from touring, Wyatt was kind enough to answer a few questions about his newest release – “Halloween is Here” – his history with/as The Spooks, and his life as a seeker/celebrator of the morbid.



TEOS: I’ve listened to enough of your music (and read your first Edgar Switchblade misadventure) to recognize a fellow dark-side dwelling miscreant when I see one. What draws you to this odder road less traveled?

I suppose it all goes back to having a very secluded childhood with all those spooky cornfields rustling all the time. Too much solitude can make a fella a little strange.

TEOS: Much of your music is really story-driven – something Johnny Cash was always known forso I hear a lot of his approach, including the dark humor, in your work. I also hear occasional glimpses of Timber Timbre and Tom Waits. 

Who else would you cite as an inspiration in your musical life? Was there a particular singer or songwriter, author, or perhaps filmmaker you may have discovered at a young age that made you realize this was what you wanted to do?

Growing up, I would say Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and Gremlins were mostly to blame. I also remember getting a record called "Trick or Treat" by Oscar Brand from the library and that made a big impression on me. The songs were pretty goofy, but for some reason they really sent my tiny brain spinning.

Later on, Johnny Cash's "American Recordings," and Nick Cave's "Murder Ballads" showed me the mighty power of music.


TEOS: I can certainly appreciate your appreciation for the dark side and the supernatural. I've always been very intrigued by the paranormal. Tell me: how much of it do you believe? Do you believe in the existence of ghosts – in things beyond our understanding?


Well, there are sounds beyond our range of hearing and sights beyond our range of seeing, so who knows what we're missing? Maybe we're surrounded by horrible monsters and dead people. I sure hope so. I believe anything is possible and impossible.

TEOS: You are constantly trying new things, yet wanting to remain in this dark playground where your imagination is at its most potent. At this point in your career, are you consistently trying to reach new fans, or satisfying the ones you’ve already earned?


I try not to think too much about reaching new fans or how the project will be received or any of that kind of stuff. Of course I hope some people will enjoy it, but it's beyond my control. It just cripples you and fills you with anxiety if you worry about that. I try to keep things pure and create whatever idea I become excited about at the time. Hopefully it connects with someone.

TEOS: Moving onto "Halloween is Here"... I admit, and I say this more as a fan and less as a critic, I was a little disappointed the first time I listened to the new album.  I was anticipating something beautiful, dark, and more musically driven like “Ghost Ballads” – one of the new tracks, “Such a Fright,” for instance, is along the lines of what I was expecting – but it was probably halfway through my second listen that I “got” it – and loved it – and I realized you had a different goal: Instead of just doing a flat-out musical record, create this kind of old-school Halloween party ambience with flamboyant lyrics and quirky descriptions. And you really do nail that idea, right down to the perfectly vintage-looking album artwork. What other templates were you following when you were putting together this album? Who were you honoring, if anyone in particular?

That's always the problem when listening to a new album by someone whose last album you enjoyed. Your brain gets thrown in a loop when it's different than you expected. I just didn't think having this album really serious and quiet would make any sense. I see Halloween as more of a party for horrible things than a somber or sad experience. The whole thing is a tribute to all those obscure Halloween albums from the 50's-80's. No one makes this kind of stuff anymore, so I thought it was important to try to carry on the tradition. Hopefully it's not too insulting to those mysterious gods of the past.


TEOS: Your previous album as Lonesome Wyatt and The Holy Spooks, “Ghost Ballads,” is likely your most story-driven yet. The first track, “The Golden Rule,” doesn’t really get lost in poetic hyperbole – it’s a rather straightforward ghost story set to some pretty beautifully dark music. Listening to "Halloween is Here," however, it's evident you really didn't take this same approach.

Not really. This album is very different from Ghost Ballads. I think the only similar song would be "Such a Fright." Otherwise, it's not really as soft or pretty sounding. I was inspired by old Halloween records and wanted to try to capture that strange energy a lot of them have. There's quite a bit of group singing on this one. It sounds like a gang of deformed monsters. The rest of the album has stories, which were inspired by great albums like "Scary Spooky Stories."  It's really for all ages of creeps.

It was also important to me to make it sound and look handcrafted and not mass-produced. We printed all of the record and CD jackets on vintage style chipboard paper and I hand numbered them. The illustration by Strange Fortune Design Co. is just perfect and creepily vintage. I really hate slick, glossy things.


TEOS: Compared to previous Lonesome Wyatt releases, like “Heartsick,” for example, “Halloween is Here” has a sillier tone – not just in the content, but in the several songs where your vocals are accompanied by that sea of monstrous sounding voices you mentioned earlier. And on top of that, you add stories about werewolves suffering from depression, or kleptomaniac ghosts (from... Indiana). While the new album still has that patented Lonesome Wyatt darkness, it feels like you said, “Let’s just have some fun.” Was this a conscious choice? And if so, how early on in the realization did you know you just wanted to have a blast?

I just don't like doing the same album over and over. Ghost Ballads pretty much covered the gloomy horror, so I thought this one should me more rowdy and unhinged. It was my goal to create something that sounded like a bunch of crazy creatures having a celebration. I like to think of it as mentally ill rather than fun. Fun has some bad connotations.

TEOS: Probably my favorite aspect to the album is this kind of purposely implied feel that it’s something children would listen to at a party, but then at the same time some of the stories are pretty gruesome – especially “The Giant Fist.” So in a sense it sort of captures our fond recollections of Halloween (which more often than not stem back to our youth) and marries it to this kind of disturbing but quirky storyscape. It’s tough to explain but I think it makes the album that much more special – sort of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I'm glad you noticed that, pal. This is just the way I see Halloween. I think it should be both exciting and ridiculous, but also surreal and frightening. When you look at old Halloween decorations many of them were unnerving and disturbing, but now everything is smiling and cute. I don't like that at all. We need to return this holiday back to its peculiar roots. It should be full of creepy terror and graveyard thrills.

TEOS: What is it about October 31st that compelled you to construct an entire concept album around it?

I have always loved that odd Autumn feeling that blows through the air around Halloween. Everything is filled with death and wonder.

TEOS: When can we expect to see the first music video based on one of your Halloween songs? And if so, do you know which song you’ll be using?

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll have time for a music video with this one. There are just too many projects going on. It's a real shame. I think I have to slow down on all this stuff at some point.

TEOS: What does a typical Halloween night look for Lonesome Wyatt?

It's not a very pretty sight. I usually just stay at home and watch some horror movies on VHS and listen to Halloween records. As with most things, the idea of Halloween is much better than the stinking reality.



I thank Lonesome Wyatt for taking the time to discuss his new descent into madness, and I’m especially thankful for him having used Halloween as its backdrop. It’s always been my favorite night of the year for a multitude of reasons, but it seems that Halloween seems to be less celebrated and feel less important year after year. It’s starting to feel like those people who care about it belong to this very unpopular club that doesn’t have all that many members. So, my genuine thanks to LW for trying to contribute to it in some way in an effort to keep it going and keep people enthusiastic.


“Halloween is Here” can be purchased on vinyl (no it can't - sold out!), CD, and digital download directly at the official Lonesome Wyatt site, as well as your usual online retailers.

Oct 7, 2013

#HALLOWEEN: SWANSON FIELD

There's this place called Swanson Field. I haven't been up there for a while. Well, more than a while, probably years. I drive past it all the time, but this time for some reason or another, I stopped. I remember back when I was a kid, people always said the field was haunted, though personally I don't believe in ghosts, but it's got enough people spooked to catch my attention...