Summer of Horror: It Follows

 

it follows

Note: Typically my format for Summer of Horror reviews is to lump three together for the sake of efficiency. But I found It Follows noteworthy enough to warrant its own full length review.

Every year has its out-of-left-field surprise horror hit, released in late Winter or Spring, far from the halcyon horror days of September and October. Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next, Oculus, and The Babadook being recent examples. It Follows was the latest film to generate that kind of positive buzz, but sadly I wasn’t able to carve out time to see it theatrically.

Talk to anyone about It Follows, and they’ll likely focus on the premise, which is both highly unique and somewhat convoluted. Put in the simplest possible terms, it’s a sexually transmitted stalker-killer that can shapeshift. And it walks. It only walks, and of course, it follows.

You can get a crash course on the “rules” of this antagonist and the plot setup by reading any other review. But for my own purposes, and those of my readers, I find it more salient to point out another oddity about It Follows: It’s absolutely a modern-day Halloween. As in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).

Seriously.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on July 21st, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: Session 9, Army of Darkness, They Live

Session 9

Session 9

 

You know, I get the sense that the creators of Session 9 found that spooky wheelchair seen in the poster above inside the Danvers Mental Asylum and loved its look so much they made it the central visual motif of the entire film, even though it doesn’t factor into the plot at all.

There’s a habit some documentary filmmakers fall prey to – “falling in love with the access” – wherein the thesis of the documentary ends up taking a backseat to raw information they have at their disposal. A similar thing plagues Session 9, as the real-life Danvers State Mental Hospital – a genuinely creepy and notoriously haunted mental asylum – is where much of the film was shot. They even used trinkets and artifacts left in the abandoned building as some of the film’s props, likely including the aforementioned wheelchair.

As a result, it seems as if the goldmine of a shooting location was meant to compensate for what is, at its center, a rather bland and unsatisfying story. Session 9 is the kind of film that spreads its scares out very, very widely, resulting in an agonizingly slow pace that, while rich with character development, just simply is not all that interesting.

The payoff, which you can tell from frame one is going to involve some kind of a twist (as horror films trading in mental illness ALWAYS do), doesn’t completely justify the protracted buildup. But there are some very nice, atmospheric creepy scenes, and they only made me wish the filmmakers had spent a little less time filming in broad daylight.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on July 2nd, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | 1 Comment -

Summer of Horror 2015

Summer of horror 2015 banner

My hair caught fire when I stepped out into the sunlight this afternoon, so I know another Phoenix Summer has heralded its arrival (even if it doesn’t officially begin until Sunday – bollocks, I say).

Another Summer means, well, many things to many people. But for me ONE of those things, one of the very exciting things, is Summer of Horror. This will be my third year in a row of gritting my teeth, cranking up the A/C, and settling in for some horror movies to slowly ease my way into another Halloween season. As always, the purpose is to catch myself up on some of the more notable and/or historic horror films that one might consider essential viewing for any horror hound, but I’m delighted to say that in the past two iterations of this, nearly all of the true essentials have been dealt with. I’m certainly not claiming to have seen every culturally significant horror movie, but I’m far enough along in the process to allow for more branching out into the realms of the modern and the obscure.

This year’s list will be a totally mixed bag, similar to last year. No themes, no eras, just whatever horror films I’ve felt compelled to get under my belt (and whatever ones I can rope my brothers into viewing with me) – three reviews at a time, as the gods intended.

So if you please, prepare to come along on this journey with me, and to pass judgment upon me for the utterly iconic horror films I, proprietor of I Remember Halloween dot Net, had managed not to see. Fortunately, that shame list is getting shorter and shorter.

By the time it’s all over, we’ll be there. Halloween 2015. It’s gonna be a spooky good time!

Ghosted by Jon on June 19th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Times Scare (NYC) Review

Where: 8th ave., between 42nd & 43rd, New York City

When: Every day except Monday, year-round!

How Much: $27

Only in New York.

The concept of a haunted attraction that operates year-round with regular hours seems like a thing that could only exist in New York City. It’s not the only one in the world, but consider the environment of Times Square in particular. New York is culture and humanity and commerce condensed to an extreme, and Times Square is the central hot spot of it all. There is a literally infinite supply of customers in that area, so if you can afford to carve out a space for yourself, nearly anything has a chance to thrive.

Three years ago I was in the city and happened upon Times Scare one morning. I was alone, and it was far too early for a haunted attraction, so I vowed to return at a later point, and never found the time. As luck would have it, last week I found myself staying in a hotel near Times Square, mere feet from the haunted attraction.

It turns out there’s a bar inside! My party and I entered the historic New York edifice and ascended the short staircase up to the bar, where we were greeted by tombs and skeletal remains.

More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on June 19th, 2015 | Filed Under Haunted Houses, Reviews | No Comments -

Halfoween!

 

Halfoween

I don’t mean to freak anybody out, but we’re now officially halfway to Halloween! Halfway from November 1st, not January 1st, which means by tomorrow we’ll be closer to the next Halloween than we are to the previous one. I probably didn’t need to use that many words to explain a simple concept, but that’s kind of what I do…

And yes, preliminary preparations have already begun, if you can believe it. Namely, the first non-material planning phases – haunted house concepts and layouts, party ideas, budgets, and the always terrifying question of how we’re going to actually pull all this off.

Also, Summer of Horror! Starting next month! The list of horror movies I’ll be reviewing is starting to grow, but as fate would have it there are a number of big, out of town events happening this Summer that will make it more challenging to stick to a regular schedule. I’ll do the best I can.

The heat here in Phoenix is ramping up fast, and by the time it starts going back down, we’ll be knee-deep in Halloween mode. It seems so far away… but I know it’ll still sneak up on me like always. And I’m ready for it.

Ghosted by Jon on May 1st, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Halloween 2014 Moratorium

As I close up the last orange and black crate and slide it into place in the attic, performing an increasingly more physics-defying feat of spatial organization, my eye catches the comparatively meager stack of Christmas decoration boxes. In my mind’s ear I can hear the jingle bells ring as I pick one up and bring it down the ladder. Halloween has left the building. The rest of the holidays are on their way.

In my last post I mentioned the time dilation effect of cramming so much activity into two months. I’m thankful it works out that way, because it makes the equation of time, effort, and money expended versus good times and memories created balance out. I can already sort of pick out the memories of this Halloween that I’ll cherish years hence. The Phase I kickoff party. Putting up the first decorations while Nightmare on Elm Street played. Finally going to Fear Farm. Bad Horror Movie night. GOOD horror movie night(s). Leatherface running through my house revving a real chainsaw. The huge line of trick or treaters waiting to go through my haunted house and subsequently scream their asses off. It just feels like so much more than two months.

A LINE for my own haunted house!

A LINE for my own haunted house!

Focusing on that is perspective I sorely needed. I won’t lie – there was a lot of stress in this Halloween. Despite my truly obsessive level of planning, preparation, and efficiency, technical issues abound. “Best laid plans of mice and men” seemed utterly appropriate. The hour leading up to the big party was among the top 3 most stressful experiences I can remember; I know that it will be the inspiration for many “people are showing up to the party and you haven’t even begun decorating” nightmares in the coming years. There were times – it pains me to admit this – that I considered selling all my Halloween decorations on Craigslist and completely redefining how I “do” Halloween in the future. I was confronted with real questions about a subject I write about on this site constantly – why do I do this?

But now that it’s over, I have taken a fundamental lesson to heart. The key to creating a great, satisfying Halloween for myself isn’t in the tangibles. It’s not about ensuring a flawless execution. It’s about attitude. It’s about getting lost in the pure, visceral joy of it all. I learned a long time ago that the beauty of celebrating Halloween as an adult is, as strange as this sounds, the purity of it all. It’s a holiday with a strong connection to youth but without any bullshit or grown-up obligations to spoil it. It’s only what you make of it.

However it plays out next year, my top priority will be not to lose sight of that fundamental truth. As crazy as it is to ponder, it’ll actually be here again before we know it.

Bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night
I remember Halloween

Ghosted by Jon on November 8th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Trick or Treat

Well friends, it’s been a journey. From preliminary haunted house construction in the blistering July heat, to the pre-season rumblings and first pumpkin beers in August, to the thrill and euphoria of Phase I, the mad dash and scramble of Phase II, the Big Party… it’s all led us here.

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And yet Halloween itself is such a small part of it for me. It’s like the coda. The resolution. It’s the post-credits teaser scene. I often think back on years past when things weren’t that way. When Halloween was October 31st, and that was the one night I looked forward to. I think about how nights of trick or treating evolved into nights of driving around aimlessly, observing the trick or treating. Then that gave way to Halloween house parties, then to bigger house parties. And eventually, well… here we are.

I keep wondering about the next form Halloween will take. The natural conclusion most people would come to is having children of our own and passing it all on to them, but I wonder if there will be a different phase between this one and that? Maybe the haunted house will become the centerpiece. Maybe we’ll finally get to spend a Halloween night out of the house. I’ve always wanted to visit a town that REALLY goes over the top with it. I don’t have any experience with Halloween celebrations bigger than the one I head up.

These past two months have been filled with so much fun, laughter, shrieks, anxiety, tears, anticipation, and euphoria, it almost has slowing effect on time itself. Memories have been made and lessons have been learned. Even friendships have been forged and deepened. I’ve started to both hear and recall little stories from the party, and it makes me realize the part I experienced personally was such a small slice. That’s a really good feeling.

Maybe things change between the months of November and August, but this is starting to feel like a true blue identity for me. The guy who creates a sphere of Halloween spirit that grows with each year and draws more people into it. That’s grandiose, but I hope it’s true to some degree. It connects to so many essential nodes of my personality – creativity, indulgence, hard work, nostalgia, personal relationships, memories. It’s supremely satisfying on many levels.

But out there, this day, this night, is all it is for most people. On this night my world and their world are finally one.

Happy Halloween, friends.

Ghosted by Jon on October 31st, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Is Trick or Treating Endangered?

A couple months ago I stumbled upon this article on Facebook advocating the preservation of trick or treating as a community service of sorts. If you’re in a TL;DR sort of mood (the article is actually quite short and you should read it), the crux of the article is that trick or treating as we know it is in danger of dying off as parents get more protective, more paranoid, and more susceptible to the kind of mob mentality panic driven by internet-propagated myths. You know the one about Halloween candy being poisoned? Candy apples with razor blades hidden inside? Hell, my mom used to tell me those ones. But they’re old wive’s tales. The only confirmed instances of children being harmed by tainted Halloween candy, it was their parents who did it.

The slow death of trick or treating used to be something I was very concerned about. I grew up in a semi-older sort of neighborhood, kind of middle-lower-middle class, and when I was of trick or treating age it was exactly how I imagine Halloween should be for a kid. The streets and sidewalks were hopping. Adults were hanging out in front with their garages open, handing out candy. There were home-made haunted houses. Pumpkin carving contests. Those dastardly bag-snatchers. But as I grew into the awkward teenage, “too old to trick or treat, too young to party” years, I noticed that the Halloween scene seemed to be dying out around me. Trick or treaters were starting and ending earlier, the streets didn’t seem nearly as crowded, and the legendary pumpkin carving contest had whittled down to just a handful of jack ‘o lanterns. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 30th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Top 5 Horror Games

Video games are scarier than movies. So many people scoff at that notion but it’s absolutely true, and the reason is quite simple: video games are an active storytelling medium while movies are a passive one. When things get tense in a movie, you can always close your eyes, and the movie will keep on playing. What happens to the characters in a horror movie is pre-destined, and there’s a certain comfort in that knowledge.

Video games force you to be the one walking down those steps into the darkness, turning that blind corner, or fighting that monster. You can’t look away. If you make a wrong move you could die. If you get too scared to continue or you lack the skill, you may never complete the story. Nothing illustrates this difference in perception better than watching somone play a horror game versus holding the controller yourself.

This list has been a long time coming. Here are my top 5 horror games. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 28th, 2014 | Filed Under Lists | No Comments -

Review – Hangar 24 Gourdgeous Imperial Pumpkin Porter

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Another one! The Year of (Pumpkin) Beer has just been full of surprises. I stumbled upon this big bottle pumpkin porter while grabbing a few old standbys for the party.

Pumpkin porters have started to become almost as common as pumpkin ales, for good reason. Porter’s rich, smoky, chocolatey flavors blend well with pumpkin pie spice. This one’s an “imperial” porter as well, which puts the ABV up into beer snob territory at 8.5%. The initial sniff from the bottle revealed little pumpkin spice – not usually a good sign. But once poured into a goblet and sipped attentively, my opinion started to lean more positively. It’s definitely subtle, but some people are more into that when it comes to pumpkin beers. I myself kind of like it to be in your face, but my personal yardstick is, would I recognize this as a pumpkin beer in a blind taste test? With this one, the answer is ever so slightly, but definitively, yes.

It pours a rich dark brown like most porters, but isn’t terribly smoky. The chocolate flavors are more pronounced. You don’t really get pumpkin until the finish where it lingers. There’s some molasses notes to be found as well.

For folks who like their pumpkin beers to be more nuanced, I recommend Gourdgeous. I suspect general beer aficionados to approve.

Rating: 3halfjack

Ghosted by Jon on October 28th, 2014 | Filed Under Beer, Reviews | No Comments -
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