Tag Archives: Halloween

Trying New Things

I have never seen much of the Halloween series. I watched the first two or three and I’ve seen Rob Zombie’s attempts, but that’s about it. Considering it’s the movie that started the slasher genre, I’ve paid shockingly very little attention to it.

So I’m going to delve right in and watch all eight of the original movies, skipping the Rob Zombie remakes, mainly because I couldn’t stand the second one.

I don’t feel this will be particularly instructive or that I will gain great knowledge into slasher flicks, but goddamn if I can’t stand having this gap in my knowledge base. It’s the movie that helped to start it all and helped to define the genre for almost fifteen years, for better or for worse. There needs to be some respect paid. Also, considering how many times I’ve seen all of the Friday the 13th movies (including the abysmally dull remake), I feel like I owe our boy Michael Myers something.

Starting tomorrow: The Great Halloween Movie Marathon!

-D-

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Traditions

“All these traditions, jack-o’-lanterns, putting on costumes, handing out treats, they were started to protect us, but nowadays… No one really cares.” – Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Every October, I have to watch the music video for Thriller. And not the truncated version, but the full, thirteen-minute extravaganza with the werewolf AND the zombies. No matter how the rest of the month goes, I have to kick it off the same way every year. In that one video, you have the directorial skills of John Landis, the director of the greatest werewolf movie ever made, the effects wizardry of Rick Baker, the crawling and creeping voice of Vincent Price and Michael Jackson at his prime. There are worse ways to kick off the Halloween season.

Halloween marks the start of the holiday season and it plays an important role. Halloween is the lead-in to the cold winter months, the point where Summer turns to Autumn, where the air takes on a definite chill, where the leaves die and fall and where light gives ground a little more to the darkness every day. This is the moment that we could go and bundle up and hide and prepare for the worst that Winter has to offer.

Instead, Halloween is the point where we dress up and march into the darkness and take control over our fears. We boldly strike out into the night dressed as our favorite monsters and let the creatures that bump in the night know that we are not afraid. It’s the last hurrah of Summer before we brace up for Winter.

Traditionally, for me, Halloween has been a period of high creativity. I feel the most in my element and it all feels so electric. For that one month out of twelve, everyone is on the same page as me. So for the first time in months, I feel like it’s time to start writing again. I don’t know what I’m going to fill this space with, but expect more over the next few weeks.

It’s time for monsters and pumpkin beers and horror movies and ghost stories and everything else that makes me tick. And, like every other year, let’s start the season off with an extravagant promise:

A post a day until October 31st.

Merry Halloween, y’all.

-D-

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Spoooky Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

In spite of the fact that I have now reviewed it twice on my blog, I am really not a huge fan of Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin. There is a LOT of flavor in there, but’s mostly spice, with the minute amounts of pumpkin being overwhelmed by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now, you may be asking, why am I talking about Smashed Pumpkin for the third time? Well, because I have, somehow, never tried Shipyard’s main Halloween offering: Pumpkinhead Ale.  Smashed Pumpkin is a fancy beer that you can only purchase in those oversized pint-and-a-half bottles with a gold foil cover; Pumpkinhead is more like Smashed Pumpkin‘s little brother. It has a lower alcohol content and is sold in six packs and even in…cans.

It is a big seller round these parts and a symbol that Halloween is barreling down the highway like some lunatic truck.

And I have never reviewed it.

So I’m going to rectify that…right now.

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As far as pumpkin ales go, Pumpkinhead is a nice golden color. Not really that deep, orange I expect form pumpkin ales, but it’s rich and reminds me of Fall. And really, that’s all you can ask for in a Fall themed beer.

The first thing I notice when I poke my nose in the glass is cinnamon. Lots and lots of cinnamon. And maybe nutmeg. And I know that I’m not going to be thrilled. It’s a sweet and heavily spiced aroma that promises little in the way of pumpkins and a lot in the way of spice.

And drinking confirms it.

It’s more spice than pumpkin, much like with Smashed Pumpkin. However, unlike Smashed Pumpkin, it’s much lighter: lighter flavor and lighter alcohol content. It’s more refreshing and less overwhelming. Smashed Pumpkin can put you on your ass and leave you there gagging on spices. Pumpkinhead is gentler and a better beer for it, though still not quite what I’m looking for in a pumpkin beer.

It’s the perfect middle-of-the-week beer. You need something to remind you that Halloween is coming and forget the eight hours of work you just endured. You grab a Pumpkinhead. You don’t swirl it in your pilsner glass and comment on the aromas, like some asshole with a blog. You sit on the couch, turn on a baseball game and wonder what in God’s name happened to the Red Sox this season and let Pumpkinhead take you away.

I give it a handful of cinnamon sticks. And a ginger root. Because I bought a ginger root a few weeks ago thinking that Emily and I were going to make dumplings, but that didn’t really happen and now it’s getting a little shriveled.

-D-

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Happy Halloween

It’s Halloween, the beginning of the best part of the year. There used to be a time, in my younger, more morbid days, that I considered Halloween to be my favorite holiday. I’d watch horror movies while coated in liquid latex wounds, quietly humming the theme to Friday the 13th.

But now, I see Halloween in a more subdued role; it’s the gateway to the season. It’s a season that starts October 1st and ends January 1st. It’s a season that celebrates family, giving, gratitude and staying warm as we turn a corner into dark winter. It’s our charge into the cold, our defiance of the how truly miserable February is no matter where you live.

First we start by conquering our fears. We dress up like heroes and monsters and run  laughing into the night eating way too much candy. We banish our fears, become our own worst monsters and say to Hell with the things that go bump in the night.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

The season is just getting started.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Hillside Cannibals and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

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I am disappointed to end this day on a low note, but that’s how it is. I am not a huge fan of Dogfish Head, but I decided I’d give them one more shot, in the spirit of the season. The problem isn’t so much with the brewery as it is with brown ales. I don’t like brown ales. I don’t like brown ales when they’re wearing the mask of pumpkin seasoning either. If you like Dogfish Head ales, you’ll probably like this. Me? Not so much.

 

And, on top of that, I didn’t really enjoy Hillside Cannibals either. It was a mean spirited little flick that didn’t do much in the way of scaring or anything else. It didn’t try and get you to care about the few characters it didn’t murder straight off the bat and it didn’t really invest much time in the villains either.

I spent a large amount of time flipping through things on my phone while pointless, meaningless violence played out on the screen. The few times I decided to pay attention, I discovered that the people in charge of making sure the plot made sense were on vacation.

Assuming you had a character hellbent on dispensing vengeance and he knew what he was in for; would you equip him with one hand gun and a machete? In his shoes, I’d pack a goddamn arsenal and I sure as hell wouldn’t let myself get caught in five minutes and dispatched just as quickly!

It was the most polished, well put together and best acted movie I’ve seen all day and it was, without a doubt, the worst. It could not follow through on its basic premise, could not deliver on the savagery it implied and it was not scary. It was not horror.

All in all, I’d say there must be chart that describes the failure of a budget to deliver on a movie’s premise. The higher the budget, the greater the disappointment and the angrier I am.

Stay away from these middle of the road flick. Go lower or go higher, but never stray too close to the middle of the road.

This is -D-, concluding his great Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and still ready and rarin’ to go for October 31st.

Boo.

-D-

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Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and Beer: Alice in Murderland and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

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Like before, let’s start off with my review of the beer, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. I smell cinnamon.  I taste cinnamon.  This is a cinnamon beer. There’s not much in the way of pumpkins here. I’m not sure what cinnamon has to do with pumpkins aside from pumpin pie, but, at least in the eyes of brewers, pumpkin flavor has become irrevocably linked with cinnamon. This is not as watery as some other beers that rely so heavily on cinnamon and is a pretty solid beer through and through. It’s just disappointing that they rely so heavily on a spice that is only tangentially related to pumpkins.

Alice in Murderland is a movie I started off hating and ended up liking because of its plucky charm. It’s one of those low budget horror movies that relies heavily on treading that fine line between black comedy and horror. It tries to be funny and it tries to be sca2ry and, in all honesty, it doesn’t do either one very well. It’s not scary or gorey enough to count as horror. The kill scenes are lackluster and most everything happens off camera. And it’s just not that funny, though there are moments that are humorous.

There are a few moments where the acting rises above what it should; Malerie Grady, Kelly Kula and Heath Butler all manage to make the most of it and the ending was what it was because Miss Grady just went balls to the walls crazy with her laughter. Kula brought home some truly intense moments of sadism and Butler was poignantly ditzy and actually provoked an emotion in me beyond wry cynicism.  Those three managed to bring enough to the table to ensure that I wouldn’t just write off Murderland.

Also, what event is Alice in Murderland supposed to be based on? I don’t really want to research it. Someone just tell me.

The beer and the movie were perfectly matched here. It’s time for our third and final filmbrew.

I can’t wait.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Cryptic Plasm and Imperial Pumking

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First, let’s talk about the Imperial Pumking, before we jump into the movie. Pumking is one of my favorite pumpkin ales, a fact I forgot before I opened the bottle. I has a strong pumpkin flavors and does not rely so heavily on cinnamon flavoring as other pumpkin ales do. In fact, I would be hard pressed to identify any cinnamon flavoring at all in this beer. There are far less spices utilized and it relies far more on single, strong flavor notes.

There is a very nutty flavor and aroma, with a very crisp and clear bitter bite as its finish. All in all, this is one of my favorite pumpkin ales and I’m glad I remembered that.

Five…pumpkins…or something.

Onto the movie!

Morbid Vision Films is a local film company that specializes in exceedingly gory horror films. In fact, right on the back of the box it states that no CGI was used in the making of the movie, a hallmark that I wish big budget horror films would use as well. There is nothing that shakes you free of an illusion than noticeable CGI. Do as many effects as possible practically and you will get away with far more.

Crytpic Plasm (which, technically, has not been released yet. The copy I have is a pre-release) follows two guys as they film weird and unusual happenstances in Massachusetts/New England. There are lake monsters, exorcisms, dimensional rifts and more. And there is a lot of blood. More blood than in Kill Bill. There is broad swathes of blood everywhere in this movie and it is in such impressive quantities that I became concerned that they had sapped the fake blood resources of North America.

Instead of focusing on a single mystery, they go out of their way to throw their intrepid crytpozoologist filmmakers into numerous situations before things really take a turn for the worst. There are hair, teeth and eyeballs flying everywhere and I’d have to say that I haven’t seen better low budget special effects in a long time.

Also, on another note, the acting in Morbid Vision Films movies tends to be of higher quality than other studios. It’s not winning any Oscars, but they’re more believable and less obvious than a lot of other indie horror flicks I’ve watched in the past. On the whole, they’re a pretty well rounded group of filmmakers.

Their movies, the few I’ve seen, are reminiscent of Fulci movies; extremely over the top and to the walls extreme with the amount of gore they feature. While Cryptic Plasm is a little more staid and restrained than their more extreme creation (Banned in Germany!), it does not fail to deliver.

If you’re a fan of low budget horror, check this one out, if only for the effects. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for more of the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And, of course, beer.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon (And Beer)

Two things have converged to create what will be my finest blog moment:

1.I have Monday off from work.

2. I just got back from Rock and Shock.’

After the convention yesterday, I was struck hard by the desire to really get some Halloween celebrating in. I knew that I had to do something and something big in order to truly express my love for this holiday. And I also knew I had to do it fast. If I waited, the spirit could leave me and I would have done nothing and we would be well on our way to Thanksgiving.

So I hatched a plan. There are two things I do every year around October: Pumpkin beer reviews and horror movie reviews. So far, I’ve only done one beer review and that was back in September.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed any movies in months.

Now, I’m going to kill two birds with one stone:

It’s the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And beer!

I’m going to watch three, low-budget, independently made horror movies and, AT THE SAME TIME, drink three pumpkin ales.

I’ll pair a beer with each movie and I’ll post the reviews soon as the credits start rolling. Two of the beers are ones I’ve reviewed in the past and I’m going to be revisiting them. The third is brand new and never before been tried. I’ll also not have seen any of the movies I’m about to see, but one of them I just bought yesterday from the very people who made it. Excitement.

I’ll be posting each review once the credits roll, so come back throughout the day for more content in one day than there has been all month!

I’ll also be updating my twitter throughout the day. That’s right: I’m live blogging.

So, if you’re home today, like me, and you want some Halloween cheer, like me, then sit back and relax as I watch movies, eat cold cut sandwiches and enjoy pumpkin ales.

-D-

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Rock and Shock 2013

I have to say that up until today, my Halloween spirit was lacking. I haven’t been watching scary movies. I haven’t been eating more than my usual share of fun sized Snickers bars. I haven’t been reveling in my usual Halloween activities. October has just been steadily and speedily been moving along and the whole damn month was about to slip on by without me doing a single thing about it.

Things had gone horribly awry somewhere.

But, today, something happened. something truly magical:

I went to Rock and Shock.

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For those that don’t know, Rock and Shock is a convention and concert series that is held every October in Worcester, Massachusetts. I haven’t really done anything with the rocking part of the equation. I’m there for the shocking. Last year was my first time there and I was impressed by the sheer number of vendors, celebrity guests and horror fans that were there.

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There is merchandise from every horror franchise you can think of: action figures, posters, beer koozies, coasters, shot glasses, post cards, lampshades, throw rugs, pillows, replicas, props, bootlegged DVDs showing the hit movie Jason versus Leatherface. If you’re looking for a piece of memorabilia from your favorite horror movie, this is the place to get it.

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And let’s say you don’t want things directly related to Jason or Freddy? They have things for you too. There are artists selling posters of their striking and macabre work. There are writers from small publishing houses and larger publishing houses. There are tattoo artists, taxidermists, animal shelters, jewelers and flask makers, make-up designers, mask makers; anything and anyone that might have something to do with those things that go bump in the night. They’re all there.

And then there are the celebrities. Kane Hodder, Gunnar Hansen, Robert Englund, Jason Mewes, Jack Ketchum; people directly related to the industry that keeps creating more scares.

I went from not feeling Halloween at all to feeling reinvigorated.

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Aside from the things I bought, the most important thing is that I got to wander around at will with a large group of people who share my niche interest. I got to talk to a local filmmaker about the movies they’re making, one of which was even banned in Germany. I chatted at an artist about Friday the 13th before walking off with a poster I hadn’t paid for. Gunnar Hansen quote Dylan Thomas at me. It reminded me about why I enjoy horror, Halloween and all this scary stuff. It’s about exciting, scary, terrifying art and the people who love to make it.  It’s about being able to connect with people who get it and love it as much as you do.

It’s about enjoying being scared.

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It’s also about Jason Voorhees action figures.

Tomorrow, I have something grand planned. I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try to do my damnedest to make up for the time I let slip by and give Halloween the attention it deserves in one big, bang.

See you tomorrow.

-D-

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Halloween Horror Movies

We all have our ways of celebrating Halloween. If you’re still in elementary school, you put on a costume and beg strangers for candy. If you’re in college, you use Halloween as an excuse to get blitzed. If you’re my age, you sit at home and quietly contemplate opening an Ameritrade account before deciding that adulthood can wait another year and watching a scary movie instead.

Every year, I try and watch a few new horror movies, but there are a few that I must watch, that I need to watch or the season just doesn’t feel right. It’s like not carving a Jack O’ Lantern or not eating a hundred of those tiny fun sized candy bars; it’s part of the tradition and they must be watched.

So, in no particular order, here are five of the movies that I have to see before November 1:

(All images willfully stolen from IMDB.com)

The Thing

The Thing (1982) Poster

I’m not talking about the original that came out in 1951 and starred James Arness as a killer vegetable and I’m not talking about the sub-par prequel that I’m not even going to waste any more words on; I’m talking about John Carpenter’s The Thing with Kurt Russel, Keith David and goddamn Wilfred Brimley.

The Thing, if you didn’t know, is about scientists messing with something buried in the Antarctic and unleashing a potentially world devastating creature from its icy prison. The thing can imitate anyone and it begins to kill and replace the scientists one by one. What follows is ninety minutes of claustrophobic, paranoiac horror with some truly creepy and intense special effects that rival the effects of its predecessor twenty years later.

It’s a movie I can watch over and over again, trying to figure out who is who and when they’ve been replaced by the thing from another world. Great piece of sci-fi horror and one whose horror and striking visuals have withstood the test of time.

Next up, another cinema classic:

Friday the 13th, Part III

Friday the 13th Part III (1982) Poster

I’m a sucker for the Friday the 13th movies. I don’t know why and I’ve given up trying to explain to people why I like such indefensibly horrible movies. They have no redeeming quality except that they’re entertaining.

I learned long ago that I can’t watch all of them in one month without risking irreparable damage to key parts of my brain, so I narrow my selection to a few of my favorites. While I really enjoy Parts IV, VI and X, Part III will always be my favorite. It’s the movie where Jason gets his hockey mask. It has biker gangs, pot smoking hippies and the grungiest corner store owners on the planet: all of whom are cheerfully dispatched by a lunatic with a machete.

My favorite part about this movie, the thing that pushes it right over the edge into hilariously bad territory, is that it was originally released in 3D, leading to plenty of painfully obvious attempts to make use of the technology with harpoons and snakes launching themselves right at the camera on clearly visible wires.

If you watch only one Friday the 13th movie this season, make it this one. Or Jason X.

Next:

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London (1981) Poster

An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever made. That’s not the hyperbolic exultation of a fan, it’s just the truth. No werewolf movie has ever topped this one in terms of story, effects, writing or acting. It’s as much a black comedy as it is a horror movie and has genuinely funny moments threaded throughout.

It takes the werewolf legend and adds its own spin to the story that has been told over and over again. Plus, it has the best soundtrack out of any horror movie with every song having something to do with the moon.

I will say that if you want a different werewolf movie of equal caliber, you could also check out Ginger Snaps, which is equally creative and equally, bleakly funny.

Oh quick warning: stay the hell away from the sequel. It is inexcusably bad and not in a fun way.

Speaking of dark comedies:

Scream

Scream (1996) Poster

Scream is the creation of Wes Craven, one of the people responsible for the slasher genre and the way it took off big in the 80’s. He took everything he knew about the genre and turned it on its ear. He pulled back the curtain and gleefully pointed out, in the movie itself, the numerous cliches that plague every slasher genre.

Scream was meta before meta was a thing. It’s a self referential, witty take on the genre and also extremely brutal, violent and is a very pointed attack against just how predictable horror movies had become.

For fans of slasher movies, Scream is something you’ve already seen it or you damn well should have.

Which leads me to:

Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Poster

Cabin in the Woods is to all horror movies what Scream is to slasher movies. Cabin lays bare the mechanics behind those movies that we love to watch and love to let scare us. It examines the roles of myths and legends and fear. It’s one of those films about filmmakers, but it’s slyly so and subtly so. This is the movie for horror movie fans. It references different genres, specific movies, props and tropes.

It’s entertaining and hilarious and filled with well acted and quirky characters, which is a rarity in any horror movie. This is a loving tribute to the genre and the best possible way to finish out the season. If you love horror, watch this.

Those are just five of the movies I want (need) to watch and this is, by no means, a comprehensive list. There are plenty of others (Trick ‘r Treat, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween) that just didn’t make the list because I capped it at five.What do you watch to get in the mood for Halloween?

-D-

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