Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The dark, twisted ones of course. Or the original tales of what you know as family friendly ones that actually started out scary and murderous. I don't believe we are going to call it CHILDREN'S STORIES, but i am thinking either NIGHTMARE: FABLES or NIGHTMARE: FAIRY TALES which do you like? But now here is your chance to participate. Break out those old Grimm's Fairy Tales or Aesop's Fables, et al. Tell me which fairy tale you would like to see turned into a room in a haunted house. Tell me the creepiest, ickiest, scariest children's story you have ever read. Or tell me the sweetest and perhaps we will flip it so that it is dark and scary instead. But children are creepy, and children's stories are creepier. I already wish it was Halloween 2011; can't wait to sink my teeth into this one! so comment away...!
Monday, November 1, 2010
To compensate for the crowds on the busy days we do over hire actors in the house. So there are a lot of people in there trying to torment you. But the groups are large, and the distance between groups is short, and it may feel a little rushed. But these next two weeks I think are going to be the scariest yet. we have already incorporated two new bits your gonna love (especially the first group of the night. There's one new moment that will only happen once. If u r the first group, you'll see), and we have decided to make the groups no more than 6 - 8 no matter what. and the actors in the house are going to be able to spend a lot of time with you. muahahahaha. But its true, we will allow the maximize amount of time for the torment to foment.
Sure, the house aint as pretty (nothing like 6 weeks of haunted house enthusiasts battering the place to hell to make sure of that), but it now has the character of a real haunted house: decrepit, old, beaten, lived-in. It now feels like Hell in there, and i think its a beautiful thing that happens naturally. Like the Grand Canyon. Yep, I said it. So come and check it out these next two weeks; keep Halloween alive for two more weeks! Isn't life more fun when u are celebrating a holiday? we can help you with that by allowing us to scare the crap out of you. Use code NOV1 and you can even get a $20 ticket for crying out loud. so go! I look forward to seeing you there.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
With ladders, the superstition is obviously that walking underneath them is bad luck. But like I have asked in all of my other superstition postings is why? Most people assume its because things may fall off the stiles and onto your head while walking underneath them. But that is like saying that there is a superstition about walking in front of cars. it's practical thinking that a wrench might fall on your head, there isn't much superstition there. But there is actually a more superstitious basis. The idea is that when you lean a ladder up against a wall it forms a triangle (I know they all do now, but back then, straight ladders is all they had). That triangle represents the Trinity (the father, son and the holy spirit). You break the trinity and that's bad news. And hence things might fall on your head. People probably had stuff fall on their head and said, "gosh darnit, if i didn't break the trinity there that paint bucket might not have fallen on my head." And thus a superstition was born. But in Nightmare, we are going to actually drop the ladder itself on you.
so there it is
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
- People really, really like it! We are always tinkering with it and will continue to do so right through the end; discovering new things and new ways to scare everyday.
- Audiences finally are following the story line. they feel it is consistent and clear. this theme works, and our audience likes being able to see it followed through.
- The favorite rooms go between the Pennies room, the Rabbit's room, the Cat room and Bloody Mary. But every room has gotten "the fave" room at some point.
- John Harlacher's casting was spot on. I am consistently hearing how good the actors are. I, of course, thought so originally, but I do love hearing it
- People don't know which superstition is represented by the camera room. They think it's cool, but they do like following each Superstition unfold, and most people don't know what that is supposed to represent, so it loses something. For the record it's CAMERAS STEAL YOUR SOUL!
- Still working on getting LADDERS just right. It's on the stairwell, so it's tricky, and i like what we have going on there, but it deserves some of my attention in trying to finesse it some.
- Sucks not having a bar. We always have, but we don't this year. It added to the experience both before and after. Our lounge is also the best we have ever designed as well (thank you Ventiko), but no liquor to serve in it. boo hoo
- I have given up trying to solve the problem of "that's it?" I always stress about the house's length, but finally nailed it this year with an experience that is between 37-42 minutes. super long for a haunted house, and almost twice as long as last year. And people are very pleased with the length like never before, and i have not heard anyone say that infamous phrase. Until last night. I heard some douchebag come out of the house and say "Is that it? no fuckin' way, that's it?!" And at that moment i thought to myself, "ahhhhhh, don't stress that anymore. This dickwad just demonstrated that it is literally impossible to please everyone. For this guy the house could be longer than the Lord of the Rings Triology and he would still have that one superficial complaint because he has nothing else to say because he's dumb, and it proves that he can take more. he's soooo g-d tough! 'That's all the scary you have?! huh, that's it?!'" yeah buddy, that's it. That's all i got. i can't satisfy you. move along.
- I've learned probably in the neighborhood of 500 other things. all things to make the experience even better, but getting into that might spoil the fun. and people are having tons of it. Very proud of Nightmare: Superstitions.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
In case you are completely clueless about this most famous of all urban legends, Bloody Mary is a popular game played by female tweeners at slumber parties trying to freak each other out. What you do is go into a bathroom with nothing but a single candle and say the name "Bloody Mary" into the mirror three times (or a hundred times, or 13...people play it different ways and have different rules). What is supposed to happen is that she appears and either tears your eyes out, claws you to death or sucks you into the mirror with her, never to be seen again. Pretty scary game for a twelve year-old girl with braces. But who is appearing before you in the aforementioned mirror?
There are several theories here as well, but all of them suggest that the story has been told for so long that it has become an amalgam of several. The most popular theory is that Mary is Mary Worth a made up witch from the Salem witch trials who was wrongly accused of murdering children, who was then burned at the stake and is now coming back to seek revenge. This name has been mixed up with Mary I, or Mary Tudor, Queen of England who was a murderous ruler, plagued with a series of miscarriages which is why one sometimes plays the game with the line "Bloody Mary I stole your baby." Oddly, if you believed this was potentially true, would be a pretty antagonistic thing to say. I would imagine that would piss her off pretty good.
Then they made Candyman, which is basically the urban version of Bloody Mary. You might not think Bloody Mary is real. Nor that she will appear in your mirror if you say her name. But I bet your bottom dollar you don't go into your bathroom right now and say it...just in case. do it. Do It. DO IT! see you won't. haha
Monday, September 27, 2010
My guess is complaining about the length of a haunted house is one of the vagaries of being in this biz. You just have to deal. It is hard to make it as long as people want it (which is...what? who knows?) but i believe 37-42 minutes is absolutely ample. And that is not being done by drawing it out pointlessly. It is because it is much bigger this year, and it is so interactive it actually takes a little while to do certain things. I am very proud we were finally able to accomplish a lengthy haunted house while still making it a meaningful experience. I mean, if i just wanted to make it long for long's sake i could just tell people to sit in a chair for 5 minutes in the dark to make it longer. But that would be silly and obvious, wouldn't it?
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Anyway, this is even an EARLY night for me since i have been working on this house at some points literally around the clock. Tonight we had the final dress rehearsal. I am so proud at all of the unique costumes and scare tactics we have employed this year. It is so much different than in year's past, and I believe you will appreciate how scary it is, but also how much ingenuity when into it from so many different artists. And this is so important to me. I don't always "nail it," but whether the audiences think I do or not, I believe all ideas for rooms contributed to me by my collaborators have to rise to this level. Meaning, I will never incorporate a "gun in your face" idea. These are ideas that take no brainstorming. obviously they would be scary because they just are scary things that happen to people. As if a bunch of creative folks were sitting around a table and someone was like, "you know what i think is scary? someone putting a real gun to you head!"
Uh, yeah. that would be scary. Guns against my head are scary and dangerous. No debate there. No creativity either. They are easy ways out and I won't let the scarers lie down, so they do need to spend a lot of time with each other and ourselves to continue to develop characters and scenarios. Yet people give me guns against my head ideas all of the time. I won't do them. Anytime you physically assault someone of course it is going to be scary. At least temporarily. As artist you want to do better than that. Do i think if i isolated, bound and gagged people, and threw a bag over their head that they would be scared? Yes they would. But that jut requires you to not mind doing shit like that. Try scaring someone by maintaining four foot egresses, emergency exit signs clearly visible all over the place, no one touching you, clearly marked ways to go, etc. Its actually easy to do, you just hve to be creative and thats when the best ideas come to you. No guns in the face needed.
I have decided to keep all rambling, Spelling errors, run-ons, grammatical errors, etc to give you a sense of my mental state right now.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
As a theatre person myself I am very familiar with the superstition of saying the name Macbeth inside of a theatre. Almost all theatre artists I know adhere to this religiously. In fact, almost psychotically. If you do it as a joke, just to eff around with an actor or director or even the lighting board op, they will completely flip out. It's like talking about a bomb at an airport. No matter how much of a douche bag you are jokingly mocking other people's traditions, doing either one of those things will get you in a heap of trouble. This is serious business. I know because i was one such douche one time who got chewed out royally by every one involved. I challenged it because i think it is stupid and despite creating an entire haunted house about superstitions, i am not very superstitious myself.
You see, as the legend goes, you say the name Macbeth inside a theater it will bring bad luck to the play and anyone acting in it. The only exception is when the word is spoken as a line in the play. And if any of you are friends with an actor or are an actor yourselves, you know how delicate their careers are, hanging on a limb pretty much all of the time, so they don't need any extra roadblocks like 400 year old curses. But there is a way out in case you accidentally do say the name of the play. And everyone around you will make sure you do this. In order to reverse the bad luck, the person who uttered the word must exit the theater, spin around three times saying a profanity, and then ask for permission to return inside. Other variations include spitting over your shoulders or simply letting out a stream of cuss words. I have even heard by some (very few people actually) that you can also say "Thrice around the circle bound, Evil sink into the ground" to release the bad luck. The best way to avoid it altogether is to get comfortable with calling the play "The Scottish Play" instead of the proper title. You may have heard this before. This is what people are talking about when they do that. LAME, but completely real to any actor, with some serious consequences. You will embark on those consequences yourself in Nightmare: Superstitions.
So where does this superstition come from? Well, apparently the play was originally written for King James and his court. James was obsessed with the occult and had written several pamphlets about how to detect a witch. So as a nod to the King Shakespeare wrote in the three witches who foresee the fall of Macbeth, including a sacred black magic ritual. At the time it was supposed to be somewhat funny and an homage to the King's obsession. However, true followers of the religion took the reenactment of the ritual to be a complete affront drawing their ire and having them curse the play in perpetuity. To give you an example, it would be like, say, if some crazy Christian fundamentalist decided to do a Quran book burning, pissing off a whole section of the population. Of course no one would do something so stupid nowadays.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
And for those of you who we cast - congrats! You're going to have a blast scaring the poopie caca out of people.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Experiential, experiential, experiential (like a mother f*cker). We still are adhering to our unique brand of theatricality; we still have a story and a through line and recurring characters and a beginning, middle and an end...you know, all that shit. But i believe a mistake i made last year was being entirely too dependent on those devices, hoping that the empathy people felt for the characters would cause a fright when something bad happens to them. But what if your group misses something? you can't hear properly? Your group gets backed up and misses something altogether? then it kinda sucks. So what John Harlacher (my co-director) and I end up doing is finding the places that scares need to be added and get some more actors to hide in those spots and scare people. This happens every year. It is part of the process. And although those things do add startle scares, it pains me because there is nothing innovative or creative about implementing such things.
So, i decided instead of creating a story that is so theatrical it is destined to disappoint every third group, create a house where the scares themselves are what is theatrical so that i don't have to throw in a series of bullshit "boo-scares" at the last minute. Every scare in this house is unique, and in our trial and error sessions, they are all working like gangbusters. Optical Illusion is the name of the game. You will not know where the scare comes from. But i can give you some hints. If you don't want any (and honestly, i don't think you should), don't read any further. If you do, then watch out for the following:
Exits that aren't really exits
cracks that aren't really cracks
pennies that aren't really pennies
ceilings that become walls
animitronics that aren't animitronics
buttons that don't turn things off
Halls to nowhere
mirrors that don't work
want more? you'll just have to buy a ticket to Nightmare: Superstitions!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Here is an interview I did with MSNBC about the psychology of fear in the "Body Odd' column with Bill Briggs. I don't know if i am an "expert" so much, but i guess there are few people who have put these theories to actual practice in a live setting, so I guess I am more an expert than some. Check out the article. There are smart people included in the article as well.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Why doesn't True Blood get as much critical love as Mad Men? - By Jason Zinoman - Slate Magazine
Jason Zinoman has been writing a pretty savvy column on Slate about True Blood every week. He deals with the socio-political issues of the show, as well as being an ardent supporter of its mission. And he will articulately mix it up with you in a debate. This week's column is about the media's obsession with Mad Men versus the generally controversial dialectic surrounding True Blood. I read the column every Monday, and if you are a fan of the show, then you should check it out!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
You have to follow Nightmare Haunted House tweets, not just mine. If u follow my Tweets now, please continue to do so for I will be updating two or three times a day as soon as we begin to load in on August 23rd the crazy shit that is happening with the house. Any behind the scenes, anecdotal type of stories are going to come from me, but anything promotional is going to come from the Nightmare tweets.
Follow the Nightmare tweets here. Here is why you wanna do this. Starting with the opening night on September 24th, we will tweet one hour before start time when the box office opens a special promotion that you can only get from this tweet, and it is only good at the box office for one hour. For example, opening night starts at 7 pm. the box office will open at 6 pm. so at 6 pm we will tweet a code that you can use at the box office only between 6-7 pm. these will be for things like merchandise, free drinks at the bar, special back stage tours, going to the front of the line, getting to scare people in the house yourself, and other crazy shit that will be fun, fun FUN! but you must follow Nightmare on Twitter. To make it easier on yourself, you should allow for alerts.
The other sexy thing we will be doing with these tweets is that throughout the night we will tweet things to say that you can shout at the bad guys in the house that will make them die or go away. Or the line scarers who come up to you while you are waiting. we will give you instructions as to how to make them do certain things. It will be fun, fun FUN! So follow this Twitter account. None of these things will happen on any of our other social networks, nor on our website. This is unique to the Nightmare account, and will enhance your experience. Enjoy!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Every year I go through a very deep process of figuring out what went right and what went wrong with previous years haunted houses. I am constantly trying to conceive of ways to make Nightmare the perfect haunted house. Part of that is to figure out ways to scare people in the way they want to be scared while, for me at least, not being derivative in anyway. Meaning I don't want to just create a haunted house with the same gimmicks that all haunted houses go by, but trying to do them better. That's not good enough for me. I want to create a wholly original event that doesn't behave at all like a traditional haunted house, but scares like one. And hence is scarier because it's so new, original and unexpected. I think in year's past I have succeeded in creating pretty original concepts, but I don't always nail making them absolutely terrifying. At least not to everyone, and that is the goal.
Nightmare: Vampires was one of the most audacious attempts at creating a new kind of haunted house that I've done. In an attempt to replicate the formula of many recent horror films, i tried to create a story that slowly built with a bigger pay-off at the end. So I actually had the first ten-minutes not be scary at all; focusing only on story/ character building. I don't feel this paid off in the way I had hoped, at least with the majority of our audience. Or perhaps it did, just no one realized it. I say that because one of the main complaints I kept on hearing was how short the haunted house was, when in fact in terms of time that it took to walk through, it was the longest we've done. The reason for this, i believe, correlates with another thing i kept on hearing which was how people thought the museum part of the house was an actual museum and that the part where it got scary was the haunted house. When in truth the whole thing was a mock museum and that was the haunted house. There was a story attached to that concept about vampires attacking the very museum that celebrated them. But because the first part was set-up and focused on establishing the museum conceit it seemed like two different events, and if you look at it like that then, yes, the "haunted house" would have been entirely too short.
So how do I resolve this? How do I make it work for our less astute patrons, while maintaining a level of theatricality that i firmly believe if done right will truly make Nightmare sublime? I believe with all my heart that this would make a haunted house truly haunting. A theatrical haunted house with characters, through-line, empathy and wholly original scares and not one that is just about how many clever ways I can hide people, and how many props i can line the walls with. But I now know it has to be both. And if i can perfectly mesh these two kinds of haunted houses, friggin' forget about it. It will blow your mind (or at least torment you in your dreams for weeks to come). So when i went into the design phase of this year's house, i took all of this into consideration. Over the years, this is what i have grown to know about what a haunted house patron wants:
- strong theme
- identifiable storyline, but one that doesn't bog down the scare factor
- creative ways that people jump out and scare you
- creative set pieces and art direction
- something they haven't seen before in a haunted house
- unexpected twists
- good performers
- good masks
- scares right from the beginning that only grow in intensity
- want to be a part of the story
- be physically engaged (but not touched in a violent way)
- be at least 30 minutes
- end with the biggest bang of them all
am i missing anything? I hope not because this is the list i cobbled together when creating Superstitions, attempting to accomplish each. My team and I feel confident that we have accomplished this with this year's House. We are deep in the design phase. Story line and concepts have all been storyboarded, the designers have all weighed in with their designs and now all that's left is to get it up beginning August 23rd when we load-in. I am so eager for you to see Nightmare: Superstitions. If you have been a long time fan of Nightmare this will certainly be your favorite house (I promise), and if this will be your first year, then prepare to visit a haunted house like you have never seen. It will blow your mind!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
If you ask someone what's so bad about Friday the 13th, the answer may be "because its, like, you know, Friday the 13th" or maybe "Because its bad luck". Sure. thanks. But why is it bad luck? "well because 13 is bad luck." why is 13 bad luck? "'Cause". Bingo. This is a pretty enigmatic bad luck day. Believe it or not Jason Vorhees is not the reason this superstition exists. Nor is it because it is incredibly rare, like a blue moon. It happens as rarely as any other number/day combo on the calendar. So where does it come from?
Well, a simple, unglamorous answer is 13 is considered an unlucky number on its own because 12, in numerology, is considered a complete number (months of the year, signs in the zodiac, numbers on a clock, number of apostles, tribes of Israel, etc. etc) and 13 unsettles that. and Friday is considered no bueno because in certain parts of the world, especially christian cultures, it is the day Jesus was crucified. So it is a particularly bad day when you combine the two.
But that's not so sexy. In my research there are dozens of theories as to why this is bad luck; Wikipedia can help you out here. However, for Nightmare Superstitions I am dedicating one section to Friday the 13th, and I am basing it on one of the oldest and more popular theories - The Knights Templar. As you may know this was a group of militant monks who collected and protected Christian antiquities, most notably, according to legend, the Holy Grail (i say it like i believe any of it. but it does lend itself to a creepy story). The tale is that the Knights had achieved great power and influence as Christianity spread during the Crusades. King Phillip of France, for his part, wanted to squash that influence and perhaps reap the benefits of raiding their coffers by arresting the Knights for a number of crimes. He did a sweep of the country, arresting anyone associated with the organization. And when did this happen? Well Friday the 13th, October 1307 of course! (by the way, the best year for the Haunted House industry is a year where Friday the 13th falls in October so you can capitalize on two creepy events in one month instead of just Halloween. Not a bad luck day for haunters at all).
Nightmare: Superstitions is going to bring back the monks in a bazaar sacrifice that you will have to experience to believe. Just one of 13 superstitions explored in our most twisted Haunted House yet - Nightmare: Superstitions.
Monday, May 3, 2010
So basically, the movie was not nearly as bad as ALL of the reviews said. In fact, it isn't much better or worse than the original. Critics have nostalgia on their minds because most of them were teens when the movie came out so they feel like it was better. But truth be told, it was kind of just the same. which isn't to say it was scary at all. I realized that if u make the movie in the way that they ended up making this movie - which is to say as a slasher flick just like the original, then it really doesn't matter who plays Freddy. The movie wastes the talents of Jackie Earle Haley. Freddy, in at least how they decided to tell this story, says one-liners, lurks, pounces and then kills. With all due respect to Robert Englund, pretty much anyone can do this. I was hoping they were going to make a more complex character than either the original or this remake did.
But this remake was made in the same vain as the original, and that is what i consider to be the flaw of the film. But it is indeed well made, and no less scary than the original imho. so there.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I'm Continuing my reviews of horror movies that no one else has reviewed yet because of my elite access to these films. There hasn't been a major horror movie release since my last review of The Crazies, so here's the latest:
Nightmare On Elm Street*
It is with great pleasure that I am able to give the most highly anticipated horror movie in recent memory, the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, an enthusiastic and ebullient review. The wait is over, and it is worth it! Gone are the Henny Youngman one-liners, here is a truly disturbing and dark horror story that is genuinely twisted and crowd pleasing!
The story is more of a re-imagining of the original, much in the same way as the Rob Zombie Halloween franchise. It does, however, hold completely true to the mythology of the original series if not the story being told. That story begins some 15 years earlier when Fred Krueger was a janitor at a local elementary school. He was generally regarded as very very creepy, and odd, but not necessarily evil in anyway (although the students were in fact quite cruel to him, as is evidenced in the scene where someone hangs a blow up doll in the cafeteria with a sign that says "Even this doll wouldn't f*** Freddy Krueger). His father, however, was a despised local politician and Krueger becomes the victim of a smear campaign designed to embarrass his father. Because his locker is decorated with pictures of Dakota Fanning and Natalie Portman from The Professional, and because he is generally creepy with bad skin and a unintelligible lisp (a choice made no doubt by the brilliant actor Jackie Earle Haley) they concoct a child molestation charge against him, exaggerating an event where he helped a girl reach the water fountain. Having done nothing wrong, and generally a decent fellow, he becomes a tragic character when a few of the parents take it to another level unintended by the original conspirators, and set his janitorial closet on fire with him in it.
A simple man with a learning disability, Freddy rocks himself to sleep as the fire envelopes him while singing that creepy children's song that later becomes the recognizable "one-two Freddy's coming for you" theme. But what isn't answered, and I was kind of hoping would be, is why dreams? What was so special about this murder and this person that makes him come back into people's dreams? There was no voodoo curse that makes it so, nor any other legend for that matter. Just that he sings himself to sleep before he burns to death. But I will give the creators a pass because the movie nails it on pretty much everything else.
We then skip ahead 15 years, and the town seems to be a brighter place. In the earlier scenes everything had a gray hue, but now its sunny... ergo, things are better! and we hone in on 6 kids in an English class. These are going to be our protagonists, and yep you guessed it, they are the children of the conspirators who originally made the child molestation case against Krueger. They are your average teenagers in movies like this. There is the wise-ass Chance who is throwing a baseball at the head of the teacher as a prank when he is introduced to us; his stupid blonde girlfriend Claire; Harold, the black guy and his sassy girlfriend Tameeka; and then our heroine Nancy. That makes 5. The 6th character throws a curve ball into the whole traditional teenage slasher flick thing. It is an Inuit woman of about 30 who wears traditional dress and speaks poor English. But she plays Nancy's best friend and live-in exchange student. Her name is Chatook (and to let the obvious cat out of the bag, a dream catcher does play into this). We are introduced to their clan and their doings, some mild tomfoolery, and some general set-up that gets us to know our main characters before we start killing them. But refreshingly the dialogue is witty, the edits are long, and the filming style is interesting (with long shots, first person POV, and other unusual risks not associated with these kind of films).
But then the fun begins. Nancy walks by Freddy Krueger's old house. We don't know its his house, we never saw it in the beginning, but it is the most decrepit house on the block. One can assume that Nancy takes this trip everyday, but this day is different. There is an old man that appears out of nowhere by the mail box as she walks by. She gets startled, and he looks at her with his cataract eyes and says, "He's coming for you", and she says "who is?" and he says "the sins of our fathers...(pause) he's coming for you" and begins to cackle. She then says, "I'm sorry, who is?" and he says, "I'm sorry, what?" and she says "No seriously, you said something to me and i want you to clarify or next time don't say shit to me" and he says, "Sorry Miss" and then he begins to masturbate which does disturb her and this makes her run home.
That night it begins. The first dream just comes across as a scary dream. a really scary dream; perhaps the scariest in the movie. In it she hears a baby crying. The cries are from the other room, so she goes to check it out and when she goes in the hallway it gets long by like a mile. On her way to the cries, which start to sound more like pigs screaming, she passes different room with all sorts of disturbing imagery. And this is what makes this horror movie unlike few in Hollywood. It doesn't just settle on how many startles per minute it can muster, but tries to leave you haunted well beyond your viewing. It cares about mood, ambiance, imagery, tone, etc. She passes one room and there's a giant grasshopper playing the banjo, another room is snowing and two snow men are having homosexual sex, another has LT, Lawrence Taylor, benching 200 pounds of veal, and finally she comes to the room at the end of the hall where the cries are coming from. She goes to the crib and the baby has Freddy Krueger's badly burned face and she looks at him and he says "taco" and then she wakes up screaming.
well, i can't give away every gory detail by describing each nightmare, but everyone is murdered in horrific fashion. And not all with Freddy's patented knife glove. In fact he only wears that for the climactic nightmare, otherwise he mostly kills his victims with a Snub Nose revolver. Otherwise, the story mostly follows the original where Nancy keeps on having these dreams, and they get worse and worse, and her friends meanwhile keep getting hurt or murdered and no one believes any one's story. The thing about this Freddy Krueger as played by Jackie Earle Haley, light years better than Robert Englund (i know that's blasphemy among horror fans, but this guy truly rocks it. Just a better actor, flat and simple) is that he comes off as a real person. Sure, he lives in your dreams, but it amazingly feels like something that could happen. When i was a kid and i saw the original I had trouble sleeping. It truly messed me up. But obviously as I've grown older, scary stuff like that doesn't really phase me anymore and I appreciate it almost entirely on an entertainment level. But this one made me sleep with the bathroom light on. It got me.
Clearly, i recommend The Nightmare On Elm Street remake. It does something that other horror movies aren't doing - it takes its time. A lot of audiences may be turned off by the 3.5 hour run time, but by the time you get to the end you realize how necessary that was to create this horror masterpiece. Every character is completely explored; there is no collateral damage. Every person killed by Freddy we get to know. We spend enough time with each of them that we come to care about it when they get murdered. The film allows the story to be told without the pressure of making a clean, formulaic horror movie. This is a popcorn flick, no doubt, but it does so on its own terms. And word of warning, there is tons of nudity in this flick, done tastefully and artfully. It is all necessary, but if you ever wondered if Freddy's penis also got burned, you will get the answer. And the sex scene between him and Nancy is truly disturbing.
Ok, that's it, i don't want to give anymore away! I am giving too much away already, being the first to opine about this movie that doesn't even open up until Friday, April 30th. Hopefully, this review encourages you to go and see it. And you do need to see it!
* Important note about this review - I HAVE NOT ACTUALLY SEEN THIS MOVIE. SORRY
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
So, i didn't really get to the "daily update of cool things" as promised. Oh well. But I can recap some of the cooler things I saw at the Transworld Haunt Show in St. Louis now.
Firstly, although it is a generally interesting convention, one-of-a-kind for outsiders, this year was somewhat of a disappointment for me. I saw very few new things this year. Usually I can count on Oak Island to have the new crazy invention, but they just rehashed their booth from last year. I am sure it blew several new haunters away, but I was left underwhelmed. So I am going to give shout outs to some of the artists I was impressed by.
Firstly, CFX Composite Effects out of Baton Rouge, LA is by far and away the best mask makers in the industry. These guys are true artists. They make most of their masks with silicone and it adds a realism beyond reproach. The look, the feel, the weight...it's all photo realism. I bought several masks last year for my haunt Nightmare, and I plan on buying a few more this year. They had a some new products this year, including a ventriloquist dummy that I am wearing in this photo here.
Next is HauntAtorium Studios from Lexington, KY. They have some very cool latex and silicone masks. their silicone situations are half masks that look like (intentionally) someone else's face had been cut off to make this mask. The one I am wearing here is designed to look like a burlap sack. I actually bought this one.
I don't have an image of the following, but it was one of the neatest new things I saw, which was Shot In the Dark's spark gloves. It is this very nifty invention that conducts electricity through your hands, and when you are holding two metal objects you can swipe them across each other and it will cause sparks. A fairly impressive effect, actually. It makes them feel real and dangerous, and they are neither.
Finally, Scare Factory are kind of the bigiwigs for theme parks and such; along with Oak Island Attractions. But most of their stuff looks like it belongs in a theme park's haunted house, not one intended to be scary. But I think stone statues are creepy, and they had this really cool one. It animates and lunges at you.
the end bye bye
Friday, February 26, 2010
Perhaps the most feared/ honored Superstition of all is that of Broken Mirrors. Rather, to make sure you don’t. Break them. But aside from the fact that it is a pain in the ass to clean up chards of glass, why is it bad luck per se?
This one goes way back. Our ancestors believed that the image in a mirror is our soul. So if you break the mirror your soul is let out. That’s no bueno. And by the way 100% true. But anyway, the 7 years of bad luck part comes from the fact that our bodies regenerate every 7 years (an actual scientific fact. Body cells have a life span of 7 years. Which is why you cannot say you are a true resident of someplace unless you have lived there at least seven years. At least that’s what I say. Right now is the first time actually). Additionally, and I didn’t know this one, you are not supposed to pick up the broke pieces for 7 hours and then apparently bury them outside under the moonlight. That part seems mostly symbolic and I ain’t doing it!
Also, because mirrors were thought to hold the key to the future, to break one was to shatter your own future.
Other Mirror Superstitions found:
• If a couple first catch sight of each other in a mirror, they will have a happy marriage.
• If a mirror falls and breaks by itself, someone in the house will soon die.
• Any mirrors in a room where someone has recently died, must be covered so that the dead person's soul does not get trapped behind the glass. Superstition has it that the Devil invented mirrors for this very purpose.
• It is bad luck to see your face in a mirror when sitting by candlelight.
• Before mirrors, in ancient societies, if you caught sight of your reflection or dreamt of it, you would soon die.
• Someone seeing their reflection in a room where someone has recently died, will soon die themselves.
• Babies should not look into a mirror for the first year of their lives.
• Actors believe that it is bad luck to see their reflection while looking over the shoulder of another person.
• To see an image of her future husband, a woman is told to eat an apple while sitting in front of a mirror and then brush her hair. An image of the man will appear behind her shoulder.
Friday, February 19, 2010
37 years ago George Romero decided that he didn't want to be pigeonholed anymore as the guy who made zombie movies so he went out on a limb and made a movie about mindless, relentless, plodding monsters instead. The movie was called The Crazies. I never saw the original, but I hope it is better than the remake.
Zombie movies at this point are a little like Shakespeare plays: They were groundbreaking at one time, but now can come off as dusty and antiquated. Unless you reinvent the model in some way. And yes, I am calling this a zombie movie because they called 28 Days Later a zombie movie and this is 28 Days Later. In fact, I felt like 28 Days Later actually fit the bill of reinvention which is why it was both a critical and popular success. Maybe it was ignorance though. Maybe it was just biting off The Crazies. But I don't mind something biting from something else. especially if it is good. I only mind it when it doesn't feel exciting or fresh or new. 28 Days Later did. This doesn't.
As the story goes, some sort of unnamed toxin has infected a small Iowa town turning the living into zombies, er, I mean raging psychopaths. And then of course there are a few "survivors" (?) who try and stay alive. Two of them is Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, both of whom, in the only clever conceit in the whole movie, are playing themselves - the actors Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant. They were there to shoot a sequel to Field of Dreams (in the movie only, breath easy), when all hell starts to break loose. When extras try and attack the lead actors it comes off as comical though, and not in the least bit scary, and that's kind of a recurring theme.
The Crazies doesn't know if it wants to be Shawn of the Dead or Night of the Living Dead. There's one strange scene straight out of gremlins when our two accidental protagonists walk into a bar and all of "the crazies" are tearing up the place like they were just really rowdy patrons. There is a "band" that is playing the Star Wars theme song on the skulls of recent kills. Its just kind of dumb, and I think it was the filmmaker Breck Eisner's intention for it to be disturbing. I guess if people find Cannibal Holocaust disturbing then they will find The Crazies really disturbing. I was anxious about this movie because the previews make it seem amazing, but I was thoroughly disappointed. It was hard for me to hide my displeasure from the producers when i left after this command screening for me only, so I don't think this review comes as any surprise. Nor will they be surprised by reviews just like it.
* I have never seen this movie nor the original
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I was hoping to get a review in for The Wolfman at least a week before it opened, but I hadn't been given the special access to these kind of films so far in advance that I have now, yet. So I will see it, but probably not review.
So I will begin my series of reviews of horror films well before anyone else chimes in about them with Shutter Island*:
I don't know if there has been a horror movie that has come along that has had the possibility of being another Silence of the Lamb's as much as Shutter Island. This means that it is the perfect storm of being a solid thriller/ scary movie effective in all those way, while also being a solid film with strong characters, story, drama, beautiful direction and good acting. Another words - a horror movie with gravitas that people treat with dignity rather than scorn. Horror movies in general are relegated to "genre film" and thus not taken seriously as a real movie. Auteurs of said genre for years have been crying about that all the way to the bank. But as witnessed with Silence of the Lambs, when you can be all things to all people, it can be sublime.
So those were some pretty big shoes to fill when I took in a special sneak preview set up just for me earlier this week. But the pedigree was there. Oscar nominated actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) Oscar award-winning director (Martin Scorsese), very respectable supporting cast (Mark Ruffalo, Ben, I won't call him Sir, Kingsley, and Max Von Sydow, et al) and based on a highly acclaimed novel, well...sounded like Oscar bait to me. And it does not disappoint!
This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It is set in 1954 at the moody Shutter Island Ashcliffe Hospital off of Boston. Dark, dreary and spooky the location offers loads of fun opportunities for cinematographer Robert Richardson and he makes the most of it. Straight out of a Scooby-Doo episode, this real-life Arkam smacks of doom the minute you lay eyes on it. DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S Marshal who fought in World War II and has been haunted by an incident where he had the chance to save a baby from an explosion but didn't out of fear that the baby was German. He brings this heavy baggage with him as he goes to the island to investigate the sudden disappearances of a number of inmates, all magicians. But the hospital administration is strangely unhelpful to the point of standing in the way. Things get weirder when all the power goes out due to an electrical storm. Teddy begins to see and feel things that make him question reality and his own sanity, culminating in a unusual (for Martin Scorsese anyway) orgy scene where you actually see Leaonardo DiCaprio fully nude. Those photos will be circulating the Internet soon enough, I am sure.
DiCaprio has gone on the record as saying this was the most demanding role he has ever played in his life, and I can see why. Aside from having to double as Teddy's dead sister that he begins to hallucinate about (and then have sex with in the aforementioned orgy scene), the martial arts fight sequences are beautifully crafted and Leo looks fantastic doing them. The wire work notwithstanding, Leonardo looks like a grade A black belt and you believe every punch, kick, roundhouse and flying elbow to the head. And under the able hands of a master such as Martin Scorsese, the fight sequences are breathtaking, not unlike how another brilliant director tackled martial art battles - Ang Lee. And for the record, Ben Kingsley is no slouch either in the same regal manner that Chow-Yun Fat approached Master Li in CTHD.
That said, this isn't about the fights or the sex. it is about the fear, and i must have jumped a thousand times and kept uneasy the rest. Unsettling like The Shining, simple yet grotesque like Audition, and compelling and thrilling like Silence of the Lambs, this was one of the best scary movies I have ever seen and I am sure it will be part of the conversation come Oscar time. This movie is brilliantly terrifying. And don't try and guess the surprise ending, it is earned and smart and will make you think the entire night. I know it did for me and my friends.
* As far as press time I had yet to see this film
Monday, January 25, 2010
I am going to be exploring the myths behind many of our most commonly accepted Superstitions as a prelude to this year's haunted house, Nightmare: Superstitions. The lore behind the number 7 is perhaps the most vast, so it is a good place for me to start. I will, however, in the next few weeks look into black cats, ladders, umbrellas, etc. as well as a few more esoteric ones from here and abroad.
For this column I asked the psychologist Dr. Judith Crews to explore the subject. She is our resident Scaredy Cat columnist for Haunternet.com:
Seven is a quantity, a numeral, an idea, a superstition, and apparently a universal spiritual element: in the Japanese Shinto belief system, there are seven gods of good luck, the Muslims believe there are seven heavens, Kaballists belief in seven elements of creation, Christianity, seven heavenly virtues as well as seven deadly sins, Buddhists seven chakras, ancient Egyptians, seven gods, ancient Romans believed that the human spirit is renewed every seven years, and so on and so on.
But why seven? Perhaps the best explanation of the significance of this particular number in such a wide variety of cultures does, in fact, lie in the heavens. For millennia, the sun and the stars were among the very few constants that existed in the awareness of human beings, even though their positions in the sky were highly dynamic. Until the invention of telescopes, only seven planets and the sun and moon were visible to the naked eye. Thus, these seven planets became deities, omens, time-keepers, and oracles for the humans who were so at the mercy of the ever changing natural world.
Another aspect to the number seven has to do with gender. Numerous cultures consider odd numbers as masculine and even numbers as feminine. The number seven is a prime number that is comprised of an odd number (1, 3, or 5) and an even number (2, 4, or 6) odd number. The joining triangle and the square were considered a symbol of perfection and among various ancient civilizations just as the joining of the male and female are the source of procreation.
So where did the nasty aspects of seven enter the scene? The broken mirror superstition likely came from ancient Rome. Romans invented glass mirrors and believed, along with a lot of other cultures, that the mirror’s reflection was actually a confiscation of one’s soul. If the mirror broke, the soul of the breaker was thus captured in the looking-glass world, which was, of course a backward, distorted place. Because the Romans believed the soul was rejuvenated each seven years, the poor wretch who broke the mirror would have to wait those seven years before his or her soul could be set right and good fortune could again occur.
The Seven Deadly Sins were the brainchild of the 6th Century Pope Gregory who put them together to juxtapose the Seven Celestial Virtues and as a way to keep the “flock” in line. Seven also has significance in Christianity as enumerating all things: the Holy Trinity (the sacred) and the four elements (the profane).
But what’s the story with the number 7 being lucky as well? Well, that’s not as scary is it.
Dr. Judith Crews is a resident faculty member for the Department of Counseling at the Idaho State University Boise Center. Her areas of specialty include couple and family counseling and mental health counseling. She has also worked in both private practice and in a community counseling agency setting as a mental health and couple and family counselor. Her scholarly and research interests include counselor education, developmental models of supervision, family systems theory and practice, grief counseling, and certain aspects of human motivation and goal attainment.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
So i finally saw Daybreakers late last night. I was hoping to have seen it this past weekend as promised, but I didn't get a chance. I hope all of you that were anxiously awaiting my response didn't go crazy with impatience and kill yourself. That is my hope.
But, now I do have thoughts on it. I don't know if this movie was so profound that it made me think the following, or if it was merely the straw..., but I can't review Daybreakers without first addressing whether scary movies are even scary. What? excuse me? well, let me elaborate. I was going to review this movie as one is wont to do as to whether it is scary or not. After all, it is a "scary movie" about monsters and doomsday with blood and guts. But as I was considering this I started thinking "are any scary movies actually scary"? And I am sure there are many scaredy-cats out there that would give an unequivocal "YES!" And i don't begrudge them that. I am in the scaring people business with my haunted house, where if you don't scare people you might as well not exist. And I can see people being scared. And I also know that there are certain people that will be scared of everything. Even though it is nice to hear their screams, I know it wasn't too hard to do. So I don't determine how scary my haunted house is based on them.
And that's even more true with movies, that in so many ways over the years have become more like haunted houses. Now scary movies confuse startling with scary. Something pops out of nowhere accompanied by a loud noise, all the girls in the crowd squeal and voila, scary movie. This is a haunted house attraction formula. One of the reasons haunted houses do it is because it is very difficult to create a truly unnerving environment with ambiance alone. With the constant movement, with the crowds, with the noise and light bleeds, with the necessary brevity with the scenarios, etc. Creepy can only last a few seconds and that is hard to make something truly creepy. Movies don't have this problem, yet they treat themselves as if they do.
This has become so true that by and large scary movies don't even really set out to be all that scary. The scariest movies to me are more unnerving, unsettling and creepy. Not terrifying. I'm a grown man, I am not going to be terrified by things that I know aren't real. but I can be unsettled. The only movies that have done that to me recently are not even necessarily "horror movies" like "Funny Games", "The Strangers", "Anti-Christ", "Audition", and "Lost Highway." These movies made me feel uneasy and gave me the chills a few times. But they never made me want to sleep with the lights on. And then comes Daybreakers. A pretty entertaining, attractive, smart, original dark movie about Vampires, which when talking about what is supposed to be a scary movie should have been super scary. But it wasn't. It isn't even remotely scary, nor did there appear to be much effort put in on behalf of that.
What it is, is clever. A world where the vampires are the population and their lives look a lot like ours except they have pointy teeth and are seriously allergic to sunlight. but it merely tells this story. A story about a world where the vampires have eaten and/or turned so many humans that only 5% of the human population remains. How do they survive? What do they do?! They could be us now. The parable here is much more important than the scary. Vampires, like the western world, will suck the life out of all their resources until we have destroyed ourselves. Who knew two of the most environmentally conscious movies of the year would be Avatar and Day Breakers. I can see the genesis of the idea now. One of the two Australian filmmakers who made this film, The Spierig Brothers, heard someone say something in a pub about how we are sucking the earth dry like a bunch of bloody vampires, and they thought "what if that were true? But not allegorically. Like we were a bunch of vampires and the resource that they need is Human blood?" and then they made the movie.
So that's all i got. I did enjoy it, the vampires were vicious, but the M/O of the film was something other than to scare you. But it is a good story, wholly original, and I enjoyed watching most of it.
Friday, January 8, 2010
For some crazy reason I was not invited to the premiere of Daybreakers, the new vampire flick starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Defoe. But I am going to see it today and post a review over the weekend. I care because it is a real vampire film. Not just real in that it is not a tweener vampire film or tv show or what have you, but also in that word has it that it is pretty good. The NY Times gave it an excellent review today and Time Out NY both of which describes vampires closer to the ones I was trying to replicate in my haunted house this year with Nightmare: Vampires. So I am anxious to see it. And perhaps instead of seeing Avatar for the third time (a brilliant film mind you. I am going to see it twice at least), or taking a flyer on Sherlock Holmes (don't. It's entertaining enough but thoroughly dismissible), go and give this indy some numbers. We need to send a message that we actually like our monsters monstrous or else they are going to keep giving us the ones that sparkle instead.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I think wishing people "Happy New Year" is as empty of a sentiment as there can be. Considering people say it until like March, it truly is just a substitute for "how are you" for those who have gotten bored with saying that and need a three month reprieve from the same empty pat salutations. I mean, if you truly think about it, what really happens when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st? Nothing. There is a symbolic "out with the old in with the new" but nothing truly, physically ushers that in. Other than the banks are closed and there are some college bowl games (as well as the collective lamentation that you have to go back to work the next day), nothing really facilitates the "newness" of the year. Its not like we all swap houses or jobs. Or that we look different, or we are someone else. Its just a reminder that you just spent an additional 365 days on top of the previous 365 days and that if you so choose, you can call this go around "a new beginning." And I am not even railing against resolutions. I know we make them and never follow them. That's fine, that's normal and human. But it isn't even a milestone like an anniversary. Unless you have a terminal disease, making it to the next year was inevitable. You can sit in bed all year and develop a nice case of rickets and butt pimples and you will make it to the next year. Anniversaries, on the other hand, can be accomplishments. Particularly wedding anniversaries. Making it another year without murdering or leaving each other actually takes work.
No, this is a special kind of hallmark moment where there is virtually no accomplishment or drama. And no one means "Happy New Year" any more than they mean "How are you?" At least with "How Are You?" you can reply, equally as emptily, "fine." But with "HNY" you have to either stay silent or say it back. And I hate saying it back. But I will because silence is just plane rude. So I am going to make them the rude ones for making me say it back to them.
And what does any of this have to do with the horror industry, or haunted houses, or my artistic endeavors? Absolutely nothing, but I have a platform and I am using it. Happy New Year!