Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Scares = Gift Bags

Yes, I know, I'm a Halloween person. October is the scary time, Christmas is the peaceful time. Well, it's supposed to be the peaceful time, but with all the shopping, wrapping, traveling, cooking, it's rarely peaceful.

That being said then, why do you, the faithful reader, find a post near the end of December that has to do with something frightening? I would answer: That is a good question, to your hypothetical query.

Very few things about Christmas scare me, other than it's massive consumption of most of the calender year. But every year, inevitably something happens when I find myself more uncomfortable than when I was in high school, trying to muster up the courage to ask someone to go with me to the semi-formal.

When I wake up and look under my tree, or when I go to my family's houses, or when I exchange gifts with friends, I will no doubt, eventually find myself at the mercy of a gift bag.

Now I understand that gift bag is a nice and simple way to wrap one's presents. It's efficient, is a reusable resource, saves paper, can be made to look extremely festive, and it is easy to carry a number of presents in one convenient carrying device. One could argue that its the cheap way out of wrapping, but I would counter that if you've ever received a wrapped present from me, then you'd understand why some people need to rely upon bags.

But when one is plopped down in front of you, a panic ensues. Here is a supposed self conversation or "self talk" as Lev Vygotski would label it, when the brain receives the neurological impulses that are coded to spell "gift bag."

Friend: Here, before you go, you have to open up your presents.

Brain: Presents? I can't wait! I'm barely able to release a chemical into your system to restrain you from ripping open the wrapping paper like a rabid animal, I'm so excited.

You: Oh, you didn't have too.

Friend: No, no, it's the holidays and we're friends, how can I not?

Brain: You're darn right it's the holidays, you were going to be shunned if there weren't presents after I helped you move last month.

You: What a lovely surprise!

Friend: Here you go...*sets down gift bag in front of you*

Brain: bag...look panicked now. Let's's a rather big large gift...or several small? You've been sitting here with your mouth open for five minutes, say something you idiot.

You: Wow, what a festive bag.

Friend: I know, I found it at the Dollar Tree.

Brain: Dollar Tree eh? Can't splurge on nice wrapping paper...alright that probably means its several small and inexpensive gifts. Approach with caution. Here's some serotonin so you can feign enthusiasm.

You: Wow, a book light? This is useful because I read books!

Brain: Bring it down a notch Tallulah...alright that was too small of a package to be the only thing in that bag...slowly and humbly reach in again...

Friend: I hope you like this next gift.

Brain: Let me guess...I'm a brain, guessing's what I do...a book?

You: A coupon for a free Frosty? Wow!

Friend: Well I know how much you like desert.

Brain: Which is true...but you didn't notice the Cold Stone that just opened up?

You: I can't wait to use this.

Brain: the tricky there anything else in that bag...two was a good number...three might be pushing it...stop drooling...if you go to look and there's nothing, you'll look like an idiot sifting through tissue paper...and you might seem smart way out is to pretend like you think there's nothing else in the bag...people should write a number on the bag indicating the number of items inside.

You: That's it?

Brain: Damn...did I make you say that out loud? Uh oh..say something clever...don't hurt feelings.

You: It's your job to think.

Brain: Don't let them know that...okay, now you look crazy...tell them how stressed you are.

You: Sorry, its just my family is driving me nuts this time of year and I just lost my job and the Niners aren't in the play offs...I guess what I meant is that I could sure use more than one Frosty, I'm very appreciative and this small gesture of friendship is probably the most heart warming gift I've gotten all year.

Friend: Aww well thank you, it was just something small.

Brain: Wow...well's some more serotonin....great...your passed out on the floor now...maybe that was too much.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hollister Needs To Stop

This post has been brewing for some time. Every time it almost becomes manifest, something else distracts it, or something else becomes more pertinent. But with the Holiday Season here and most people spending more time at shopping centers, this post can no longer be denied.


Some clarifications before we continue:
  • All of these examples are based upon the mall I most frequent. My mall is on the smaller side, which probably adds to the frustration.

  • The Hollister in my mall is located extremely close to the JC Penny's, which is the store from which I usually enter the mall because of it's close proximity to Auntie Anne's Pretzels...those sugar cinnamon pretzels are phenomenal.

  • I know other stores are guilty of what is about to be commented on, but those other stores don't exist inside this mall.

Why is it that Hollister and related popular and horribly over priced clothing stores feel the need to pollute their stores and subsequently the mall(s) with their offensive air perfume? What good does this do? I don't appreciate going into that store and then hating how I smell when I come out. The smell literally makes me sick because it is so overpowering. When you put on cologne you put on like what, one...two sprays at most? I remember when I was in 7th grade how awful the locker room would smell after gym class and the guys would be changing back into their normal clothes. They would use entire bottles or cans of cologne so that they still smelt nice. It made me sick, gave me a headache, and now I smelt like eight different fragrances because there were so many in the air. Hollister's air perfume is so strong and potent that it reminds me of a high school locker room. That's not a good thing. Also...can it be healthy to be inhaling that all day if you work there?

So the main complaint here is that Hollister is being horribly intrusive. Yeah I know that the smell literally reeks of "popular." Yes I know it is a marketing technique that most in some way be effective because Hollister is still around and charging young Americans $150 for a coat that looks exactly like a $45 coat that I saw at the Bon-Ton. (Which by the way...we say Bon- Tawn...but the word is spelt"felt like that weighed a ton." Why did this store purposefully mispronounce a word?) Also, I thought Hollister was a beach/summer themed store? Why selling these coats? Are they so unused to coats that have to jack the price to make up for all the initial investment for a coat pattern, coat engineers, and coat materials?

The smell wouldn't bother me if it wasn't so omnipresent. If it only existed inside the store and perhaps floated just outside of it so that a passerby might smell the air perfume and perhaps be becokened to enter this dark and mysterious place then fine. But I can smell it from almost every store in the mall. Especially when I first walk in at Penny's. I get halfway into the store and I can't even see out into the mall yet and I can smell Hollister, right by the escalators. I constantly hear Penny's employees complaining about the odor. It literally lingers throughout the mall as if a cheap undercutting ploy. Its like a witch doctor has created this sentient potion that goes out into the other stores and enters your body through your nose and implants a message into your brain as if it's hypnotising you: "Come...come to Hollister and spend more money for goods of a similar quality." When I"m at F.Y.E or Game Stop, or Spencer's Gifts (what...I like their hats) I don't want to be thinking about Hollister, yet it is impossible because of this horribly intrusive and repugnant odor.

Equally as intrusive is how the store front literally juts out into the mall thoroughfares. This picture show an example of how ridiculous a Hollister store front can actually be. It literally narrows the walking space in the mall because across from Hollister, in the middle of the walkway, is a T-Mobile stand filled with employees who just shout at you, "what kinda cell phone you got?" On the other side of that is an Aerie, which also used Air Perfume, but unlike Hollister, it stays inside the store and just barely filters out the front door. All this makes this particular stretch of the mall difficult to navigate because the Hollister side's smell makes me sick and there is seriously very little space due to how far out the store is, I want to avoid the annoying guys at T-Mobile, and I really have no reason to go into Aerie. Seriously, those two big pillars are like these giant hands trying to reach out to mall patrons and grab the money right out of their pockets, if only as a fee for, "smelling our scent."

So all in all Hollister needs to tone it down a notch. When I go to the mall, I want to go to the mall, not a huge Hollister. If I ever get a Hollister rep to read this, please please please pull down the lever on the air perfume. It's not good for anything really. Maybe if I go shopping at the mall after a football game and I'm all sweaty and gross but I didn't have time to shower, I'll hop into Hollister and let the air perfume saturate my clothing to help mask my smell, but that's really about it, and I usually don't go to the mall right after football games.

Did anyone ever think this: That smell is so overpowering that they have to go through a lot of it. Maybe the cost of that odor is so high, that's why Hollister has to charge an arm and a leg for their clothing. Maybe if they stopped polluting the mall air, their prices could be more reasonable.

Agree/Disagree? Leave a comment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight New Moon Realizations

There is no denying that Twilight has a huge following. We may wish that it didn't. We may wish that the tween/young adults of America...nay...the world would have more of a brain in their skulls to realize what over indulgent dribble the Twilight saga really is in comparison to other notable fads, and in that vein wish that the aforementioned group would dedicate some of their brain cells to realizing what horrible literature Twilight really is. Horror affictionadios may despise Stephenie Meyer for "what she has done to vampires."

But all that stashed aside, it is still widely received and it is apparent that it unfortunately is not going to go away. Even if real vampires were to emerge and they all looked like Eric Northman, I still think Twilight would stay around. This saddens me.

So since I've tried my hardest to fight it...apparently the rest of my guerrilla army friends have given up the fight, and I but one man, have not the influence, nor the dashingly good looks, to sway the swarming throngs of Twilight fans away from this garbage that is spelling the downfall of American society.

Therefore...I've chosen to try to identify what exactly it is about Twilight that makes girls scratch their necks to the point of bleeding when merely in the presence of Robert Pattinson.

Everyone I ask about Twilight, after I go off on my rant about how Twilight vampires aren't really vampires, will say, "well I still love the romance aspect." Okay. That's fair. I mean I guess if I were a girl I'd like being adored by a vampire who was only attracted to me in the first place because I was the only girl whose mind he couldn't read. I also suppose that I'd like for him to leave me despite the fact that there are still other vampires, not to mention jealous shifters around. I also surmise that I'd like to be impregnated by his undead DNA and then have him rip the baby out of me with his fangs, because I'm so sure that he is certified as an OBGYN. But alas, I'm not a girl, so I can't completely wrap my head around how un-ridiculous that all sounds.

So then that brings us to the movies. Prior to the casting of Robert Pattinson, girls could have the image of the perfect man to be their Edward Cullen. It could be their secret crush. It could be the older neighborhood boy. I could be the high school quarterback. It could be the guy who would never notice "me." But then when it was announced that the movie would be made and it was Robert Pattinson, the image of Edward Cullen was solidified forever. It didn't matter who it was. It could have been Jonah Hill cast as Edward Cullen and the reaction would have been the same. The point was that now Edward Cullen had a face. Edward Cullen had an image. Girls/Fans can now close the eyes and see the physical image that is their one true love. The ultimate lover has now been made real. It didn't matter who, it just matter that it was someone. So that is why I don't think Robert Pattinson is the actual real appeal for the Twilight fans.

I don't normally assess males for their attractiveness but all I have to say is, Robert Pattinson? Really? I mean he is pretty much following the same trend as Hayden Christiansen, except he is more emo. Because let's be fair: They are both undead...from a certain point of view.

That brings us next to Kristen Stewart. Now, I do normally assess females for their attractiveness and all I have to say is Kristen Stewart? Really? I mean normally when it comes to chick flicks, and lets once again be fair, Twilight and it's Saga-parts are nothing more than a glorified chick flick, at least the boyfriend who has been dragged along can look at a pretty girl. But when I think Kristen Stewart, my only frame of reference is when she was in "Panic Room." In this film she plays the diabetic, "my life sucks cause I'm the daughter of a single mom," type character. I believe you substitute diabetic for psychic blocking and you essentially have the same character. But anyways in this film, Stewart is like 13. This was my first time seeing the actress, so for me, now, even though she's in Twilight, I know her as a 13 year old girl, and that is in NO WAY APPEALING. So obviously Kristen Stewart also can not be the driving factor behind the Twilight craze. I mean also because now Kristen and Robert are irrevocably in love for realz IRL. So there is no hope for any fan girl to have her very own Edward Cullen.

So then that brings us to Vampires. Vampires are the only thing about Twilight that make Twilight stand out. I mean really girls pine to be Bella so that an Edward can whisk her away. Or, they enjoy reading about the greatest lovers of all time? Right? If Edward Cullen were let's say a Navy SEAL, or a Mafia hitman, or a Cowboy, would anyone really care? Those character types are all awesome, but they are not vampires. Would Twilight have been noticed amongst the others that rest upon the bookshelf in the young adult section had Edward Cullen been Batman, or a rock star, or a young Prince attempting to unite his kingdom? I really don't think so. I believe this is even more evident now because at Barnes and Noble there is a "vampire romance" section and although it is dominated by Twilight, it is by no means the only series to find a home in that corner of the store.

So what does this all mean? It means that a majority of America love Edward Cullen purely for his vampiricness. Which means that most American's have a desire for vampires. This is nothing new, but there was no such craze before Twilight. So what's the difference? Stephenie Meyer changed her vampires. They glitter in the day light, thus making them more beautiful. Which, is stupid, but in some ways takes away the shadows and mysteries associated with normal vampires. They integrate with human society and the main ones that the reader are exposed to are "good guy" vampires. Again, this dulls them down. In Twilight everyone wants to be a vampire and it's cool, even though normally vampires stand as a literary device to represent one of the seven deadly sins: Lust.
So essentially...Stephenie Meyer has chosen to ignore the negative aspects of vampires and only focus on the positive ones. She has forced most of America to admit that if vampires were real and played by her rules, that they would be more socially acceptable, because there was never such a craze or acceptance of vampires prior to Twilight. Twilight vampires are more accepted because they are "less cruel" "less harsh" are more "familiar," "less frightening." Which means that if vampires were ever to "come out of the coffin," and they behaved like Dracula and were in no way like the beloved Edward Cullen, that there would be an inherent fear. This would be the same inherent fear that exists in most of post 9/11 America whenever they see someone with Middle Eastern features. So Stephenie Meyer has proven that American's on the whole are actually very much racist. Good job.

This of course is the point of True Blood, however True Blood at least has the fangs to address this issue straight up as opposed to trying to create the "super awesome forever ever ever vampire," like Stephenie Meyer. Bill tries to be a good guy vampire like Edward, but even Bill kills and drinks, and does some deplorable things. Much more realistic than dear Edward.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Zombies: The Ultimate Horror Device

So Halloween has passed. Sad face. But I still find myself thinking about scary things, as there are still a bunch of movies/books/web series.....lots of "web things" still doling out the horror. Seeing as though I try to keep content on this site somewhat related to horror, I had a revelation the other day.

There are many devices authors/screenwriters use to try to scare us. Supernatural beings like Vampires/aliens/zombies/werewolves/etc. There is always the serial Jason or Michael Meyers. There are disasters like comets hitting the earth or the end of the Mayan calender....(seriously don't you all think that maybe those guys just got tired after planning out over 2012 years of history? Or what if its all just a huge ancient joke and they are in their version of the afterlife rolling on the floor laughing?)

Vampires get staked (or glitter....I hate them I hate them I hate them) Werewolves get shot with silver bullets. Aliens...get viruses loaded to their wireless network. It may be a huge pain in the rear to accomplish these feats, but think of most movies/literature/Twilight (which is not literature) and you will see that something is done, even if the hero dies in the process. But there is a definitive ending, or at the very least a decent ending.

Serial killers usually die, or escape til the sequel, no mater the number. Sometimes the even get frozen and put into space where astronauts of the future unleash an unspeakable horror. But there is usually a definite ending, one that finalize the plot, even if there is a sequel.

End of the world movies, well nobody would watch them if Earth just got destroyed. Even if there is catastrophic damage, people survive and well yay! Same goes with government created conspiracy or disease outbreak plots. They always get exposed. Long story short a book or film wouldn't do well if the heroes don't in someway topple the opposition. They may die in the process, but its usually for the greater good. I also realize that as I'm writing this that there are examples to counter some of the things that are being said but the point is that it's extremely difficult to pull off effectively.

Which brings us to zombies. To include zombies in a story is really opening up a can of worms. You have to consider a lot of things: What stage of the outbreak, what type of zombies, what created the zombies, what kills zombies, how are new zombies created, etc? There are a lot of technical aspects that you must address if you are going to use zombies as a horror device. It is easy to have loop holes.

On the surface if you stack a zombie up against vampires, werewolves, sentient killers, comets, and prophecy then zombies kind of seem like the low undead man on the totem pole. They can't think, are usually slow, and usually can be easily dispatched. But zombie's strength lie in their numbers and their ability to never stop. Zombies have the best endurance ever. They are the endless hoard.

Equally as difficult about zombies, from the writer standpoint, is how to write an effective ending for the zombies. Sure survivors can find a "safe island" or the heroes can all die, or whatever, but nine times out of ten no matter what happens by the end of the book/film there are still zombies with which we must contend. Try to think of books or films where there is an ending you enjoy. Are there still zombies? Probably. Here are some examples that are the first to come to mind: (Spoiler alert, skip over the list in case you don't want things ruined if you haven't seen/read these:)
  1. Night of the Living Dead--hero shot by humans trying to hunt zombies, zombies remain
  2. Dawn of the Dead--two heroes are bit, the other fly off in a helicopter, zombies remain
  3. Day of the Dead--Most humans die...its been a while since I've seen but I know zombies remain
  4. Land of the Dead--Humans survive, but zombies find themselves a "home" Zombies remain
  5. Dawn of the Dead remake--Humans make it to "safe island" only to find...zombies!
  6. Shaun of the Dead--survivors "win" but zombies now exploited for entertainment, zombies remain
  7. 28 Days Later--Danny Boyle says they are not zombies, so they won't be included
  8. Zombieland--4 survivors now a "family" Zombies Remain
  9. World War Z--Survivors dictate the reclaiming of Earth from zombies, yet the job will never be fully complete, zombies remain
  10. Zombie Island/Nation/ All zombies defeated...but horrible ending Read For More Info
So you see a trend here. It is difficult to write an ending for zombies because they are that catastrophic. Those guys in Canada even did that whole research process on it. Read For More Info Most people who have tried have had a hard time completely getting rid of the zombies. It's almost impossible. It's almost even more impossible to write a good ending where zombies are gone forever. These reasons pave the road for Zombies to be regarded as the ultimate horror device for ever ever ever.

Agree/Disagree? Please back up your claims. 20 bonus points for the first person to correctly identify where the picture at the beginning of the post is from. Also: A Fun Zombie Song

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christmas Needs to Stop

I've come to a realization that really is horrifying. Therefore it must be posted on Haunted House Writer, being that I'm sure it would scare other people who have personalities that are similar to the theme of this blog.

I love Halloween. I know most of my close friends do as well. During the month of October, I feel alive...which is ironic really due to the huge emphasis on death. But regardless I feel that it's the perfect time of year for people with active senses of humor. (Notice I didn't say good?)

The fall is a time of sadness. It represents decay, as the trees and plants slowly succumb to the colder weather. We must put away the shorts and pull out the warm coats. The darkness comes earlier. We are marching head first into the icy grip of winter. October literally is that transition. November starts the "cold month" run and September is still a wild card in terms of nice or awful weather. But October, you know you are going to experience a chill on those breezy autumn nights, as the spirits rustle through the trees.

So it is only normal and natural that the tradition/holiday/pagen feast of souls (as some radicals would call it) occurs during the month of October. As we approach at time where many are "sad" because they are forced to remain indoors for longer period of times, huddled around fireplaces or under layer upon layer of clothing. Halloween is a lovely distraction from all this. We get candy, can dress up, go to haunted houses, or just play tricks on our friends. Indeed for those with a sense of humor, it is our last gasp attempt to have a little fun before the desolate winter sets in and renders life so miserable that a little jolt or scare would not be able to melt the heart of even the most kindest of souls.

So October/Halloween is extremely important. It literally attempts to take the edge off before the cold season. Therefore we need to celebrate Halloween. We need parties, we need haunted houses, we need costumes, we need the Monster Mash, we need candy, we need to be scared, and we need to have fun. As Tim Burton would have it: Life's No Fun Without a Good Scare.

This brings me to the problem of Christmas. I will argue that nobody dislikes Christmas. There is gift giving, good cheer (usually,) togetherness, the birth of Salvation (depending upon religious views,) and at the very least, even if you are some horrible old miser, some time off of work/school. I like Christmas just fine.

What I don't like, as my favorite comedian Lewis Black says, "that Santa has started poking his ass into everything." Christmas dominates the calender. It really does. It is an important holiday no doubt, but it really needs to be more contained. It is "posh" to start putting up the Christmas decorations on November first, despite the fact Thanksgiving hasn't even happened yet. It is also socially acceptable to leave the Christmas lights up till the second weekend in January. That's roughly 65 days of Christmas. People who don't care about Halloween as much already have Christmas stuff up during October.

I will grant that you will start seeing Halloween items in stores near the beginning of September, but if you put up the decorations at your house at the same time, it would just not fit. It's still too warm, the summer still lingers, and pumpkins aren't even off the vine yet. You need to wait until the last week of September at the earliest to avoid looking "antsy." The major holidays usually get a month of preparation time in stores, which is why Halloween stuff will appear in September. Thanksgiving stuff will appear midway through October, and Easter stuff...well it just appears when the time is right since Easter moves each year.

But Christmas? You go into the right store and two weeks into October you will find impressive Christmas displays. It's almost like Halloween is over and they start to shrink the Halloween section. So even if you are the kind of person who waits for December to start decorating, you can buy your items in October. That is two and a half months of preparation. Why? Halloween is the only other holiday that comes close and that's only because of the costumes. If you didn't dress up on Halloween, you wouldn't see sections in stores until October 1st.

What good does shopping for Christmas in October do? Yeah I guess you can get all your shopping done in one stop. But let me bring this all home. October is a depressing month with Halloween as a sinister-joker-like feel to try and take the edge off. Christmas is a kinder and more gentle time. Literally a "present" during the midst of winter to remind us that all is not lost.

When you put Christmas trees and Santa Claus in stores, in October, you are completely destroying that atmosphere of Halloween. Rather than getting the "trick-or-treat/spooky/haunted atmosphere" of Halloween, you get creepy jokering mixed with seasonal good cheer. Jack-o-lanterns mixed with trees. Severed limbs mixed with boughs of holly. You get the complete antithesis of one another that while in a store literally assaults you from all angles rendering you completely overloaded to the point where despair once again reigns. Halloween feels like it's already past, and Christmas is still too far on the horizon. For Christmas people I suppose this isn't that bad of a thing. But for Halloween people it is a very discouraging almost existence ending feeling. It also destroys the point of Halloween, to give one last hurrah before winter over takes all.

Christmas can wait for November. We must do something about this. Christmas is fashionable until after Christmas. Halloween must achieve the same end. Halloween supporters must rise up and start to take the fight into November. The decorations are extremely similar as it is. I remember as a kid when November 1st hit, we'd just turn our jack-o-lanterns around so that they would be normal pumpkins again. Halloween must not literally vanish into the night as it always does on October 31st. It literally seems like a distant memory the next morning. We need to push into November. Haunted houses need to run longer. The delightful little tricks must carry us farther into the dead of night. Christmas needs to be hedged in and Halloween needs to share as much of the limelight. We must make a stand.

We don't want to go into December though...pumpkins are usually rotten and mushy by then.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lack Luster Halloween

So Halloween is the best time of year. I really really believe that. It's not quite so cold that you wanna die. You get to have fun and trick people. You can scare others without people thinking you are a creep. You can wear costumes and not get weird looks. Football. Lots of good things.

I always get pumped for Halloween. The energy of evil trickster spirits (that's just some "fluff" not a religious decree) run through my veins. Its almost like a calling.

This year...not so much. I don't know if its due to the swine flu epidemic. The horrible economy. The fact that Gravestone Manor was a pain in the rear to get ready this year. No idea why...but my usual Halloween thrill energy isn't as high as normal.

I think I figured it out though. There is a chain of stores known as "Spirit Halloween." They pop up for the Halloween season, then they vanish. All they sell is Halloween paraphernalia. They have awesome costumes, incredible masks (although expensive) and these really cool lawn ornaments that are usually set up in nice displays.

But this year....there is nothing in the store. All the masks are cheap and generic. The costume selection is lack luster. I have been in the store about 4 times this month and each time I've found myself bored. That's like....if Santa walked into his workshop and decided he'd rather go visit the Easter Bunny. I'm not blaming it all on Spirit Halloween...but when your only purpose in life is to supply people with their Halloween wants and needs, and your best mask is the Joker clown mask from last year, that's pretty bad.

Anyone else having a downer Halloween? Can't you even tell in the way this post is being written? Like its taken me forever to write this small post because I've just been so down thinking about it all. There is no energy in the post because there is no energy in me because this year there is no energy in Halloween. What has happened? This is supposed to be my biggest up shot of the year. It all goes down here from me usually....what do I have to look forward too? Why do I have a funny feeling that this year something will be wrong with the Cranberry sauce?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zombieland Reveiw

Hello all,

Apologies for not being able to see this movie sooner, but when you help run a Haunted House...well in October that kind of takes precedent.

Review of Zombieland:

You must accept, going in, that this movie is going to be ridiculous. To assume that it is a serious zombie movie or to assume that it is an "intellectual comedy" are not wise decisions. It is in essence a Zombiedy. If you go in thinking the will probably be let down.

That being said, it was quite humorous. I laughed out loud at many parts, but will keep my lips closed in case there are readers who haven't seen it yet. My favorite part was when the take refuge in the LA house....

The movie also focuses on a number of rules. There are 32 rules but we only ever learn, I think, eight of them:

1. Cardio--To sustain long periods of running away from zombies
2. Double Tap--send the extra bullet into the zombie's head to ensure it stays down
3. Be weary of bathrooms--Zombies always seem to show up when we are vulnerable
4. Buckle your Seat belt--So you can slam on the breaks and you won't go flying
16? Limber Up--before you do anything so you don't pull anything
17? Don't be a hero--except when impressing Witchita
20..? Always check the back seat--A zombie or gun stockpile will always be there
32. Enjoy the Little things--Like Twinkies or "Caddyshack"

I agree with all of these, as I've memorized Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide inside and out. The only one I'd caution against is the double tap...and that's based upon the amount of ammo you have. In this movie the characters sure seemed to have a lot of it....

I liked these rules and I like how they were presented by the skittish, nervous, low self-esteem main character...I would have just liked to know more of the rules, since they clearly defined his life.

The other major issue that I saw was ironically enough, the lack of zombies. There would be very long stretches where you wouldn't see any zombies. Now that's okay, you can have a movie where that happens and it still works. Take either version of Dawn of the Dead. You might not see a zombie for 20 minutes, but you know that there is a hoard of them just outside the mall. Any pull away or establishing shot will confirm this, so the fear is real. I also get that the movie takes place during the later stages of the outbreak, so most zombies would probably have been pulled to major population centers in search of more food. But even at the end, when the major conflict occurs...when it really comes down to it...there aren't that many zombies. Aren't they supposed to be in LA? That is a huge population zone. I get that the point is to have Columbus attempt to rescue the other two characters but in a zombie movie the big fear is the endless hoard.

Maybe that's not what they were going for since the tone of the movie was clearly light. If that's the case then I am willing to back off my statement. My statement is also not a "Deal Breaker" as Liz Lemmon would say, because I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was just a comment tis all.

Lastly--A lot of people have been comparing as the next "Shaun of the Dead." "Zombieland" was good. It was funny. I'm going to buy it to add to my zombie collection. It would fit nicely into a Zombiedy-athon. But it doesn't even come close to the humor, horror, tediousness, complexity, and all around amazement that is encompassed with "Shaun of the Dead." I'm being very serious. I know a lot of you may think I'm jaded because I like horror, comedy, the British, and zombies so its easy to think that I'm just a fan boy spouting off a love fest for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

But in all seriousness, I had to analyze "Shaun of the Dead" for a film class and I've been studying creative writing for a long time now. Everyone watch "Shaun of the Dead" again and pay close attention to the point that the movie is trying to make. The point is that humans are so entrenched in their routines that even a zombie outbreak might go unnoticed and that most humans would not noticed something was wrong until a zombie showed up on their doorstep. This is painfully obvious in the characters of Shaun and Ed as we laugh at them and their exploits. But watch the film again and only pay attention to the background. (I'm also referring to the first act of the movie before the zombies are everywhere.) Notice for how most of the movie there are sirens going off, even if they are just faintly in the background. Notice how sick the people look on the bus that Shaun rides. Notice how when Shaun is in his place of employment and he is trying to sell the TV that you can see three green army trucks rumble past the camera. Then notice that when Phillip leaves the store, those same three green army trucks rumble by him. How much of that did you notice? How much more is there that I haven't noticed yet? Isn't it creepy to think we don't notice things because we only care about our little daily routines? "Shaun of the Dead" scared me for the first them when I realized what I just pointed out and I counted driving past five ambulances with their lights flashing. That's a lot for one day. They could have been the first five outbreak patients and had it not been for "Shaun of the Dead," I never would have had that thought.

"Zombieland" although widely entertaining doesn't even come close to that level of sophistication.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fail! (The name of this post borrowed from my good friend Glen)

Okay, so this blog is about scary things. What follows in this post REALLY SCARES ME!

There is a certain road in the area where I live. Most people refer to it as "The Hillside Road." I'm not going to tell you it's real name, nor am I going to tell you the Township which in lies, but for any local readers...that should be all the clues you need.

This local police department has a reputation for being a little hard-line. Nay...incessantly hard-line. In my 24 years I've had 6 incidents where cops were involved. 2 were speeding tickets, one I will never argue...the other coming from a speed trap of 55 to yeah. One from the report I gave from being hit by another car. One coming from when I accidentally drove through a stop sign one late night after Gravestone Manor, to which the cop saw my make up and told me that Gravestone Manor was cool and let me go. These four incidents all involved police departments that are not the one that this post focuses on.

However, the remaining Situation the first: Two years ago on December 1st--DECEMBER--we had freak storms in my area. These storms were reminiscent of storms that you have on 90 degree days in July. They rolled in around 8PM. I waited until 11:30PM to drive home just to make sure that any sort of debris was cleaned off the road. Low and behold, when I reach the "Hillside Road," and came upon the section that is in no way lit, nor are there any houses, I find that I must swerve to avoid hitting a downed tree limb of substantial size. There is a car behind me. About 3 miles down the road that car turns on its red and blue lights. He pulls me over and talks to me about 15 minutes, thinking I am drunk. I can tell because he is shoving the flashlight in my face. (Did you all know that cop's flashlights have Breathalyzers in them--they aren't accurate enough to serve as evidence, but they are accurate enough to warrant a sobriety test--I learned that in Driver's Ed) But I'm not a drinker and of course I'm not drunk. I tell him that I was trying to avoid the tree limb. Eventually he asks what high school I went too and I told him. He said, "well I don't recognize your name, and that's a good thing. Next time, stay in your lane." Yes sir, next time I will plow into the large tree limb and cause damage to my vehicle.

Incident the second: This happened tonight on the same road, in about the same place. I notice on the roadway are those little white piles that form once signal flares have burned down. But there are no lit flares and there are no remnants of flares other than those white piles of phosphorus. A few feet down the road is a "Work Area Ahead" sign. A few feet behind that is one of those signs with the picture of the flagman. I turn the corner and I see a cop car with its lights flashing and several construction trucks down the road. It looks like they are repairing a downed telephone wire. The cop car's door opens and I see that he has one of those flashlights with the light up cone to signal traffic. You know, because they like to think they have light sabres or something. Now again this is all happening around 3AM so its all very surreal. Who puts out "Work Area Ahead" and "Flagman" signs that early in the morning?

I think the cop is going to wave me through but he instead walks up to my window and pulls out his normal (Breathalyzer) flashlight. He asks me where I came from and I tell him. He asks me if I saw the Road Closed sign. I say no, the only signs I saw were the "flagman" sign. Now this is a critical point in the conversation. He could think it strange that I have mistaken the image of a flagman for the words "Road Closed," and then assume that perhaps something happened to the "Road Closed" sign. Or....he could be a jerk and think that I have the intelligence of a jar of almonds. He picks the latter. He asks me "why I didn't see and obey the Road Closed sign." Now mind you also, I have a respect for authority, so when a cop talks to me I sound like a blubbering idiot. I say the following things, after each response he again asks me "why didn't you see and obey the Road Closed sign." I say: I was listening to the radio (this evoked an added--listening to the radio means you can't read a sign?--, I thought you were performing the same action that cops do on the interstate when there is construction, which is why I slowed down, and I thought you were the signal man.

I was so caught off guard by the fact that there was no Road Closed sign that I must have sounded drunk. I'm really surprised he didn't pull me out of the car in all actuality. He gives me this speech about how important it is to pay attention, totally demeaning my ability to confuse images with words and then tells me to turn around and go back the other way. Really? Couldn't he have just said that from the get go?

Now here is why I'm scared: I turned around I went all the way back down the road just to make sure that I didn't miss the sign and that I wasn't an idiot. There was no sign. Only the "Work Area Ahead" and "Flagman" signs. Theoretically this guy could have given me a ticket. Isn't that frightening? He didn't but he could have. I'm scared because if he did, I would have had to go through a protracted series of event to clear my name and avoid paying the ticket--or--suck it up and pay the immense fine, to which I just don't have the funding for at this point in time.

I will concede the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps the sign got knocked over. Maybe the road crew or another cop removed the sign, thinking that the area was secure. But I swear on my life I didn't see one. Also--don't you normally put "Road Closed" signs in the middle of the road to prevent people from going further? I saw those white piles of phosphorus from the flares....usually when you see those piles, it means that whatever happen has been taken care of and you can continue. Also, the cop car was on the side of the road as opposed to blocking it from on coming traffic. All of this, combined with no visible "Road Closed" sign, to me anyhow at 3 AM while listening to Sirus NFL radio talk about how awful JeMarcus Russell is, means to me, that the roadway is open, but to proceed with caution. It scares me that I was in a position where I could have received a ticket for in my mind, correctly interpreting the scene that was in front of me. I also would like to add that instead of trying to nose my way through the construction area, I did come to a complete stop and wait for the officer to instruct me further. I was ill prepared for the interrogation and lecture.

I also find it very peculiar that the cops in this Township are the biggest jerks. Two encounters; two bitter tastes in my mouth. All the other local cops of the municipalities in which I conduct most of my daily activities are really nice guys. I know not a lot happens in this Township...other than the occasional Prison Break attempt or the Water Reservoir coming under stress and almost breaking, thus causing a disastrous flash flood, so maybe a guy like me allows these cops to get their kicks and in so doing, take the edge off. But seriously--why you gotta be like that? What good is it doing you or the community you swore to protect and serve?

As I turned around and started backwards to determine whether or not I had missed the Road Closed sign, I saw three other vehicles, one of the drivers on a cell phone, heading past the "Flagman" sign. I, in someway, felt vindicated.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haunted House Tips

Gravestone Manor has been running for two weekends. I really hope that my friends and family are able to come see what we've been working hard on for almost six months.
However, I realize that some people who may read Haunted House Writer might not know me as well as others. I also would like to encourage those who have trepidations about coming to Gravestone Manor, or any haunted for that matter.


1) Never tell anyone your name. Even if its the person selling you tickets or the person who tells you when to enter the actual house. Otherwise they will spread your name throughout the house and every room you enter. It can be creepy. If you are a polite person, kindly answer "What's your name" with "I'd rather not tell you."

2) Be careful about what you wear. If you wear a hoodie that says "U of Pitt" someone might say something like, "The sorcerer prefers souls from Pittsburgh" and then you are creeped out. Perceptive Haunted House workers constantly look for any little thing to add to the "creep" factor. Don't wear flip flops. That's for safety. Don't wear white. Sometimes white will glow in black light, thus painting you as the perfect target for someone lurking in the dark corner.

3) ALWAYS KEEP YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR POCKET!!!! The glow will also paint you as a target, it is distracting for both actors and other patrons. You may be scared and want more light, but the other people in your group may want to actually experience the Haunted House for what it is, so ultimately it's inconsiderate.

4) If something scares you, don't tell it that it scares you. Almost every tour I see something like this: A clown pops out of it's hiding spot, girl's huddle together and shout "I HATE CLOWNS," and now that guy in the clown outfit makes his way directly toward those girls and doesn't even care about the other people in the room. So even if you've just messed yourself, don't let anyone else know because you might mess yourself even more.

These are the things that come to mind right now. Please keep them in mind as you go Haunted House Hopping. Maybe you won't feel quite so anxious and you would be more willing to go with your friends. Please whatever you do, make sure one of those stops is Gravestone Manor.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thoughts on RENT in local theatres

Again, apologies for the delays but its Haunted House season and Gravestone Manor is kicking it into high gear.

That being said some of you might also be asking "I think this post is about Rent the Broadway Musical. What is scary about that?"

I would counter with "that is a good question." Then I would stare at you until you asked me what the answer was because I'm so exhausted this time of year that I would need a kick in the rear to keep going.

Here is why I'm including Rent in a blog about scary things. Recently Rent left Broadway. When that happens, other theatres can purchase the rights for it and then stage their own productions. Recently I saw one of these productions. Now friends, do not automatically assume that I am going to say bad things about what I saw because everyone who acted in the show did really well. I was very much impressed. But there were some trends that I saw that might happen in many theatrical renditions of Rent that are scary because they take something away from the show. Rent is a finely tuned machine. There are very few liberties that one can take. If you do something a little bit different you have to make sure that you don't take away from the show's strengths. This is more so a warning for anyone considering putting on a production of Rent and again, this is not a slight on any of the actors involved because I think everyone did exceptionally well.

1. In my experience, it is the tendency of theatres to try to incorporate as many people into their cast as possible. When they aren't paid professionals, the inclination is to be fair and to give a lot of people a chance. This is fine. It is not fine however for a show like Rent. There are 8 principle parts and a variety of smaller roles for the ensemble. The ensemble is to represent the rest of the city and those that the main characters encounter. So there is definitely a need to have a number of actors.

But it is very unnecessary and in fact quite dangerous to load the stage with actors. The production I saw had so many people on stage for the big numbers that it seemed like they were hurting for room. Rent is so incredible because of its energy. To simulate energy you need movement. To have movement you need space. When you load the stage with have no space. That was the big problem I had with the production I saw was that there were so many people on stage that the possibility for movement was almost non-existent. The actors all wanted to move and they had lots of energy, but it got lost when they really had nowhere to go. Something to consider.

B. Sometimes I change to letters. That's right, who caught that?

I'm afraid of this as well: We all love the Rent soundtrack. We have grown up with it and have listened to the voices of the original cast for how long? Some of us also have the movie soundtrack and also the DVD of the Final Performance to study as well. We know these songs inside and out. It is only our natural instinct to try to match what we know and love. But we don't have to do this. Trying to match the original soundtrack can actually decrease the quality of the live performance.

That being said I think people need to be cautious of this as well. It didn't happen often, but every so often there were a few times when singers would add unnecessary runs and inflections and what not. It wasn't a deal breaker, but something that caught my attention. We aren't Idina Menzel or Adam Pascal. Taking risks is okay if you know your limits. If we are lucky enough to be cast in Rent it is because someone recognized and appreciated our voices. Stay true to yourself and sing the song that it sounds good regardless of weather or not it sounds like the original. Just don't over do it. Remember this the next time you are on stage singing "Take Me or Leave Me."

3/C. Lastly...the thing we all need to be aware of: Angel does not have to be portrayed as flamboyant. His costuming will take care of that. He is sincere, he is gentle, he is the heart of the show. He holds everyone together to the best of his ability. To "gay him up" is distracting and in actuality takes away from the character. Remember: If you play Angel, have fun, be a drag queen, dress like Santa, play drums, jump up on the table and love Collins...but whatever you do, don't be flamboyant.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

True Blood Season 2 Finale

The True Blood Season Finale 2 sucked!

Is the above statement an accurate portrayal of of the episode?

A Clever play on words about a vampire show?

Here's the problem. The way that the producer and writers of True Blood are organizing their show is very unique. This unique manner in which they are running their show doesn't really gel with the manner in which most other shows are run. That being said, True Blood's finale isn't completely as awful as everyone else seems to think it is. I feel that it's just misunderstood.

True Blood's unique vision can only be understood when compared to another TV show that follows a more conventional operation. Let's take a look at The Office's Season 2 finale.
The last thing we see in the finale is Jim walking up to Pam and kissing her on the lips. End of Show. Then when Season 3 starts, Jim is in Stamford, Pam has no ring on her finger, and it takes a little bit before the issue of Jim and Pam is even addressed. There is clearly a huge time gap between the two episodes and that's okay. When a show runs this way, the finale can be just that: A finale. Most of the story lines come to a close and give a clean slate for the next season.

True Blood is the opposite. The end of season one has Renee defeated, Bill sacrificing himself for Sookie, Sam resenting Sookie for choosing Bill, Andy Belfour sliding deeper into a drunken stuopr, Maryanne mysteriously showing up, and Layfette missing. Not too mention a dead body in Andy Belfour's car. End of episode.

The climax of this episode is the confrontation between Renee vs. Sam/Sookie/Bill. This happens at the end of the first half hour. The writers spend the rest of the episode ramping up for the next season and setting up most of the major plot hooks. This is risky because True Blood is such an action packed show, that we anticipate an even crazier finale. So in some ways we do not get the action packed finale we expect because the True Blood finales are actually more like two episodes in one.

But like The Office this is still okay and here is why: True Blood is running itself like one long movie. When the first episode of Season 2 starts, there is no time delay; it literally starts the moment after Season 1 ends. We just jump right back into the action. There is no time wasted trying to start the drama, because it's already been started for us in the finale. We've been waiting for a number of months for the start of the new season. During the run of the season we've had weekly episodes, so it's not like a four month wait for a brand new episode. In this manner it is the season premiere as opposed to the season finale that we are more ready and willing to sink our fangs into.

It's kinda like when we were in high school and we'd be watching a movie and then the bell would ring and the teacher would turn off the TV. When we came back the next day we picked up right where we left off. That's what the True Blood seasons are more akin too.
That being said however...Season 2's finale did have some...issues. Maryanne the Maenad was way too powerful an opponent when compared to the prejudice vampire hating Renee. Maryanne was a descendant of the Gods essentially and Renee was just a guy with a temper. Therefore the stage could have been set for an epic duel as opposed to an epic bull. The build up to that very creepy finale was amazing but the finale confrontation did not measure up. Sookie's powers were used only to knock over a statue and Maryanne seemed to give in just a little too quickly.

So over all, we should back off a little bit for thinking that the second half of the episode was not action packed, but those who feel that the Maenad confrontation was lack-luster are justified.

Oh...and the last misstep....there was far too little of this guy:

Monday, August 31, 2009

More Vampires

A few weeks ago, Haunted House Writer brought you the top cinema/screen/tv vampires according to SFX magazine. Clearly Vampires are all the rage right now. So surprise surprise when a few days later I found that Entertainment Weekly followed suit and published their top 25. Again, I'm only going to post the top ten most interesting vampires that way I don't ruin the whole list for you in case you want to go see it, but there are some interesting similarities and differences from the last list.

But let's start with some honorable mention Vampires first why don't we:

1. Count Von Count--Sesame Street
2. Grandpa Munster--The Munsters
3. Brett Farve--Professional all jest but when the last article about vampires was written at Haunted House Writer, Farve was "officially retired," and now at the publishing of this article...through a very specific and almost unimaginable set of circumstances...against my better judgement and happiness....he is my starting QB on my fantasy team...

Digression over. List Begins.

19. Selene--Underworld
15. Miriam Blayluck and Sarah Rogers--The Hunger
14. David--Lost Boys
11. Graf Orlok--Nosferatu
8. Mr. Barlow--Salem's Lot
7. Angel--Buffy the Vampire Slayer
5. Bill Compton & Eric Northman--True Blood
3. Dracula (Bela Lugosi)
2. Dracula (Christopher Lee)
1. Lestat--Interview with the Vampire

Agree/Disagree? Anyone Missing? Anyone who doesn't deserve to be there? How do you feel about this list compared to the SFX list. Leave some comments and lets get a vampiric discussion going on in here!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Move Review: District 9

So all of the buzz circling around Distric 9 since it's release has been incredible. Tweets, status updates, blogs, and blurbs have all been raving that District 9 is the movie to beat. One said to "drop what you're doing right now and see District 9." All this being said, I went to see the movie with much anticipation.

To borrow from one of the best movies of all time, "This is Spinal Tap," if everyone is saying that this movie goes to 11, I would say that it only goes to a 10. Although the short review would have me say, Black Hawk Down with aliens.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of excellent things in this movie. This is the feature film debut of star Sharlto Copley who plays Wikus Van De Merwe (pronounced Vikus.) Sharlto turned in a wonderful performance of the mild-mannered, wanting to impress his boss and provide for his family type character only to be caught up in a movement that was larger than life. He really surprised me because when you first see him you think he's only going to be on screen for a short period of time but you soon learn that he is the main character and its a fact that makes you happy.

Additional strengths were the special effects. I mean it is Wetta, but still a sci-fi movie just always has the chance to go into "too cheesy mode." (Has anyone see the awful looking CGI for the Werewolf in the New Moon trailer?) That aside the aliens in this movie look phenomenal. The alien ship looks real. The alien weapons are amazing. District 9 is worth seeing alone for the electricity gun. ELECTRICITY GUN.

The one area of District 9 that made it so that it did not go to 11 is this: District 9 left a lot of loose ends and assumed that the audience knew as much as the characters. The point of the movie is that the aliens have been on Earth for 20 years. The movie we are watching is a documentary of how conditions and relations have evolved over the past 20 years. Therefore every character we meet within the film has 20 years of experience living with aliens on the planet Earth. That is not something we in the theater can comprehend as we have not experienced it.

However District 9 is presented as if we do have the same experience. There are so many opportunities where District 9 could have been given a little shot in the arm by explaining one or two things a little better. A little bit here and a little bit there makes for a lot of bit by the end. I'm talking about the "slice of life" moments as my one professor used to say. Example: Prawns are addicted to cat food = brilliant. More stuff like that, but there isn't a whole lot.

Let me attempt to illustrate the point by using the movie The Matrix. One of the most unique and revolutionary aspects of The Matrix is that the audience learns along with Neo. There is nothing that Neo knows that we don't (except Kung Fu.) Neo must analyze and process information about the matrix, agents, machines, sentinels, jacking in, Zion, the Oracle, etc at the same exact moment as the audience does. This is brilliant because the matrix is a foreign concept/world to the audience.

The world/concept of District 9 is even more foreign. There are aliens and it takes place in Africa. Even if you take out the aliens there is a lot about African culture and sub-culture that is just as new to most audience members but it is only lightly touched upon. I think just that a little bit of fleshing out could have helped bump this movie to 11. But this one little misstep aside, it still is a solid 10 and is definitely worth a watch.

Agree? Disagree? Let us all know by leaving a comment!
Also, after I posted my review, I found this review on Twitter....maybe I'm more qualified than I thought...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blink-182 Summer Reunion Tour

First: Apologies for the gap in between posts. Internships, spending time with loved ones and friend, fantasy football, writing, and a variety of other things have unfortunately kept me away.

Second: I know this post doesn't really jive with the theme of Haunted House Writer. I ask that you'll indulge me this one post as it has been five years since a band that has been extremely influential in the world of underground music has graced the stage and even longer than that since I've seen them in concert. Also, some of you who read this blog might be going to see them at a different show so perhaps this will be a good preview.

Venue: Hershey Park Stadium. August 12, 2009
Chester French, Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182

CHESTER FRENCH: The concert was slated to start at 6:30. At 6:10 it started to shower just a little bit. At 6:15 it started to pour. Big, huge, drops. Most people went inside. We thought that the rain would pass and getting a little wet might help keep us cool in the 80 degree weather. Five minute later it started to thunder and lightning and ten minutes later, already soaking wet, I bought ponchos. Then I put all of our stuff, phones, wallets, in the little plastic bag that came with the poncho. I had a purse. I checked the time when I did that and it was 6:30. The roadies were covering the stage with plastic. Things did not look good. Around 7:00 we saw people heading to the stage, but it was not Chester French. It was....

PANIC(!) AT THE DISCO: Yes, Chester French (un)fortunately got rained out. Panic At the Disco took the stage adorned in tuxedos and suits. They played mainly stuff from "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out." They started with "Time To Dance," and Brenden Urie thanked the crowd for waiting and putting up with the "s***** rain." They played "Nine in the Afternoon," "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies," and a number of others including one from the up coming CD.

I don't know if it was the rain, or apparently a potential break up but the band didn't seem very into it. Panic At the Disco's myspace as of Monday only listed Brenden and Spencer as the two band members and Rolling Stone seemed to hint at this rumor. But there were four people there that kinda looked liked the normal band and people were leaving comment on the band's websites saying things like, "I'm so glad you didn't break up." So I don't know. Regardless of the reason and the conditions the songs were still good and it was a good time.

FALL OUT BOY: So Panic! At the Disco leaves the stage and it takes a long time for them to set up for Fall Out Boy. It was feared that another long rain delay would ensue. Stagehands rolled out big letters "F" "O" and "B" and placed them in front of the raised drum platform. About twenty minutes later the lights faded, the crowd went crazy, the FOB started to glow blue, and as if a heavenly sign that this band is somehow the chosen people, the rain subsides and some feint rays of sunlight graced the stage at the same moment as the band. Fall Out Boy opened up with "Sugar We're Going Down." Pete Wentz said it was easy to make the girls cheer for the band, but asked where his "dudes," were at. He also thanked the crowd for being in the rain and stated: "You'll be well lubricated for Blink-182. Fall Out Boy played favorites such as, "This Ain't A Scene, It's an Arms Race," "I Don't Care," "Where is Your Boy Tonight," "Saturday," "Dance, Dance," "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown," and a couple others. The band also informed us that they aren't always about emo lyrics, eyeliner, and sitting in a corner crying about things. Apparently they are sometimes "fun dudes."

Patrick Stump has an amazing voice. Despite being live and despite singing in the rain, he still sounded as if it were of studio quality. It was appreciated that their set varied in songs from all four albums. The band was extremely into the show as was noted by their energy. Just as the final rays of sun finally disappeared and it was dark, Pete Wentz asked the crowd, "Do you want to hear 'The Breaks Over, The Takes Over,' or some super fun old stuff." Brendan Urie of Panic At the Disco was invited back to the state. The crowd cheered for "super fun old stuff," and believe it or not folks, with a stage doused in blue lights, Fall Out Boy, with Brendan on vocals, played "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey and it sounded amazing.

The only sucky part was that Pete Wentz told us that due to the rain delays that they were playing a shorter set so that we could hear the entire Blink-182 show, which was awesome yet awful at the same time.

BLINK-182: As soon as the demi-gods, Fall Out Boy, leaves the stage, the rain lets loose again. Worse than before. Watching the clouds it seemed as if the storm we had before circled back around and hit us again, this time with greater ferocity and with lightning. I'm serious, those clouds were dark. There was another long delay. Stagehands were using squeegees to push water off the stage. We were soaked.

But finally a shirtless Travis Barker and shirted Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge take the stage. They open with "Dumpweed." I seriously felt like I was 16 again. Travis Barker, despite the plane crash, sounded amazing on the drums. As like the other bands before, Mark thanked the crowd for waiting in the rain and said, "since we're in Hershey, this must be Chocolate Rain." Mark then started jumping on the stage so that the water was kicking up behind him. He looked like he was 16 again.

The only problem I had with the Blink-182 set was that they played only from Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and Blink-182. The only songs they played from Cheshire Cat and Dude Ranch were "Josie," "Dammit," and "Carousel." Kinda left me wanting a bit more in that department.

During the song "Down," Tom messed up and he apologized to the crowd. Then Mark asked the crowd, "Did Tom get a 'C' on that song, or did he completely fail at life, under God, and as a human being and let everyone down." The crowd voted for the later, but then Tom retorted, "Jesus wouldn't vote."

The best thing about the Blink-182 show was that they didn't change. It's been five years and they are still belching, making dirty jokes, and acting like Blink-182. Their music may have matured but they sure haven't and that's what makes them amazing. When Mark realized that the crowd had been standing in the rain for three hours he opened a bottle of water and then doused himself. Then during the next song he slipped and fell and knocked the bass out of tune. Tom thought everyone complaining about the rain and cold were wimps. But then he too complained and demonstrated how slippery the stage was when he put his guitar on the ground and slid it all the way over to Mark who picked it up and made the stagehand chase him to get it. It was nice however, to see Tom and Mark give each other a high five and hug to show that despite their differences they are actually amazing friends in an amazing band and they have put their differences behind them. If you have a chance to see this tour, do it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Theatre Preview: Revival of The Cripple of Inishmaan

Excitement abounds! It is the kind of excitement that hits both my theatre and horror buttons.

I've just learned that my favorite playwright, the brilliant Martin McDonagh, is having one of his shows revived on Broadway. It is the show The Cripple of Inishmaan and it is the story of Cripple Billy, a young man who everyone thinks is helpless, and his struggle to prove his worth to his rumor starved and backwards community. The Cripple of Inishmaan is truly a phenomenal play and its exciting that theatre goers will have the opportunity to see it live again. The Cripple of Inishmaan is coming to New York on December 18th and is being directed by Tony Award winner Garry Hynes (the first female director to win a Tony.)

Here is why The Cripple of Inishmaan also is slated under the horror section. Martin McDonagh is a master of suspense and psychological thrillers. McDonagh's plays dig deep, make you think, and hit you on some pretty disturbing mental levels. Although The Cripple of Inishmaan isn't as gory, dark, or as disturbing as some of McDongah's other works like The Pillowman or The Lieutenant of Inishmore, this play still hits some deep and disturbing peaks. The trials of Cripple Billy are quite harsh as he is literally looked down upon almost like a tumor in the community in which he lives. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to ruin it, but trust me, it will make you think about things that you don't want to think about.

Anyone else a fan of Martin McDonagh or The Cripple of Inishmaan? Share some thoughts, reviews, etc. in the comment section.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SXF's 50 "Best" Vampire of All Time

I was at Barnes and Noble and found a special edition magazine from SFX entitled simply, "Vampire."

In the article it lists the "50 Greatest Screen Vampires of All Time." That is the only classification. Not "scariest" nor "sexiest," nor "deadliest." So I think without further classification this list bounces around somewhat strangely, but seeing as the main thrust of this blog is usually horror related and how vampires are big right now, I figured that there would be some degree of interest in this list. This list was apparently voted upon by SFX readers.

I won't list them all, so that way you can do further research if your so inclined, but I will list some of the more notable vampires or undead creatures, to help satiate your blood lust.

  • 45--Eric Northman--True Blood--Played by: Alexander Skarsgard
  • 39--The Master--Buffy the Vampire Slayer--Played by: Mark Metcalf
  • 27--Bill Compton--True Blood--Played by: Stephen Moyer
  • 24--Louis de Pointe du Lac--Interview With the Vampire--Played by: Brad Pitt
  • 22--Count Duckula--Count Duckula--Played by: David Jason
  • 19--Count von Count--Sesame Street--Played by: Jerry Nelson
  • 13--Dracula--Dracula--Played by: Bela Lugosi
  • 11--Blade--Blade--Played by: Wesley Snipes
  • 9--Selene--Underworld--Played by: Kate Beckinsale
  • 6--Graf Orlok--Nosferatu--Played by: Max Schreck
  • 1--Spike--Buffy The Vampire Slayer--Played by: James Marsters

Special Bonus person on the list: Brett Farve--NFL--Played by: Brett Farve

Agree/Disagree? Want to know where others fall? Take a guess and maybe I'll let you know if you are right. Till next your neck.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Haunted House Writing Part II

Hello loyal readers. I've let the "Haunted House Writing" post out there for a few days now and there have been some extremely interesting comments and questions. Today let's address some of the queries that were made concerning writing a theatrical haunted house. I've been involved with two during my life time: Lakeside Manor and Gravestone Manor. Not only do the points made here apply to only theatrical haunted houses, but these can also be important elements of any sort of theatre.

As opposed to most other scary venues the scares within a theatrical haunted house come more from technique than the story. Although the writing team at Gravestone Manor puts in an enormous effort to create an awesome and comprehensive story, it is important the story is effectively paired with effects and live actors. If we just brought you into the house and told you the story it would not be as scary as the full-blown theatrical experience. Therefore what actually "gets" the audience is not so much the story, but the way in which the staging of the room manipulates the audience into the perfect scaring opportunity. The story helps to set the stage, tie together, and enhance the haunted house so that the theatrical experience is more complete.

There are two basic principles to remember when designing a haunted house:

1) It's going to be dark. Lighting is perhaps the most important aspect of a haunted house. It helps to set the mood and can be used to direct the audience's attention or reveal an exit. It also serves as the greatest form of distortion ever. Since most of the costumes used at Gravestone Manor are huge latex masks they often do not appear as frightening in full light. But in a dimly lit room, they are only briefly seen which causes just enough of a jolt to spook an audience member. It also allows for the audience member to scare themselves as they paint their own picture as to what the creature really looks like. Also as important is that a fake mask prop must only be seen long enough to cause the scare and then must be quickly removed. The longer the prop or mask is visible, the longer the audience can identify that it is fake and non-threatening and in haunted house settings, this is a bad thing. Low lighting allows for a fake mask to disappear more quickly into the darkness. Also, occasionally it is difficult to build an elaborate set or you simply run out of time. Low lighting can also help to cover the little areas that are "incomplete."

2) Audience Direction. If you can't successfully pull this off, then patrons will leave your attraction saying things like, "it really wasn't that scary." Directing the audience helps to serve two purposes.

The first is that it helps to increase the effectiveness of the scare. Lets say the big effect is to have someone dressed as a clown come bursting through a door. Well if there is only one door in the room the audience is going to stare at that door and think, "I bet somethings going to pop out from that door." Then, when the clown does emerge, its really not that effective because it was anticipated.

Now take the same scenario. The audience is looking at the door, but then there is a clock that chimes to the left, a bottle falls off a table to the right, the doors to a cabinet burst open behind them. The audience is now looking at everything else in the room besides the door. When the turn around to look behind them, the clown enters the room and starts to make his presence known. When the audience turns around, the no longer see a harmless door, but rather a frightening clown that seems to have appeared right before their eyes. I've seen it before and something as simple as this can scare even the most "macho" of football players who all of the sudden hide behind their girlfriends. This exact example is drawn from Gravestone Manor and by the way, here is the clown:

The second think that audience direction assists with is a sense of discomfort. When sounds are heard, lights are seen, and effects are going off, the audience is looking around the entire manor for the next possible scare. Assaulting their senses from all angles makes Gravestone Manor seem more frightening than it really is, because the audience is actually scaring themselves. It really is amazing at how people scare in a group because when one jumps, they all jump.

Lastly, in terms of where the room and effect ideas come from, its really just the product of imagination. Sometimes Gravestone Manor writers just come up with the effect and others help dress the effect with a story. Sometimes if we can't end up building the effect we try to reorder the room so that the story remains in tact so there there isn't a heck of a lot of change. It really is hard to describe because Gravestone Manor has such a wealth of writers, builders, and actors who all contribute to help make Gravestone Manor the "Most Unusual Haunted House Ever."

I hope this helps and was insightful. and thanks to all of those who left comments previously.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Theatre Review: The 39 Steps

Yesterday I saw The 39 Steps at the Helen Hays Theatre in New York City. I was in the front row. It was AMAZING. A lot of people say that a non-musical show on Broadway isn't worth seeing. This show proves that wrong completely.

The plot holds true to the movie by Alfred Hitchcock that bares the same name. However, unlike the serious toned movie, this show adds a lump of comedy that keeps the audience laughing for the duration of the performance. There are also a variety of references to Hitchcock's other works that can be picked up upon if one pays enough attention.

The Helen Hayes Theatre is extremely small, but it is perfect for The 39 Steps. The audience is closer together and closer to the stage, which allows for the laughter to be contagious.

The actors in The 39 Steps demonstrate how amazing live theatre can truly be when done right. The are only four actors-one woman, three men. Two of the men end up playing roughly 125 roles in order to keep the story going. The costume and accent changes happen so quickly, flawlessly, and comically, that it is a true testament to the quality of the acting ability of those involved. I truly have not been this entertained in quite some time and recommend it for any fan of live theatre. In fact, dare I say, if you're not a fan of live theatre, go see this show and I bet you'll change your mind.

The Players:
Man #1...................................Jeffery Kuhn
Man #2...................................Arnie Burton
Richard Hannay....................Sean Mahon
Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret............Jill Paice

Understudies..........Rob Breckenridge, Cameron Folmar, Nisi Sturgis

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Haunted House Writing

So the other day, my good friend Erin said, "hey I like your blog, but when I go to it, there's nothing about haunted house writing." I've considered this and become upset that perhaps there are some readers/web surfers who find this site and think "hey, I'd like to know how to write a haunted house," but instead get upset when they see movie reviews and commentary on omelettes. The name Haunted House Writer was originally intended just to be my unique identity on the world wide web but I can see now that it has been misleading.

Therefore, I'd like to open up the forum for anyone who might be interested in Haunted House Writing. I've been involved with a local haunted house, named Gravestone Manor. I've been an actor there for seven years, been on the writing team for six years, and have been the Assistant Project Coordinator for five years. Gravestone Manor is a United Way charity. Everyone involved is a volunteer and every penny made goes right to the United Way. Prior to that I helped run the much smaller scale yet equally as awesome haunt known as Lakeside Manor, which despite being inactive for almost eight years, I'm surprised to learn it is still listed on

So if anyone has any questions on how to write/create a haunted house, techniques, some (and I'll stress some) info on how the attractions I've worked at operate, or anything else haunted house related, leave a comment and once there are a bunch I'll make another post directly for that purpose. Thanks loyal readers! Especially the one(s) in Clark Summit....seriously who is that? You spend more time on this site than I do and I am very grateful.
Gravestone Manor's Website:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Review: Public Enemies

Here is Haunted House Writer's review of "Public Enemies." Since this falls into the review category, there maybe some spoilers involved, so be forewarned. I will start by saying that yes of course Johnny Depp is really really good. But Johnny Depp being good does not an amazing movie make. I've identified four issues that sorta irked me about "Public Enemies."

1) The script and the director apparently did not agree with one another. "Public Enemies" suffers from two very different feels that don't really go well together. The first is that the script is very old school and by this I mean it is extremely historically accurate. You feel like you are in the 1930s. But, a majority of "Public Enemies" is shot with hand-held cameras (like "Cloverfield") which serves to disconnect the viewer from the film due to the modern feel of the hand held viewing experience.

Couple this with extremely fast editing and it becomes hard to identify the characters beyond Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Likewise this style ensures that there is no emotional attachment to anything about "Public Enemies." The only thing that keeps you interested is what happens to Dillinger and his girlfriend, but there are so many gaps between when they are the focus of the shot that you forget about them as well. It is bad when you can find nothing to grasp a hold of as you watch the movie and given that the majority of this is about Dillinger, I personally feel that I have learned nothing about his personality. There was too much a sense of detachments.

This editing style also leads to poor transitioning. At one point your in Chicago, but then in an instant it's weeks later and they are in Indiana and people who were in Texas are now there as just was frustrating. It'd go all of the place with no smooth or easy flow that felt almost uncomfortable.

2) Overall "Public Enemies" was too dark. Not in terms of tone, but in terms of actual lighting. You couldn't see half the time which made it even harder to identify who was on screen or what was happening. This point echoes some of the sentiments in the above section.

3) SPOILER ALERT!! A huge offense was how they shot Dillinger's death scene. One of the highlights of the film is its action sequences which were very realistic, crisp, and engaging. The shootout at the lodge at night is pretty fantastic.

The last 20 minutes of the "Public Enemies" is amazing. When Dillinger is wandering around the police station and watching the's very creepy and mood setting. Then he walks outside and he is being pursued by law enforcement officials who proceed to shoot him through the face. At this point though, "Public Enemies" enters into a slow-motion sequence that concludes with horrible CGI of Dillinger being shot. It's cheesy, corny, looks awful, and completely ruins the amazing sequence that was established previously. It would have been better if you saw Christian Bale light his cigar, then a single shot, then cut to the last scene with the girl in the interrogation room. The rest of the action in the movie was gritty and amazing but then when Dillinger's death is romanticized, it feels so out of place that it ruins the end of the film.

4) This isn't really that big a concern but although Christian Bale does a good job in the film and his accent is spot on, he just doesn't look Southern. His face is too rigid and angular. We all remember how out of place Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie" with his eye patch and no German accent.

Last word of advice for those who are going to see "Public Enemies." Wait a week or so. When I went, the theater was packed with Johnny Depp fan girls who got bored with the film and started texting or talking.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Zombieland Preview

Getting back to the roots today--a preview of a horror film. Well actually it's more of a "Zomb-edy." Thanks to friend, screen-writer, and fellow blogger John Rocks (yes that's his real name) for the tip on this movie. His blog can be found here:

I will post the "Zombieland" trailer a little further down for your viewing convenience. Some points to consider about this movie:

1) "Zombieland" has fast zombies, much like the "Dawn of the Dead" remake and "28 Days Later" (though I know that they aren't zombies.) Fast zombies usually ramp up the horror factor at the risk of deviating from the usual characteristic slow and shambling hoard. Always a difficult choice to be made when stating up your zombies.

2) The star of "Zombieland" is Woody Harrelson. Given his appearance, yet distinctive voice it almost gives the impression that the hero will be a strange blend of Cheers bartender Woody Boyd and Crocodile Dundee. Not sure how Harrelson will be as the star of an action/horror/comedy such as "Zombieland," but time will only tell.

3) Reminiscent of "Shaun of the Dead?" The trailer clearly marks "Zombieland" as being a comedy. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of dark tones or panic stricken survivors but rather almost a "game show" like feel to the plague of undead. They even compete for the best "zombie kill of the week." A lot of people will compare "Zombieland" to "Shaun of the Dead" but from simply the trailer I think there will be a huge difference.

Although "Shaun of the Dead" is also a hysterical movie, it is extremely dark and moving film. "Shaun of the Dead" does make light of the zombie genre in the first two acts, but by the third, when they are in the Winchester, the film becomes so dark and serious, you forget how much you laughed earlier in the movie. "Shaun of the Dead" is very underrated and is quite possible one of the best movies ever made, technically speaking. There are so many subtle nuances and make the movie extremely creepy as to denote that people wouldn't notice a zombie uprising until it was too late. If anyone wants more on this, let me know in the form of a comment.

But in "Zombieland" the characters seem to be more lighthearted. They are swirling around an amusement park, make many quick quips, and other quirky things. I'm not saying that these will make for a bad movie, just it will be different in tone than "Shaun of Dead" and actually might let some people down who are anticipating something similar.

Overall, "Zombieland" will be funny, entertaining, light-hearted, and will poke fun at the zombie genre. However, if you are looking for the next zombie thriller that is more traditional...well you might have to wait until "World War Z" gets closer to completion. But please do not forget that this is all comming from soley the trailer. Trailers can sometimes decieve...if you want to know ask me what I think about the movie "Freedomland."

Agree with me? What do you think? Watch the trailer then leave some comments please.