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.