How to Save Found Footage

OK, so in the past few years, the subgenre of “found footage” movies has become a pretty easy target. Even though Hollywood loves it for the fabulous profit margins it can generate, and some truly classic horror films have been built around it, audiences generally find the whole found footage thing to be, at best, a device they tolerate. At worst people will refuse to see any found footage movie, probably while using terms like “shaky cam” and claiming that it makes them nauseous.

This has been the case pretty much since the first (famous) found footage movie, The Blair Witch Project, came out in ’99. Back then found footage was merely Blair Witch’s individual gimmick, not a subgenre. About a decade later it had a resurgence, with (to name just a few examples) Cloverfield, REC/Quarantine, and most notably Paranormal Activity. VHS and VHS 2 took it to another level by blending the concept with the anthology format.

But now, taking the temperature of the public’s reaction to new found footage horror movies, it looks like the backlash has begun in earnest. After enough copycats have been released, it becomes obvious that the genre of found footage has… let’s say a limited range. However, when I think back on my reactions to seeing The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity for the first time, I am reminded that the technique CAN be used to truly great effect by competent filmmakers. And further, I think there’s still some juice left in it.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 23rd, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Sleepaway Camp Review


I wouldn’t normally review a movie chosen for Bad Horror Movie Night, for hopefully obvious reasons. But this year’s winner, Sleepaway Camp…. is a horse of a different color. It’s such a bizarre piece of slasher movie history, I just have to put down a few words on the subject.

There are many different types of “bad” a movie can embody. There’s bad in the traditional sense – bad story, bad writing, bad acting, bad special effects, etc.. Battlefield Earth bad. There’s shlocky bad, like Basket Case, the bad that’s got a grimy, sloppy, extraordinarily weird tone that’s usually one of the “good” kinds of bad. And there are many, many other varieties.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 21st, 2014 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

The Possession – Review


*Note: This review was originally written in July of this year, but not included in the Summer of Horror series. As a result, some references may be outdated.

I had to Google the definition of a word that kept appearing in review blurbs for The Possession – “hoary”. Meaning “old, well-tread, played out, unoriginal, etc.”. It’s not necessarily the word I would have used to describe the movie myself (given that I didn’t know the definition – only the context), but I did note early in the runtime that several of the modern haunting/demonic possession movie clichés were popping up. It actually inspired me to finally write an article compiling and defining them all.

It begins “at the end” for another character we don’t know and don’t care about, acting as a sneak peek to bring us up to speed on the power and malevolence of the film’s antagonist – a cliché used in such films as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the Evil Dead remake, and even Oculus. In this case, the MacGuffin is a wooden box, and the wooden box houses a demon. The demon has a familiar, demonic-sounding name (Abizu) and a familiar agenda (possess a young girl). Young girls, of course, being the most susceptible to possession in horror movie land. The parents are recently divorced, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick, and the divorce subplot itself provides a fairly interesting real-world explanation for certain plot logic concerns (demonic possession probably not particularly high on a list of explanations for sudden behavioral issues in a child when divorce is in the picture).  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 19th, 2014 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Fear Farm Review (2014)

Where: 99th ave. North of McDowell
When: Thursdays through Sundays now, soon to be open 7 days a week, 7pm till at least 10
How Much: Prices vary based on day and ticket type, ranges between $26 and $50 for all 5 houses + corn maze

A white whale has been slain.

Regular readers of this site (or maybe just me) will note that Fear Farm has been a conspicuous blank spot in my Phoenix haunted house experience. In prior years I’ve made three attempts to go to this multi-haunt park, but was always too spooked by the crowds to get spooked by the haunts. Fear Farm is Arizona’s most popular haunted attraction by a wide margin, so it was something I had to have under my belt, but I wanted to experience their haunted houses, not just a serpentine line made of hay bales.  This time we went close to opening time, on a Sunday, fairly early in the season.

First and foremost, know this – the ticket line is a beast. If you’re thinking, like we were, that you’d buy tickets at the door so you can scope out the crowd and see if the fast pass is necessary – it will be necessary. Just cut to the chase and buy the fast pass tickets online, because the general ticket line was as long and as slow as the TSA security line at Sky Harbor, and that’s no exaggeration. We went on a “slow” night and still felt that the fast pass was a life saver. So you can spend 29 dollars to stand in line all night, or 39 dollars to go into some haunted houses. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 15th, 2014 | Filed Under Haunted Houses, Reviews | No Comments -

Review – Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkineater

Howe Sound Pumpkineater

Sitting unassumingly on a shelf in the seasonal beer aisle at Total Wine, mixed in with the other pumpkin beers, was the glorious bottle pictured above – yet ANOTHER new pumpkin beer for the Phoenix region (or at least its wholesale liquor stores).

Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkineater is another first for me simply owing to its bottle – a full liter spring top. I’m a big fan of the label art and putting the word “imperial” in the name sets itself up with some lofty expectations. At 8% ABV it’s certainly not for the faint of heart (or weak of constitution), but still falls a bit below Southern Tier Warlock’s 8.6%. But that doesn’t matter much to me as I’m not an ABV snob. The beer’s taste is the deciding factor.

Poured into a goblet (as is my new practice with stronger beers), the scent is encouraging – noticeable pumpkin, nutmeg, and oddly, some oaky tannin notes that remind me of wine. With every sip as I let the nose breathe, I noticed that wine aroma, which is pretty unusual but I suppose logical given the alcohol content. Though Southern Tier’s superlative pumpkin beers mask it perfectly.

The taste is reminiscent of the legendary Dogfish Head Punkin – good company to be in – but a little more… syrupy? That sounds pejorative, but it’s not. It’s merely a distinction. The flavor completely lacks the vanilla and pie crust flavors found in Southern Tier’s offerings, and it bites more on the tip of your tongue. Again, this is not a criticism.

Going purely based on the quality of the drink itself, this would be yet another top-tier pumpkin beer (I may need to re-evaluate my rating scale this year). But I would be remiss not to consider the value equation. This beer is only found in 1 liter spring top bottles that cost a whopping $15. Crunching the numbers in comparison to Warlock and Pumking, you’re getting around 54% more beer to a bottle, at roughly the same ABV, and paying 66% more. And since this beer falls just a small notch short of those titans, those numbers don’t add up. BUT, this is one man’s opinion, and if something about Southern Tier’s pumpkin beers don’t suit your tastes, this one very well might.

Rating: 4halfjack

Ghosted by Jon on October 15th, 2014 | Filed Under Beer, Reviews | No Comments -

Two Weekends To Go

We’re only a scant two weeks out from the Camp Awesome Halloween party. Two weekends and a handful of days to get everything ready. Normally this is where I’d post about feeling overwhelmed and uncertain that we’ll be able to pull it off, but this year we were much, much smarter about organization and prep, which made the whole enterprise go by oddly smoothly.

It’s weird, all that chaos and anxiety and mad rush to complete everything, while stressful and sometimes unpleasant, always led to a great Halloween party. There’s a small part of me that wonders if having everything well in hand is actually some sort of a bad omen. But I’m not superstitious. I feel confident.

The haunted house walls are going up as we speak. To make an example of how this year’s Halloween progress differs from last, last year the haunted house walls couldn’t go up until two nights before the party, because I hadn’t designed it in such a way for the garage door to be able to open and close easily with them in there (I also had to build them). This year the entire thing has been redesigned, allowing the walls to go up two WEEKS in advance. I’m using that extra time to refine the haunt much more.

I really can’t wait for people to go through it. I’ve said before how giving people that unique type of fear you only get with haunted attractions is ridiculously intoxicating. This will be our second year doing it for the public, and I can’t help but wonder if the turnout will be greater than last year due to word of mouth. I’ve now spoken to two people who started doing home haunts exactly like this and both ended up getting popular enough to necessitate going commercial. I don’t know if that’s in our future, but it’s certainly intriguing.

Ghosted by Jon on October 12th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Sexy Karate Dracula

Dracula Untold RT

Why, Hollywood? Why why why why why why why?

I get that theater attendance and home video sales are going down. I get that because of this, all the major movie studios have become even more risk averse, and reliant on iterations of proven franchises. I get that it’s much easier to market and sell an idea people are already well familiar with than to try to pitch audiences a new idea. But what I don’t comprehend is this recent Hollywood trend of trying to force something to be a “thing” when it’s so clearly NOT a thing.

First case in point: Gritty, adult versions of children’s fairy tales. A couple years ago it seems that all the Hollywood studios got together and said “Guys, this is it. The idea that’s gonna make us all trillionaires: Fairy tales. But like, live action, gritty, serious, adult, gritty, violent, and gritty fairy tales. Oh, PG-13, definitely. Don’t be ridiculous! Now, I know we haven’t exactly had, well, any of these types of films come out and be hits yet, but I think if we just release enough of them all at once it’ll catch on.” And thus, we got Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Snow White and the Huntsman, Red Riding Hood, and Jack the Giant Slayer all in the span of two years. And none of them were big hits.

So where did this come from? In an industry currently famous for only greenlighting movies that have something in common with a recent blockbuster record-setter, why would Hollywood take so many chances on something they had no reason to believe audiences even wanted? Was it just a by-product of reboot culture?

Cut to today, and we’re getting Dracula Untold, the second recent “origin story” reboot-thing based on a Universal monster property. The first being the massive flop I, Frankenstein, featuring a sexy, badass, heroic version of the Frankenstein monster who karate battles generic CGI creatures. Dracula Untold features a sexy, badass, heroic Dracula but based on the trailer he seems to be fighting mostly humans. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 8th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | 1 Comment -

House of Screams Review


House of Screams

Where: I-17 and Thunderbird Rd., in the shopping center adjacent to QuikTrip
When: Dates vary as Halloween approaches (see website), open at 7 until at least 10
How Much: $23

House of Screams (and Wicked Dreams) appears to be a collaboration between the creative minds responsible for Jack & Jill’s Haunted Hill and another group I was unfamiliar with (according to their website, they started as a home haunt and are going commercial for the first time this year). The introduction to the haunt and many of its scenes and scares I remember from Jack & Jill’s, but retooled to fit this new setting.

This is technically a brand new, independent haunted house for 2014, but you wouldn’t really know that by going through it. It’s housed in a pretty large storefront and has professional-looking signage and web presence. I went on a Sunday night very early in the season, and while the place wasn’t busy by any means, it wasn’t dead either. There was nothing in the way of line entertainment, but it wasn’t needed due to the short wait. This is something Chambers of Fear sorely needs as their line moves much more slowly. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 7th, 2014 | Filed Under Haunted Houses, Reviews | 1 Comment -

Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Doesn’t Make Any God Damn Sense


I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and 1994’s New Nightmare is a fine, meta slasher movie that begat Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors also has a ton of 80’s charm and cheese and some of the series’ most iconic moments (“Welcome to prime time”, et al). But that’s where my experience with Elm Street ended. I had no interest in the 4th through 6th entries, as every horror fan knows when a franchise has entered lazy cash grab mode, usually at the 4th movie. The 2010 remake I’m not considering part of the series and I think I speak for everyone when I say that.

But what about the 2nd movie, Freddy’s Revenge? I was vaguely familiar with the existence of the notorious “gay” Nightmare on Elm Street movie but had never seen it, and lo and behold, it’s currently the only one available on Netflix. While I didn’t find it quite as gay as its reputation had me believe, there was definitely obvious subtext (“I feel like something’s trying to get inside my body.”) and even more overt homoerotic content (leather daddy gym coach gets stripped naked and towel whipped in the school showers). But the infamous gay angle in Freddy’s Revenge wasn’t nearly as interesting as the fact that the movie makes no god damn sense whatsoever. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 6th, 2014 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween – Book Review


I randomly picked this book out on Amazon while looking for some good Halloween reading/horror anthologies. It’s always risky taking a chance on books like these since many of them are aimed at children and/or aren’t very well written. Fortunately, this one doesn’t succumb to either of those trends.

The best way I can describe the book in one sentence is “a literary version of Trick R Treat (the movie)”. The tone is very similar – an anthology of horror stories that are each about the different trappings, traditions, and components of Halloween. While the stories are generally not excessively explicit or gory, they are most definitely NOT for children. If made into a film it would definitely have an R rating – murders are gruesome, sometimes downright disturbing, the main characters don’t always survive the stories, and there’s some adult language. But all of this is balanced by a thread of dark humor that reminded me of Trick R Treat. When a character claims to hate Halloween, you know things aren’t going to end well for them…  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 5th, 2014 | Filed Under Reviews | No Comments -
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