Every Day is Halloween

At least, in October it is…

Perhaps you’ve noticed my output on this site has lowered somewhat this year compared to those past. “Lowered” to the tune of like, a third. Yes, things are very different this year. For various (mainly job-related) reasons, I have only had a fraction of the computer time that I normally do, and have not been able to update the site nearly as often as I’d like to. But that’s OK, because what spare time I do have has been totally dedicated to the celebration of Halloween. I’ve already watched a respectable 15 horror movies in just the front half of the season. Inside decorations are nearly 100% complete, with outside decorations going up shortly. And the bulk of the construction of the haunted house is already complete.

More importantly, it’s…

Halloween Phase 2

It’s October!!! The month in which nobody can condescend to you for wearing a T-shirt with a jack o’ lantern on it in public.

This is when things really heat up for the Halloween fan. You’ll start to encounter people discussing their costume ideas. You’ll see pumpkins in every grocery store. All the haunted houses are open for business. And although I’ll have to enjoy it only in spirit, cable TV stations will start to air their Halloween-centric programming. It’s really a beautiful time.

There’s a pumpkin beer sitting beside me (Anderson Valley Fall Hornin’, if you’re wondering [I’m writing this a night early so no judging].), the smell of pumpkin spice candles is wafting through the house, and all the lights are red and orange. I’m looking forward to all the little mini-Halloweens we’ll celebrate leading up to the Big Day, and the other Big Day. I’m looking forward to seeing lines of costumed trick or treaters snaking down my driveway, and seeing them get the bujeesus scared out of them. I’m even looking forward to all the work that goes into making those things happen.

Every year my reputation as “the Halloween guy” grows a little. It’s a weird obsession to have, this one holiday. I’ve dedicated the entirety of this website more or less to parsing out the reasons for that obsession, and still haven’t really succeeded. As far as I’ve known, it’s something about the intersection of nostalgia and the celebration of life. This is just the form that it’s taken.

Speaking of which, I tried a Burger King Halloween Whopper…


How could a cheeseburger be “Halloween”, you may ask? Well, the bun is black (like, black as a thousand midnights), and it comes in a special mummy-themed wrapper. Incidentally, that black bun is also infused with the flavor of A1 sauce. And A1 sauce has no component of Halloween whatsoever. So yeah, maybe I got hoodwinked. Taken advantage of. But damned if this Whopper didn’t taste good. There’s no reason on Earth ANY sandwich from Burger King should cost more than a Double Double from In N Out, but for what it’s worth, the Halloween Whopper didn’t disappoint.

Moving on…

I can’t recommend highly enough Cinemassacre.com’s Monster Madness as a central Halloween ritual. It returns for its 9th (!) year TODAY. Check it out every morning.

So this month, buy a pumpkin, watch a horror movie or 20, and agonize over the tiniest details of your costume. It’s Halloween Phase II.

Ghosted by Jon on October 1st, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Pumpkin Beer Roundup 2015

Just as it was last year, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING is dominating the retail landscape in Fall 2015. That means food companies are finding innovative new ways to foist pumpkin pie flavoring into such products as Twinkies, cookies, cereal, and cat litter. The internet is bringing the snark, of course, but for me, this means one thing above all others: a windfall of new pumpkin beers.

Last year I abstained from writing a roundup of all the new pumpkin beers there were, opting only to review particular ones of interest. But people continue to ask for recommendations, so I’m bringing the roundup back. This is far from a complete list of what’s available on shelves in Phoenix right now, as I’ll be focusing only on the beers that I’ve never tried before, or that warranted another look with a more refined palette. To see reviews of all the old favorites (and not-so-favorites), see the Reviews page.

As the season progresses, I’ll be continually updating this page with more reviews, so check back often! On to the beers…  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on September 18th, 2015 | Filed Under Beer, Reviews | No Comments -

Halloween on a Budget

Savers secondhand/thrift stores are keenly aware of something Goodwill seems only mildly interested in – Halloween is big business for thrift stores. Of course it is. For people cobbling together Halloween costumes, the huge selection of weird old items at ashtray change prices couldn’t be more perfect, and Savers has been capitalizing on that fact in an increasingly big way.

Their store is already Halloweened out to the max. Not only have they collected Halloween-worthy used clothing and goods into special aisles, but they also have a fairly astonishing selection of new costumes, accessories, and decor, smack dab in the middle of the store. Their employees are also costumed. Yes, in early September.

I always keep a close eye on the fake skeleton-and-skull market around this time, and Savers has some good deals as far as that’s concerned. Fifty dollar squelettes articulé (Pose ‘n Stay Skeletons), and plastic skulls with jaw for five bucks, soft foam versions without jaw for three. If I didn’t already own somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 fake skulls, I’d have picked up a couple of the foam ones.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on September 9th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Start Again (A Phase I Celebration Post)

Trick or Treat

I’ve been doing this for a long time.

“This” being writing about Halloween’s gradual approach into all our lives, its subsequent revelries and traditions. And of course, ramblings about how I happen to celebrate it for 60 whole days. Every year, I try to think of new ways to word this part – this day one kickoff of “Halloween season” – and every year it gets a little tougher. Mainly, it’s because my memory of the previous Halloween is so present and so vivid, the disbelief that it’s here again, already, is so strong.

Here’s a snippet of what I had to say about it last year:

“It’s the juxtaposition of macabre and jovial, and of youth and adulthood. Death putting a mirror up to life, making us all remember how precious it is. It’s the official beginning of the holiday season – the time when almost everybody, if they’re so inclined, gets to experience that feeling of life being generally better and more fun for a couple months.”

I think that’s a pretty good way to say it, I guess. I don’t remember writing it, nor do I remember that the Spirit stores were already running at full capacity on September 1st! So of course, I had to go scope out that action…  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on September 1st, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: The Hills Have Eyes, The Taking of Deborah Logan, The Human Centipede

Well folks, this is it. The final entry in 2015’s Summer of Horror. I can’t believe another Summer is (more or less) behind us and Phase I is beginning tomorrow!

I’m happy that this year I managed to watch more horror movies than I did last year, but it came at the expense of being a little fast and loose as far as which films I ended up reviewing (being unemployed for much of the Summer also helped). There are still several classics I haven’t gotten around to, including Freaks, Suspiria, and Tales from the Darkside. But that’s why this is an annual tradition!

On to the reviews.

The Hills Have Eyes

Hills have eyes

This jumped to the top of my list upon yesterday’s sad news. I might not have gotten around to it otherwise, which is sad because it was one of the first films I came up with when putting together the Summer of Horror watch list.

Another proud entry in the Redneck Torture Family subgenre, The Hills Have Eyes is pretty remarkable in the wake of Wes Craven’s later work. This is nothing like Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not fun, it’s not flashy, it’s not pop, and it shares more in common with Texas Chainsaw Massacre than it does Halloween or Friday the 13th. It’s a remarkably vicious and dirty film, playing out like a very small scale version of Mad Max. A pure fight for survival in an endless desert.

It definitely shows signs of age, not to mention the semi-sloppy stylings of a young director just cutting his teeth. Characters often behave totally illogically, or otherwise show inappropriately muted reactions to horrifying events early in the film. But as things escalate, the situation becomes more and more desperate and brutal, accelerating the pace considerably in the second half. And it ends with a bleak, nihilistic resolution that highlights the indifferent pointlessness of all the savagery we had just witnessed.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 31st, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Remembering Wes Craven

wes craven

The year was 1990, I think. I was 6 or 7 years old, on a Summer vacation at my Grandma’s house in Connecticut, as was our routine almost every year. One night, I was watching TV in the den and a Freddy movie was on. I sort of knew who Freddy Krueger was based on schoolyard word of mouth, but I had never seen any of the movies.

In what I later knew to be Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the scene I’ll never forget was Freddy inhabiting the form of a marionette hanging on a kid’s wall. He came to life, cut his own strings with his famous bladed glove, and scampered across the room to do his murders. It terrified me. That night, as I failed miserably to fall asleep, framed pictures and anything else hanging on the walls of the room looked like they could become Freddy at any moment. That was my first experience with a horror movie really getting under my skin, making me feel fear long after it was over.

There are a number of Wes Craven’s films I haven’t seen. Indeed, a few of them have been sitting on my Summer of Horror list for a few years, waiting for me to get around to them. But if his only legacy were the Nightmare on Elm Street films, that would still be enough in my mind to earn him a place among the horror legends. The original was, for a time, my absolute favorite horror movie, and is still firmly in my top five. Craven didn’t direct Dream Warriors, but it’s the only one of the many sequels (until New Nightmare) he had a direct hand in writing, and it’s a campy, fun ride. The aforementioned New Nightmare is a fantastic, meta expansion of the Freddy mythology and the best of the sequels.

Then of course there’s Scream, another mega hit that invented the whole idea of self-aware pop horror movies that acknowledge their own history, paving the way for films like Cabin in the Woods. The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, and The People Under the Stairs are all genre classics in different ways.

His last film as a director was Scream 4, a film I found to be a frustrating missed opportunity to revitalize another lagging horror franchise. Personally, I was hoping he’d come out with one more horror knockout, but alas, he was taken by that greatest of evils, cancer.

I’ll remember Wes Craven primarily for Freddy Krueger, a character so iconic that he changed the culture of Halloween forever. Since I’ve been making memories, not a single Halloween has passed that I didn’t see Freddy’s burned visage somewhere, and for the past decade or so, I haven’t let a Halloween pass without watching one of his movies. And that fateful night in Connecticut in 1990 might have started it all.

Rest in peace, Wes.

Ghosted by Jon on August 30th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

The First Signs

Whenever I find myself at a store that has a seasonal section right now, I make a point to walk by it. Back to school is the thing now, of course. But in a weird way that only I would acknowledge, I have started to associate the back to school aisle with what always comes after it…

I love seeing the first hints of Halloween season slowly starting to appear. July and August are so absurdly early for pumpkins to start showing up, especially because it’s so unreasonably hot outside in Phoenix. But appear they do, and although I try to contain the celebration aspect of Halloween to September and October only, I also feel I have an obligation to document these pre-season moments.

Costco Halloween 15
Costco is always first out of the gate, with their Halloween section (such as it is) appearing in early July typically. Unfortunately that pattern extends to an even further degree to Christmas, and by mid-October – prime Halloween time for all others – this stuff cedes its territory to Santa and his minions. But this year Costco upped their Halloween game with the two items above. Their usual M.O. is one scary decoration and one cutesy decoration. Not only did they stock two decorations I’d consider buying myself, they went ahead and added in one of those skeleton dogs that are becoming… disturbingly popular in recent years.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 20th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | 1 Comment -

Let’s have another go at Frankenstein, shall we?

Last year, I pissed off an internet commentator by having the audacity to suggest that the critically and commercially panned I, Frankenstein might not represent the most savvy approach to this character and story. Or indeed, to all the other Universal classic monsters Hollywood is currently trying to reboot.

Wouldn’t you know it? We’re getting another take on the story with Victor Frankenstein. Let’s have a look:

Right off the bat, this looks better than Sexy Karate Frankenstein, though I still find the tone a little odd. It kind of reminds me of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, or if I’m being pejorative, Van Helsing… It’s action packed and fun-looking, but is making some sort of effort to be true to the atmosphere of the original story, if not the mood.

I love the principal cast, and it’s nice fun seeing Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock, the BBC one) show up in another role. However, I’m personally not a fan of this trend of titling movies on full names. John Carter and Jack Reacher and Rocky Balboa and Jack Ryan and Alex Cross… Especially with this film ostensibly focusing on both Frankenstein and Igor (its most original conceit), I’d think a title like “Frankenstein & Igor” would have been more fitting. Or even just “Dr. Frankenstein”. Anyway.

Like I, Frankenstein this one is ALSO not being produced by Universal, so in all likelihood we can expect yet another adaptation of the character in the near future. But with their planned shared universe and commitment to the action-horror vibe, I just don’t know…

Let’s not make a Frankenstein Untold please.

Ghosted by Jon on August 18th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: The Devil’s Rejects, Housebound, White Zombie

The Devil’s Rejects

Devil's Rejects


Here it is, at long last, Rob Zombie’s supposed “masterpiece”. His highest rated film, critically. And it’s, ummm, hmm…

Look, there’s no other way to say it – Rob Zombie shouldn’t write dialogue. I’m sure he loves the way his characters speak, primarily in expletives, shouting, and verbal rape. And I’m sure he has fans that love it as well, but I’ve always found it to be the biggest weakness in every one of his films. It’s grating, and beyond that, EVERY ONE OF HIS CHARACTERS SPEAKS THAT WAY. It’s a stylistic decision that, regardless of whatever else he has going on visually, plotwise, or characterwise, you have to be on board with, or you’ll hate the whole movie.

That’s what makes reviewing The Devil’s Rejects so frustrating, because it’s all true that this is Zombie’s most technically proficient film. He’s an undeniably talented visual filmmaker (as previously stated), and this, as a loose sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, has so many interesting ideas. It plucks a handful of characters from that utterly bonkers, acid trip nightmarescape of a movie and drops them into a real world setting, then invites us to get to know them as people even as they torture and violate innocents.

This movie deliberately robs you of anyone to root for. The main characters are all murdering rapists (and raping murderers), and you want to see them pay for their crimes, but the local sheriff with his own personal vendetta to settle is nearly as despicable. He may be on the side of the law, but he’s just as violent, sadistic, and just plain gross as any of the titular Rejects.

All of Rob Zombie’s staples (explicit dialogue, torture, grindhouse cinematography, Southern rock, filthy sex, filth in general…) are here, and they work best in this film out of all. Even the normally eye-rolling use of Free Bird is put up against such a beautifully filmed “Thelma and Louise” sequence that it actually, miraculously, works.  Just like his use of Love Hurts in Halloween, when you hear it, you can’t believe he’s actually getting away with it.

Having now seen all but one of Rob Zombie’s films, I feel comfortable saying this is about as good as you can get from him. He won’t ever change. These are the movies he wants to see, and he’s gonna keep making ’em. There’s a slight chance he could surprise me with his upcoming 31, or his supposed Groucho Marx biopic, but until he rescinds screenplay duties and hires a more gung-ho editor, if you’ve seen one Rob Zombie film you’ve kind of seen them all.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 17th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | 1 Comment -

Silent Valley: A Haunting: A Kickstarter

Perhaps you remember in the past me holding out my hand, Oliver-like, begging for donations to help fund our ever-growing Halloween extravaganza, which now includes an honest-to-goodness haunted house! Well this year, we’re taking the crowdfunding idea to the logical next step.

We’re Kickstarting our brand new, more legit garage haunt – Silent Valley: A Haunting. Check out the deets on the Kickstarter page. So if you know me, or you’re in the Phoenix area, OR you’re just such a generous saintly person you like to donate money to peoples’ dreams, consider tossing a few bucks our way. I promise, if you’re on this site you’ll dig what we’re up to this year.

Ghosted by Jon on August 11th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -
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