Friday, December 13, 2013

Killer Instinct

A book has been on my mind recently, mostly because I'm currently reading it.  The book in question is Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the book that inspired the hit Showtime series, Dexter.  As of this blog, I'm only about half way through it.  (No spoilers, please.  I'll probably review it at a later date/when I'm done reading it.)  If you don't know the story or series, I'll give you a brief rundown.  The main character is Dexter, a blood splatter specialist for the Miami-Dade Police Department.  If there's blood on a scene, Dexter can tell you how it got there, at least from a scientific standpoint.  However, Dexter also has a dark secret:  he's a serial killer.  He has a bit of a conscience, though, as he only kills people whom he knows are also serial killers.  

I'd say he cut himself shaving, but he obviously still has a beard.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Identity

Stop me if you've heard this one: a seemingly unconnected group of people find their lives entangled after an accident leaves them all stranded at a creepy motel in the middle of nowhere. As the hours drag on, folks start turning up dead, and the remaining survivors find that there's more to their blahblahblah...

Oh sorry, did I bore you? Yeah, the slasher film formula has gotten a little creaky over the years. While we still thrill at the sight of Jason hacking up his horny teenage victims, there's not a lot of mystery to the affair anymore. After watching Identity though, I think the ol' sub-genre still has a few gallons left in the tank.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No More Clowning Around

Halloween has come and gone.  The costumes have all been put away.  The stores have swept all the Halloween stuff in the discount isle and put out the Christmas decorations.  The leftover candy is probably still sitting in the corner along with all the discount candy you bought.   Well, I'm still in the Halloween spirit and I promised a second Face of Halloween article.  So, here it is!  A post about my own personal Face of the Dark Side of Halloween!  

The spooky season doesn't start at the beginning of October for me.  Instead, the season really starts somewhere in August or September.  This is because important announcements are made during this month.  Announcements about one of the most creative Halloween attractions in Florida:  Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights.   

Thursday, October 31, 2013

You Don't Know Jack

It's Halloween! It's Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can't be seen
On any other night.

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
We haunt the street
And knock on doors
For trick or treat.

Tonight we are
The king and queen,
For oh tonight
It's Halloween!

-Jack Prelutsky

I love that poem, because in a very short amount of time, it seems to get across everything that's so great about this holiday. The ghosts and ghouls, the trick-or-treating, the feeling that something is different from the other 364 days of the year. And most importantly, the power of being whoever or whatever you want to be, if only for one night. It's intoxicating.

However, it also points out something about Halloween that makes it unique among holidays (in fact, Daffy laid it out very well in his last post): there's no central figure of representation. All Hallow's Eve is truly an ensemble cast of monsters, spirits, and other grotesques, and I have to confess that I rather like it that way. It just seems to fit that the holiday for misfits and outcasts would include everyone on the bill. I know some people like to equate a popular horror movie villain with the role, but if their story isn't expressly ABOUT Halloween (and not merely taking place on Halloween night, Mr. Myers), I don't think it works. Many folks think that Sam from the film Trick 'r Treat would be the perfect mascot, and while I do love Sam, he hasn't been around long enough to do the job. Give it a few more decades and we'll see.

He is a cutie though.

Monday, October 28, 2013

King of the Pumpkin Patch

Halloween is sort of an oddity in the holiday world.  It is one of the only national holidays without a set figurehead.  Christmas has Santa Claus, Easter has the Easter Bunny, Valentine's Day has Cupid, even Independence Day has Uncle Sam.  Halloween, however, doesn't have a mascot, a single face that defines the holiday.  It has dozens.  Think about it.  When you think of Halloween, you don't think of a face.  You think of skeletons and jack-o-lanterns.  You think of cemeteries and spider webs.  You think of ghosts, goblins, monsters, costumes, masks, and a tub load of candy.  You think of the general, ghoulish, frightful fun feeling that surrounds the holiday.

Pictured:  The very essence of Halloween.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sugar, Rage, and Razor Blades

Trick-or-treating has got to be one of the greatest inventions the human race has ever come up with. One night a year, we were able to go door-to-door and get candy, for FREE, because of an ancient tradition of leaving out cakes for evil spirits as a sign of appeasement. Halloween is rich with history, and much of it has resulted in truly wonderful things like scoring candy and carving jack-o-lanterns. Unfortunately, that same history and those same traditions have often been twisted and neutered because of a few horrible people who were determined to ruin things for everybody else.

There's enough cocaine in this picture to put down a rhino. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trick or Treat! Smell My Feet!

Trick or Treat!
Smell my feet!
Give me something good to eat!

It's one of the oldest and most sacred Halloween traditions.  As a kid, you put on your best costume, grab the biggest pillow case you can find, and head door to door asking for candy.  When I was kid, Halloween was my favorite time of year because of this grand tradition.  I loved dressing up and getting a huge bag of candy.  I always thought this was a bizarre tradition, though, even when I was little.  This is basically the only time of year where our parents allow, and even encourage, us to take candy from strangers.  Where did this all start?  Like many things, apparently we have Europe to thank for this.

"If this lady gives us pennies again this year, I'm egging her front yard."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flicking Through Netflix: Mad Monster Party

Rankin and Bass have become a staple of the holidays nowadays.  Every year in November, they start playing them over and over again on TV.  We've seen them so often that some of us have committed their movies to memory.  Rudolph, Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, all essential parts of holiday cheer.  Well, you can forget about all that.  It's the Halloween season and I'm not in the mood for a cutesy Christmas story.  I want something I can sink my teeth into.  Something with werewolves, vampires, monsters, and mummies.  Luckily, Rankin and Bass did have one special dedicated to all things Halloween:  Mad Monster Party.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Halloween is Special(s)

Can I tell you guys something?

I LOVE Halloween specials. I mean, we're talking run-back-into-a-burning-building-to-rescue-rare-VHS-tapes-kind of love here. You want to talk nostalgia? All it takes is one viewing of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and I am instantly five years old again, ready to don my own poorly devised ghost costume and go trick-or-treating until the last porch light is shut off. I think this is one area where Halloween has a clear advantage over Christmas. Christmas specials, while also nostalgic and frequently awesome, are more limited by plot conventions. Name one yuletide TV special that doesn't feature a grump trying to ignore the holiday, then undergo an emotional transformation and shed a few tears of happiness. Or the one where the lovable group of misfits heroically save the celebration from being canceled at the last minute. Christmas specials are fun and pretty, but also rather predictable. Halloween specials are in a class of their own. The supernatural air of the proceedings means that basically anything goes, so these specials are typically more imaginative and more visually interesting than anything you'll see in December. Not to mention funnier.

"But mom, I can't sleep yet! A new one just came on!"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Little Shop of Halloween

Halloween is, to my mind, the holiday that works the strongest nostalgia magic. Christmas has people looking for the newest hot gift. Thanksgiving swirls around the turkey dinner and the mad rush to get home from college or wherever. But Halloween... Halloween seems to always come to us from the past. Even the modern decorations usually have a vintage element to them. What is it about the Halloween experience that makes it so timeless? 

Pictured: every Halloween display since 1958.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Haunted Forest: My First Walk-Through Horror Attraction

It's Real Live Horror week here at the Drive-In!  Earlier in the week, Rabbi went into the history of the spook house and talked about his own personal experience with Scaremare at Liberty University.  He also put the spotlight on a little website where spooks can find a way to spend their eternity with the love of their after lives.  For my part, I'd like to tell a personal story of the first time I ever went through a walk-through horror attraction.  It involves a group you may have heard of but never knew they did things like this:  the Boy Scouts.

When I was younger, I was part of a Boy Scout troop here in Miami.  It was one of the most miserable experiences of my life.  I hated camping and the outdoors.  I was only part of the group because my cousin and, at the time, best friend was a part of it.  I stayed in the Scouts for a while, though.  I'm almost thankful that I did because, without the Scouts, I never would have experienced the Haunted Forest.

Every year around Halloween, the various troops around the South Florida area would get together in one place for one purpose:  Scare the bejeezus out of people.  The setting for this haunted trail was a section of a large campground whose name I've long since forgotten.  Each troop that showed up got to dress up an area in any way they pleased:  a cemetery, a mad doctor's laboratory, the site of a werewolf attack.  Anything the troop could cook up was fair game.  The more troops that joined in, the longer the trail became.

The first and only time I visited this once-a-year attraction, I visited as a spectator.  At 11, I was too young to help out behind the scenes, but I was just the right age to walk on through.  I was excited about the event, but terrified too.  On the drive through the campground, I was so scared that I thought I could see ghosts in the trees. 

I don't remember much about the Haunted Forest now.  Eleven years is a long time and my memory isn't the best anyway.  But I do remember one thing pretty clearly:  I was scared out of my mind.  As a kid that age, I just couldn't differentiate the fake from reality.  I didn't care that the blood and guts were rubber and ketchup,  I thought the zombies were really going to eat me.  It may have been some teen in a mask, but that plastic machete looked 100% real to me.  My fear made every shadow darker and every monster scarier.  And you wanna know something?  I had a blast.  Don't get me wrong, at the time, after the walk-through, I cried like a baby.  But looking back now, I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything.  As we say around these parts, isn't it fun to be a little scared sometimes?

As a man of 22, I freely admit that I'm still scared of haunted house trails to this day.  While the concept of Halloween Horror Nights fascinates me, I have no doubt that I'd need about 15 pairs of pants to change into throughout the night.  Whatever else the Haunted Forest was, it was still frightening and it embedded deep within me a fear of those kinds of attractions.  Still, I'm a guy who believes fears were made to be faced.  Maybe next year I'll have to build my courage and head for a few new haunts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Making A Spiritual Connection

Have you been looking for love in all the wrong places? Hoping to discover that one person to spend eternity with? Have you been dead for a year or longer? Then there's finally a dating website for you!

Find that special something!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Countdown to Halloween 2013: Real Live Horror!

A welcome to our regulars and a special growl of appreciation to all you creepy kids who've made your way here from Countdown to Halloween 2013! I hope you enjoy your time at The Haunted Drive-in, and come back and visit us often. We would love to discuss horror and science fiction of all kinds with you until the sun rises and the projector fades.

We don't plan on posting every single day, simply because Daffy and I are very busy folks, and we want the Drive-in to be a labor of love, not just labor. We do plan on adding new material often though, so please add us to your blogroll, follow us on Twitter and Tumblr, like us on Facebook, and above all else, comment! We love getting feedback and hearing suggestions.

So, to keep our focus during the countdown (and not just write about every single thing we love about Halloween), my writing partner and I have decided to give each week of October a theme for us to work with. This first week we've decided to focus on one of the oldest and most enjoyable of Halloween traditions, the walk-through haunted house attraction.

"Dear God! That guy over there... he isn't wearing ANY hair gel!"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: The House At The End Of The Street

PG-13 horror doesn't have to be bad. Just because it's going to feature measurably less gore, profanity, and nudity than the average fright flick doesn't always equal out to a crappy quality experience. Indeed, sometimes it can mean a film that focuses on the more important aspects of the story, The Woman In Black being one example. Of course, that's an exception, and there are only exceptions because there's a rule, right? The House At The End Of The Street is a movie that follows the rules of PG-13 horror religiously. That's the problem. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Scare Factor: Don't Blink

The lights are off, it’s the middle of the night, and a chill runs up your spine.  This can only mean one thing.  It’s time for another brilliant post from your resident Daffy!  Greetings and welcome to the Scare Factor, where I spout wild theories about why certain things are scary.  I want to emphasize the “wild theories” part here.  This series will consist of my personal analysis on why certain beings, situations, or places are frightening.  I’m not doing any real research.  At all.  I’m basically taking a shot in the dark.  That being said, I welcome any alternate theories with open arms!  Simply comment below with your thoughts.  Now, onward to horror!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flicking Through Netflix: ATM

I know, it's been just about two years since the people of the Drive-In have heard from me.  I've neglected my fellow fright fans for far too long.  Let me introduce you to a new review series to make up for it.  It's a little something I started on my personal blog, Richard's Weekly Journal, called Flicking Through Netflix!  As the title suggests, I review movies and the pilot episodes of TV shows that are available through the instant steaming service.  Naturally, as this is the Haunted Drive-In, everything posted on here is going to be horror or sci-fi related.  And have I got a real doozy of a first outing for you all.

In my opinion, there are 3 categories that horror movies normally fall under.  There are the Good, movies that are legitimately creepy, that scare and terrify with perfect precision.  These films are well put together, tell a good story, and engross the viewer with their world.  These would be your Halloween and Aliens flicks. There are the Bad, flicks that are cheesy and shlocky beyond belief.  They are still good, however, in that people can find enjoyment in the bad special effects and hokey acting.  This is where Troll 2 would land.  Then there's the Ugly, films so bad that people feel dumber for having wasted time on them.  These movies seem to actively insult the audience.  ATM falls firmly and neatly into the Ugly.

Parkas are scary, right?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dead Man's Boogie

Horror music is a tricky beast. Ironically, much like Christian music it is judged whether or not it belongs under the genre umbrella by its lyrical content and presentation, rather than the style of music it actually employs. A band could be shredding on electric guitars or using an accordion and ukulele, but they're both potentially horror music.

Man, I am SO sick of the bubblegum pop scene.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When You Wish Upon A Star... YOU DIE!

I've been a fan of Disney since I was but a wee lad. Their classic animated features, the incredible TV programming of the 80s and 90s, and the world-famous theme parks are some of my favorite things. I've visited the resort in Florida over 30 times. That doesn't mean I think they always get everything right though. Like any other giant corporation, the House of Mouse can occasionally get on my nerves with their decisions, and it's nice to see the company as a whole taken down a peg. 

Never forgive. Never forget.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preview: Robocop (2014)

Remakes, as a rule, are usually terrible. You'd think that if they at least kept the elements that made the original entertaining, the update would be fun, if a little superfluous. But most remakes/reboots/re-imaginings have no love for the source material, and so end up being unwatchable exercises in boredom (see A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, etcetera).

Now we're about to be handed a shiny new take on Robocop. The first film in the franchise is perhaps the most exciting, ridiculous, and all-around 1980s-est science fiction flick ever made, so a remake had better work pretty freaking hard to not piss off the fans. And the trailer looks... um, it looks surprisingly good.

Seriously, take a moment to consider everything that trailer just promised: Alex J. Murphy, visual nods to the original, an interesting free will vs. (literal) machinations discussion, and a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Michael "I'm 1980s Batman" Keaton! Yes, the black suit is a little silly, but I can understand them wanting to establish their own look for a new movie. It shows that they have their own stylistic choices to make. And it'll allow them to sell more than one action figure. Still, I am cautiously optimistic about this remake, and that is NOT something I usually say when it comes to beloved horror and sci-fi franchises.

Robocop has been back in the spotlight lately, with his Detroit commemorative statue nearing completion and the announcement of this film. Hopefully the cast and crew will deliver a solid flick that can stand on its own two metallic feet and bring us a great new franchise, and if not, well, I'm never far from my DVD copy of the original.

Five bucks says that ED-209 still can't handle the stairs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cynics Will Kill Us All!

OK, so the title of this post might be a bit melodramatic. But I have a point I'm building towards, I swear, so just go with it.

When we're young, very young, we don't really care what the crowd is into. We like the music we like, we watch the movies we watch, and we don't make excuses for it. Our thing is our thing, man. This went double for the monster kids before horror became mainstream. You couldn't explain to your parents or disinterested friends why you enjoy vampires and ghosts and zombies so much, but you didn't feel a need to either. You bought the new Misfits CD without a qualm. You went to the slasher flick that got poor reviews and appreciated the creative kills despite the shoddy direction. You spent $100 on a Dracula model kit and you were HAPPY!

Worth it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: The ABCs of Death

I am not a world-famous writer (yet), so I don't often get the chance to review movies when they're fresh. I usually have to wait around for the better part of a year until they land on Netflix or in Redbox so I can weigh in. Hopefully in the future my reviews will be more timely, but in the meantime, I'll be as entertaining and relevant as I can. So I'll begin with this: mother pusbucket, this movie was rough.

The poster was the most coherent bit.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Run n' Gun... Nope, Just Run

Hi everyone. I know it's been... two years, since we talked. It's ok, you can blame it on me. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. Except you. Yeah, you. The guy in the Suspiria shirt. You think you're so much better than the rest of us because you watch old-school Italian horror and nothing else? Big bloody deal...

I recently completed Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a PC-only horror title released by Frictional Games. While it's been out for a couple of years (in fact, the sequel drops next month, but more about that in a minute), I only got the chance to play it this summer. Many gamers and horror fans alike were praising its creepy environments, haunting music, and Lovecraftian story nods, so I waited until it went on sale and jumped right in.

Now I can't sleep. 

When it comes to video games, horror protagonists aren't the victimized targets you usually come across in most movies and TV shows. No, our pixelated heroes are armed to the teeth from the start, making most of the "terror" rather anti-climactic. Sure, they may work in a decent jump scare or two, but the sense of dread doesn't last when I can just unload every machine gun round I have into the guy's/monster's/demon's face. This is the way of things because a game, any game, has to have a sense of fun and control for the player (not to mention many of them are "watered down" for the snot-nosed brats who con their folks into buying Mature-rated games). Most developers want to ensure an enjoyable and exciting experience for each person who picks up the controller, so gameplay can often surge ahead of story and/or any chance of lasting fright.

Not pictured: fear.