Archive for the Halloween Category

AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by Paxton

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I am a huge fan of Hammer’s gothic horror movies so I try to incorporate them in every one of my AWESOME-tober-fest celebrations.  This year, I get to include their one crack at a zombie movie, The Plague of the Zombies.

By the mid 60s, Hammer Studios had run out of Universal horror movies to remake, so they had to start coming up with their own stuff.  Hammer decided to do a movie based on the voodoo concept of the zombie.  They took inspiration from the 1932 Bela Lugosi movie, White Zombie.  So, in 1966, two years before Romero’s genre defining Night of the Living Dead, Hammer released The Plague of the Zombies. Plague of the Zombies Hammer’s zombies, like most zombie movies before it, were created through voodoo and black magic. They are the undead, but they aren’t quite the cannibalistic walking dead you’re familiar with. They are just, “the walking dead”, period. No brain/flesh eating whatsoever.  They are animated by black magic to do the bidding of the witch who resurrected them.

Here are the title screens.

POZ 00 POZ 01

The movie starts with with a voodoo ceremony. We see the grand wizard there in his royal getup. The scene is underscored by this rhythmic drumming that is being performed by actual natives. Presumably from Haiti, as we learn later that this is where our movie’s particular voodoo comes from. Check out that drummer. He is COMMITTED to this role. Get used to this Haitian drummer. He and his friends (there are about three of them) will show up throughout the movie.

POZ 02 POZ 03

An elderly doctor summoned by one of his former students to a small town to help him diagnose and help stop a rash of people dying with odd symptoms.  It seems people have been dying and no one can figure out why.  Least of all the young doctor.

So the old doctor’s daughter convinces him to travel to the village to help and at the same time they visit an old friend of the daughter who happens to be married to the young doctor.  Things and people seem strange in the village, which they discover is run mostly by a wealthy squire.  The doctor and pupil investigate the deaths and uncover many crazy goings on all tied to the enigmatic squire.

That’s the basic setup.  Two doctors investigating strange deaths in a small town.  Not much else going on.  The actors are fairly good, but none of the Hammer regulars are in attendance (ie Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, David Prowse).

Let’s take a look at a few screenshots from the movie.

Here are the good doctor and his former pupil during their investigations of the town.

POZ 10

The only attractive woman in the movie is the young doctor’s wife who dies very early on.

POZ 14

The squire in charge of the town looks an awful lot like Guy Pearce.

POZ 06

Here’s another shot of the voodoo zombie ritual including the gussied up Grand Wizard. Oh, and there are those drummers again. And they are a-drummin’. Hammer Studios must have gotten a good deal on them.

POZ 13 POZ 07

The young doctor’s wife turns out to be a victim of Guy Pearce up there. So she dramatically returns from the dead. I like the zombie makeup they use. Looks pretty creepy.  Very similar to the Exorcist makeup (scratch that, reverse it.  This movie came first).

POZ 09 POZ 11

I read in a few places where the 1985 movie Return of the Living Dead claims to have originated the “zombie clawing itself out of the grave” shot. However, here in 1966, Hammer did it first.

POZ 12

This was a neat movie. Cool to see this version of zombies two years before Romero released his classic. I like this movie, but I like most all of Hammer’s movies. I like their style and atmosphere. Just something about these Hammer movies are fun and interesting to watch. The colors are always vibrant and the sets are greatly designed.  However, I’m not going to lie, the movie is a bit dull in the middle.  They try to explain the Haiti and voodoo away in some fast exposition and there are other characters showing up that aren’t really explained.  This caused a bit of confusion for me.

However, that aside, while this isn’t as engrossing as either of Hammer’s first Dracula or Frankenstein movies, it’s still pretty good.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: The Re-animator (1985)

Posted in 80s, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, zombies with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2013 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to talk about the 1985 cult horror film classic, Re-animator starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton.

The Reanimator

I have seen this movie previously. I watched it numerous times during my Fangoria “horror” phase. In the late 80s-early 90s I was a “gore hound”. I loved splatter films. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead. All of them. Fangoria was my favorite magazine and it clued me in on many other awesome horror movies that were out for me to rent on the burgeoning VHS rental market.  This was one I discovered in the pages of that awesome magazine.

Re-animator is based on the original Lovecraft short story, Herbert West – Reanimator.  It’s not a direct adaptation, though.  The movie takes many of the characters and some of the situations and re-imagines them a bit.  While the Lovecraft story is sort of an homage to the original Shelley Frankenstein, the movie is a parody of both the Lovecraft and Shelley stories.  It takes the elements of horror and the macabre from Lovecraft’s story and infuses much dark humor into the situations.

Some might think that this movie doesn’t fit into the traditional “zombie” genre.  Herbert West is re-animating the dead, so his creations are, in effect, zombies.  Though maybe not the mindless brain-eating zombies popularized by Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead.  You could probably also throw this movie into the “mad scientist” genre.

The plot revolves around Herbert West.  Newly arrived at the Miskatonic University medical school.  He rents a room from Dan Cain, student and boyfriend to Megan, the daughter of the medical school dean.  Things start going awry when Dan discovers that Herbert is performing medical experiments with a brand new serum he’s invented for bringing the dead back to life.  Dan and Megan are drawn into Herbert’s deadly machinations as the bodies not only begin to fall, but continue to rise up again.

Herbert West - Jeffrey Combs

I can see the elements of Lovecraft’s story that were re-imagined as I watch this movie.  Herbert constantly wanting fresher dead bodies, Dean Halsey becoming a zombie and being institutionalized and reanimating a head separate from the body.  Now that I’ve read the story it’s cool to see this in the movie I know so well.  The story in this movie covers roughly the first two parts of Lovecraft’s story.

As the movie started, I was sort of surprised at how blatantly the score rips off Herrmann’s Psycho score with the violins.  And, for what is essentially a B-grade horror movie, the effects hold up fairly well.  And while the acting is understandably, not great, the performance of Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West is nothing short of awesome.  He plays the role with such earnest seriousness it makes the craziness all around him seem that much more crazy.

This film is sort of famous for the “head” scene later in the movie (you should know what I mean).  And it’s every bit as awesomely weird and crazy as I remembered.  So, yes, this film still holds up pretty well for me.  I enjoyed watching it again.  The film did well enough that it got like three sequels.  I haven’t watched any of them.

However, the title of the first sequel should clue you into how much of a Frankenstein parody this series really is; Bride of Re-animator.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Herbert West – Reanimator by HP Lovecraft (1922)

Posted in books, Halloween, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to look at a short story by one of horror’s most celebrated writers, HP Lovecraft. I’ve not really read any of his stuff before, so I thought this would be as good a chance as any to rectify the situation. I found a collection of his stories on Paperbackswap.com last year. That collection is called The Road to Madness: The Transition of HP Lovecraft.

The collection includes Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness which Guillermo Del Toro has been trying to set up as a film adaptation for many years.  But the story I was actually looking for was Herbert West – Reanimator.  It was this short story on which the classic 1985 horror film The Re-animator starring Jeffrey Combs is based.

I, for one, love that cheesy horror film from 1985.  So, I thought that since I was doing zombies for my Halloween theme, I’d not only revisit the awesome Re-animator movie but I’d also read and review the original Lovecraft short story.

And now I’ve read it.  To be honest, the story isn’t the best.  It’s not terrible, it’s just sort of fast paced and feels more like an outline of a larger story.  The short story is broken up into 4 parts.  While reading, it really felt like Lovecraft was repeating himself across the four parts as he continually describes Herbert West’s looks (slight in build, glasses, blond hair) and the events of the previous part of the story.  In action that only takes place in about 50 pages, it gets a little annoying.  I assumed while reading that this must have been originally serialized in a magazine and Lovecraft was just “refreshing” the reader’s memory from last time.  And after some research I see that I’m right.  The story was originally published in four parts in the amateur magazine Home Brew in 1922.

homebrew_v1-1

The story is very clearly based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A brilliant but single-minded and unorthodox scientist, Herbert West, conducts arcane and taboo experiments on human bodies trying to reanimate dead tissue.  The story is told by a narrator who has been Herbert West’s assistant/apprentice for many years.  It starts off with experiments while the youths are in medical school and each part tells a different time in their lives when they begin their experiments anew.  The story is told by the assistant from some unknown time in the future as he’s looking back on the events which led to Dr Herbert West’s disappearance.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story, I guess.  There is potential there and this story is much more serious in tone and dark in nature than the movie which infuses lots of humor into the story.  I guess, for better or for worse, that I just know the Re-Animator movie so well that the original story just seems odd to me.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2013 starts tomorrow!

Posted in Halloween, holiday, Jones Soda, soda with tags , , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by Paxton

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Well, AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: ZOMBIES!! officially begins tomorrow. You can expect an article every weekday throughout the month of October.  I’m excited for Halloween this year, I think I have a lot of good, fun articles for you so I hope you enjoy it.  As you can see, I’ve already decorated for the season!

Today, as sort of a pre-game show, I thought I’d look at a few of the Halloween retail items I’ve found lurking in the local store. Some interesting stuff.

Jones Halloween Soda 2013
First and foremost, Jones has returned this year after an absence with more Halloween sodas.  The flavors this year are Blood Orange, Red Licorice, Caramel Apple and Candy Corn.  Two of these flavors I’ve already had in the past.  If we look back at AWESOME-tober-fest 2008 I reviewed the Candy Corn flavor.  I don’t think I liked it.  I believe I said it tasted like “…spoiled maple syrup poured through a dirty sweat sock…”  I tasted the Caramel Apple the year before in an article about oddly flavored sodas like Dr Brown’s Cel-Ray and Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge.  I believe I said that flavor tasted like “…sun tan lotion mixed with burnt maple syrup…”  So, Jones isn’t necessarily hitting it out of the park with these so far.  Blood Orange is a tangier orange flavored soda and red licorice is way too sweet and thick to be described as anything but “sugar coma inducing”.  So while I love the effort and the packaging, Jones, I’m not loving the execution.

Halloween Big League Chew
Big League Chew is one of my childhood favorites. And I love this Halloween themed packaging.  Howlin’ Original and Gruesome Grape flavors aren’t new or formulated for the holiday, but I like the Halloweeny makeover.  I believe there’s another one with a vampire/Dracula character, but I couldn’t find it.

Kool-Aid Ghoul Aid Jammers
Ghoul-Aid has been around since the 80s. Usually only offered in certain markets and usually only around Halloween. I have some of the original mixes but it seems the flavor is making a resurgence. You can find single packets on shelves again and now Kool-Aid Jammers have their own Scary Blackberry flavor.  I was so excited to finally find this.  I’ll be sucking these things down all month.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2013 is coming.

Posted in Halloween, holiday with tags , , , on September 11, 2013 by Paxton

WTF, guys?! We are already almost half way through September. How did that happen? I welcomed my daughter into this world back in December and next thing I know I’m prepping for my son’s third birthday with my daughter’s FIRST birthday coming up fast. The hell?!

So, my annual Halloween celebration is creeping up on me like an undead ghoul looking to take a tasty chomp out of my backside. Behind the scenes I’m trying to get everything written. I have over half of next month’s articles written, at the very least in first draft form. I think I only need to do the last week and a half of articles. But I’ve sort of taken longer than I should have doing those.

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve announced it here, but the topic for AWESOME-toberfest 2013 is ZOMBIES. Here’s the banner.

Awesometoberfest 2013 banner

I’ve already done vampires, werewoves and the Frankenstein monster, so zombies seemed the next logical step.

And here’s a sneak peak at the creepy header I’ll use starting October 1st.

zombies_header

I had previously posted an image of my notes for this year which should have given you guys an idea of the types of zombie media I’ll be covering. Books, movies, TV shows and comics featuring such genre luminaries as HP Lovecraft, George Romero, John Russo, Robert Kirkman, the Smurfs…..wait, wha-?! Yep, the Smurfs. I can’t wait to show you guys that one.

So stay tuned, starting October 1st, I’ll begin daily updates for my AWESOME-tober-fest 2013 celebration.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2012: It’s HALLOWEEN, baby!

Posted in Halloween with tags , , , on October 31, 2012 by Paxton

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It is time. What I and everyone at Countdown to Halloween have been building up to all month.

Today is Halloween.

Happy Halloween

Hope everyone has had a fun month. I’ve enjoyed following the blogs on the countdown and reading along with everyone else. It’s been another blast this year. In fact, I’m already in the planning stages for AWESOME-tober-fest 2013.  Hope you’ve had a great holiday.  And remember to check out the Countdown to Halloween blog for the final day of Halloween!


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2012: Finishing up The Astounding Wolf-Man

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, werewolf, werewolves, Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by Paxton

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Since this final week of AWESOME-tober-fest is a short week, I’m straying from the movie maniac theme and doing updates to previous Halloween reviews. Yesterday I reviewed the final book in The Strain trilogy which I had previously reviewed the first two books last year.  Today, I’m going to talk about the comic series The Astounding Wolf-Man.

The Astounding Wolf-Man

Two years ago for AWESOME-tober-fest 2010, I reviewed the first 18 issues of the comic that were collected in Volumes 1-3 of the trade paperbacks.  The final fourth volume collecting issues 19-25 had yet to be released.  However, I acquired the final collection earlier this year and read the concluding story.

The last and concluding story arc was called Legacy.  It’s a five-parter that takes place in issues #21-25. So much happens in this concluding story.  Seriously, it’s packed with a lot of action.  We see the main character reunited with his daughter, we see the end game of the Elder Wolf’s plans and we see the final confrontation between Wolf-Man and Zachariah (which is awesome, btw).

Astounding Wolf-Man #20 Astounding Wolf-Man #22 Astounding Wolf-Man #23
(Via Newkadia)

In short, I loved this series. So many great characters written so well. Kirkman really does a great job with so many characters to juggle.  It was actually this series that led me to Kirkman and had me checking out his other work like Invincible, The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies.  But that’s only half of the whole. Jason Howard’s amazingly dynamic art really sells it. I love the dynamics of Howard’s action and how he designs the look and feel of the universe. Plus, his 2 page action spreads are breathtaking. It really adds a lot of character to the story.

Speaking of characters, several of them are standouts. Gary Hampton/Astounding Wolf-Man is great. Zecariah the vampire is also a great villain. The Elder Wolf is BAD ASS. And in this final run of issues, we really see some good character work with Mecha-Maid. I really enjoyed her character and I want to see more of her.  You can see her in the second comic cover above.  Btw, that scene on the cover never happens.  But it’s a great cover, nonetheless.

Anyway, like I said, I want to see more of these Astounding Wolf-Man characters. I think he and Mecha Maid may pop up from time to time in Kirkman’s Invincible, but I want to see more.  This series was just too much fun not to continue.  However, like I said, as of today, issue #25 was the final issue.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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