AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Heart Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since before high school. So when I found out his son, Joe, was writing books, I was initially intrigued but ultimately never sought out the kid’s books.  Then I randomly stumbled upon Horns.  I forget how, but the synopsis intrigued me and I put it on my Amazon list making a mental note to check that book out when I get a chance.  Then, in 2013, the Kindle book went on sale so I pulled the trigger and read it.  And really enjoyed the book.  So at that point, I’m wondering, what Joe Hill book should I read next?

Enter AWESOME-toberfest 2015. I was all set to do Ghosts as the theme and I was deciding between two Joe Hill books; the short story collection 20th Century Ghost and the novel Heart Shaped Box.  However, things happen, things change, and I wind up doing invisible man that year instead.  Flash forward to 2017.  I’m really doing ghosts this time. So, I get a sample on my iPad of both books, read the samples and select, with much fanfare to no one but myself…Heart Shaped Box.

So, what is this book about?  The quick elevator pitch is that aging rock star Jude Coyne likes to collect macabre things.  Among other things he has a used hangman’s noose, a signed witch’s confession from the Salem Witch trials, and even a snuff film.  And when his assistant stumbles across a haunted suit in an online auction, Jude decides on impulse to buy it and it to his collection.  Yet when the suit arrives on his doorstep a few weeks later in a black, heart-shaped box, Jude finds that he’s going to get more than he bargained for.

Heart-Shaped Box was Hill’s first novel, published in 2007.  It’s actually pretty good.  Based on the two novels I’ve read, Hill really knows how to set up the atmosphere of his books’ worlds.  Hill’s books exist in this darker, hyper real existence where crazy things can happen but it still feels 100% real.  Like I can easily picture it and it feels like I’m in that world as well when I’m reading the book.  Hill is also good at setting up his main characters.  Jude, in this novel, isn’t the greatest guy.  He’s an aging rockstar, he collects weird memorabilia, he sleeps with goth girls that are way too young for him.  But by the end of the novel you see how the experiences in the book change him.  He realizes that how he’s been acting is wrong.  He sees the unhealthy patterns he’s following.  We also learn a little about his past that brings his current behaviors into focus.  So by the novel’s climax, the things Jude learns and the behaviors that are changed are earned.

What about the ghost aspects of the novel? Hill realizes his ghost very well.  He is CREEPY.  He has black scribbles over his eyes which somehow makes him more terrifying.  You learn a little bit about the nature of the particular ghost haunting the suit, but it’s not really made clear if that applies to all ghosts. There are clearly some rules for the ghost in the book but you don’t know if the rules apply to all ghosts or just him.

I liked this book.  I actually think I liked it more than Horns.  And don’t get me wrong, I liked Horns.   I really like what I’ve read of Hill’s books so far.  They are dark and atmospheric.  They have interesting characters that follow a good arch throughout.  And the story concepts for his books so far have been interesting and different.

I happen to also have two of Hill’s newer books The Fireman and NOS4A2 which are absolutely going to get read sooner rather than later.



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

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1973)

Posted in cartoons, ghosts, monsters, pop culture, TV shows, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2017 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to talk about the cartoon series Goober and the Ghost Chasers.  It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in late 1973.  It was created to capitalize on the popularity of Scooby-Doo.

Much like Scooby-Doo, the show involved a group of teenagers and their dog driving around solving mysteries.

Goober, obviously, was the dog.  He had similar mannerisms to Scooby.  Sort of a coward.  Very goofy and jokey.  He talked.  But it’s interesting, it’s not directly acknowledged in the cartoon if the teens can understand Goober when he talks.  They talk to Goober, but when Goober talks, it’s usually directly to camera and the teens never give any indication that he talked or that they heard he talked.  It’s weird.  The teens were Ted, Tina and Gilly.  The teens worked for a supernatural investigation magazine called Ghost Chasers.  Obviously Ted = Fred.  Tina is very much a cross between Daphne and Velma.  And Gilly is sort of his own thing.  He’s Goober’s closest human companion.  He’s not a stoner or a coward.  He doesn’t love to eat.  He’s the photographer for the magazine.  In some ways like Shaggy but in most ways he’s different.  Gilly is probably the most annoying.  I like everyone else.

The mysteries this crew investigate usually wind up having a real supernatural aspect to them. As in real ghosts and real monsters as opposed to Scooby in which the mysteries had a basis in reality.  Plus, for some reason, Goober can turn invisible. He can’t control it, and it usually happens when he gets scared, but it happens.

Like Scooby, many episodes would have “special guests” show up to help solve crimes.  For at least half of the one and only season the Ghost Chasers crew were joined by the Partridge Kids (Danny, Laurie, Tracy, Chris, seen below in the middle).

The Partridge kids were voiced by the actual actors; Danny Bonaduce, Susan Dey, Suzanne Crough and Brian Forster.  For some reason, around episode 11, the Partridge Kids disappear and never make another appearance.  However, don’t feel bad for them, about a year later they would get their own cartoon series.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners movie novelization by Michael Jahn (1996)

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

On Friday I talked about one of my favorite ghost movies, Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners from 1996. Well, as luck would have it, they released a movie novelization for it.  It was written by Michael Jahn.

 

I Read Movies

So, I recorded a very special Halloween episode of I Read Movies all about this novelization. I talk about extra scenes, I talk about new plot points, there’s even a good bit explaining the nature of the movie’s ghosts. Lots of good stuff to hear, so either download the latest episode of I Read Movies on iTunes and Google Play or listen to it right here.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners (1996)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I finally get to talk about The Frighteners by Peter Jackson starring Michael J Fox.  I’m trying to remember how I first found out about/watched this movie.  I’m fairly certain I did not see it in the theater as I would have been still in college and this particular movie wouldn’t have got me or my friends into the theater.  Plus, I don’t actually remember it in the theater.

I’m pretty sure I found out about it later. The draw for me would have been Michael J Fox in a horror comedy. I’m also fairly certain this would have been my first exposure to Peter Jackson as well. I probably caught it on DVD sometime in 1998 or 1999.  And I loved it.

The movie is about Frank Bannister, played by Michael J Fox.  He can see ghosts. He uses this ability to fleece money from people as a “psychic investigator”.  However Frank stumbles upon a rash of recent killings that look to be linked to a murder that happened decades earlier and he’ll need to use all of his supernatural skills to solve the murder before he becomes the next victim.

That’s the basic synopsis.  Lots more is going on here.  Let’s take a look at the movie.


Opening title card.


This is the Bradley House. At one time it was Fairwater Hospital/Sanatorium.  It was the site of the Bartlett/Bradley murders.  Now it’s mostly closed and abandoned.  The only people living here are Patricia Bradley and her mother.


As I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big fan of this movie. I want you to know that upfront before I talk about the opening of the movie. The opening is a very exciting set piece within the Bradley house. We see Patricia being chased by a ghost that is materializing within the walls of the house. It’s a fast paced chase with some pretty great effects for 1996.  And Patricia, played by Dee Wallace Stone, seems pretty terrified.  Eventually the ghost materializes under the carpet on the stairs and grabs her just as her mother appears with a shotgun and blows away the part of the carpet where the ghost’s head would be.  It’s a nice, thrilling beginning to the movie.  However, once you get to the climax of the movie, it ultimately makes no sense.  At all.  Even Peter Jackson admits this opening is a cheat.  It’s ostensibly one of the bigger problems with the movie, but honestly it never really bothered me.


Easter Egg Alert!  We learn some backstory about Patricia and her boyfriend, Johnny Bartlett, in a sequence featuring a “real crime” video one of the main characters is watching. This is the cover of the video. The picture of the couple on the left is supposed to be a photo of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as their characters in Jackson’s previous movie, Heavenly Creatures.


Patricia’s mother the very next morning after the above opening sequence and she’s sporting a hairdo in what looks to be an unsubtle homage to Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula which was only 4 years before this.


Michael J Fox plays Frank Bannister. A man that has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  As I mentioned he uses this ability to con people by working with ghosts to haunt houses so they have to hire him to “exorcise” the ghosts.  Fox is pretty great as the lead.


These are the ghosts that work with Frank; Cyrus and Stuart. Cyrus is a 70s disco gangster and he’s played by the great Chi McBride. Stuart is sort of a nerdy guy played by Jim Fyfe who, to me, is probably best known for hosting/producing those “Buy Me That!” series of PSAs about how commercials use camera trickery to make their products appear more attractive.


This is another ghost working with Frank, “The Judge”. Judge is an Old West gunslinger/sheriff played by John Astin.  He is sort of decrepit, his ectoplasm is drying up, and he has trouble keeping his jawbone in.


Frank starts seeing spectral numbers carved into people’s heads.  At first he thinks his ghost associates did it but we learn they didn’t.


Great cameo by R Lee Ermey as Sgt Hiles. He protects the cemetery and is essentially playing his character from Full Metal Jacket.


Here’s the ghost that Frank is up against. This ghost is killing people by appearing out of the walls and squeezing their hearts until they die.  The Judge calls him the Soul Collector.


Jeffrey Combs is excellent as Special Agent Dammers. Dammers is an expert in parapsychology. His work with cults has rendered him a bit…insane.


At one point The Judge humps a mummy.


“Dr Teeth” Jake Busey plays Johnny Bartlett with much scenery chewing.

Those are just some of the highlights.  Like I said, I quite adore this movie.  Fox is great.  I think, for the most part, the effects are great, especially for 1996.  And it’s got this fun horror-comedy vibe that I just dig.

The movie does pose several questions in the nature of it’s ghosts.  One of the biggest issues I’ve had for years is that the ghost that’s committing the murders is WAY more powerful than ghosts like Stuart and Cyrus.  As a matter of fact, Sgt Hiles also seems way more powerful than Stuart and Cyrus.  Why is there a difference?  Are there different classes of ghosts?  What are the rules?  The movie doesn’t really spell any of that out.  For the most part, this lack of clarity doesn’t really hurt the movie, but those of us that have watched it many times can’t help but wonder what’s up.

I acquired the movie novelization to The Frighteners which is written by Michael Jahn.  I was hoping it would address some of my concerns.  On Monday check out my review of said novelization on a brand new episode of I Read Movies where we’ll see if any of this ghost business is explained.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Real Ghostbusters S4E2 – Flip Side

Posted in cartoons, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2017 by Paxton

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Okay, so the last two episodes of The Real Ghostbusters I talked about (Take Two, Citizen Ghost) were super meta and attempted to deal with some issues of canon pertaining to the cartoons and the movie.  They were fun and interesting episodes.

Now, let’s take a look at a later episode that isn’t all “canon-y” and is just a cool episode that I had heard about but never seen.


Season 4 Episode 2 – Flip Side.  I forget where I first heard of this episode.  I thought it was over on Shawn’s website when he was doing animation cels for Halloween several years ago.  I could have sworn he had a Peoplebusters animation cel. The Peoplebusters are the ghost world version of the Ghostbusters.  It was such an awesome concept that I’ve been wanting to watch the episode in which they were introduced for years.  But I couldn’t find the animation cel on Shawn’s site, so maybe it was in the comments of an unrelated episode of the show.  I’m not sure.


This particular episode is during one of the later seasons where they changed the show name to Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters.


In this episode the guys are taken via a dimensional storm to an alternate New York called Boo York, aka The Big Pumpkin.  It’s a flip universe populated by ghosts.


The guys go to their headquarters to figure out what’s going on and see things are very different. I love that the Peoplebusters sign has Egon in the cross bar.


The guys walk into the building and they run into this universe’s version of themselves…The Peoplebusters!  Yes!  Ghosts who hunt people!  I’ve always loved the idea of antagonists that are the reverse of the protagonists.  Sherlock Holmes/Moriarty.  Flash/Reverse Flash.  Ghostbusters/Peoplebusters.  I love it.


Since the Ghostbusters are humans in the ghost world, they seem to have all the abilities that ghosts do in our world. The very first of which is, they can fly.  The guys spend the episode learning about being people in a ghost world all while being chased by the Peoplebusters.


Here’s the containment unit the Peoplebusters use. It’s a giant awesome metal skull that “eats” the humans.


This is the Peoplebuster’s Ecto-1. And I think it’s kind of badass.  The Ghostbusters really need to take notes on this one.  It’s like a Mad Max vehicle raped a Batmobile.

Not only is this a very good episode, the visual design of the alternate Boo York is superb.  I highly recommend watching this episode if you haven’t.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Real Ghostbusters S1E11 – Citizen Ghost

Posted in cartoons, Ghostbusters, ghosts, monsters, nostalgia, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

So last time I reviewed J Michael Straczynski’s season 1 episode “Take Two”.  It was a super meta episode about Hollywood making a movie about the cartoon Ghostbusters that included actual footage from the Ghostbusters movie.  Next up is another super meta episode by Straczynski involving the cartoon Ghostbusters and the aftermath of the actual events in the first movie.


Season 1 – Episode 11. Citizen Ghost.  I wanted to watch this episode because, as I alluded to, it’s supposed to be a direct sequel to the original 1984 movie.


Peter is interviewed by a reporter for a news story. Peter tells the story about how Slimer came to be the mascot of the Ghostbusters. This involves flashing back to immediately after the first movie fight against Gozer.


So we flash back.  Gozer has been defeated, but the GBHQ is still destroyed from when Walter Peck had shut down the containment grid and the ghosts escaped.  You see the holes created by the escaping ghosts.


We see the Ghostbusters are still in their all gray movie suits.  Egon mentions that they need to destroy these suits due to all the ectoplasmic radiation they absorbed in their fight with Gozer.


Janine announces that luckily right before their fight with Gozer they got delivery of their brand new uniforms.  We see the guys pull out their new, more colorful, cartoon versions of the Ghostbusters suits.  I love that already this cartoon is explaining why the cartoon’s suits are different than the movie.


Peter is in charge of destroying the irradiated uniforms. He kicks the box aside and completely forgets about it. The box slides right up next to the new containment unit and starts absorbing some ectoplasmic radiation that happens to be leaking from it.


The irradiated suits absorb so much ectoplasmic energy that they start glowing and get up and walk out of the box!


The suits generate ghostly versions of the Ghostbusters that shoot ectoplasm out of their proton packs.  The fellas must fight their ectoplasmic doppelgangers with the help of Slimer who, instead of escaping with the other ghosts during the movie sequence, decided to stick around the headquarters with the guys.  Slimer ultimately helps defeat the spectral Ghostbusters.

This is a fun episode that attempts to explain the several differences between the movie and the cartoon.  And they are pretty good explanations.  I liked this episode quite a bit.  I’m surprised this wasn’t used as the very first episode right out of the gate.

Also, evil spectral Ghostbusters.  You know I’m all over that.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Real Ghostbusters S1E10 – Take Two

Posted in cartoons, Ghostbusters, ghosts, monsters, nostalgia, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Since I’m doing ghosts this year for Halloween, I thought I really needed to discuss Ghostbusters in some way.  I didn’t want to review the movie, that’s been done a million times.  I didn’t want to review the sequel either.  There aren’t any Ghostbusters novels to read (I’ve talked about that as well) and I seriously considered talking about last year’s Ghostbusters reboot. However, I decided to discuss the cartoon based on the movie:  The Real Ghostbusters.

I talked about The Real Ghostbusters cartoon before when I explained the difference between it and Filmation’s Ghost Busters.  I’m a fan of the show. It’s not one of my holy sacred childhood things but I do like it quite a bit.

I noticed recently Netflix added 5 seasons of The Real Ghostbusters to its streaming service so I decided to check out a few episodes since I hadn’t watched it in so long. There were a few episodes that I’d heard about and never watched so I decided to use this opportunity to check them out.  I’ll review each of these episodes separately throughout this month.

So, let’s start with the first one on my list…

I’d heard that J Michael Straczynski wrote several of the first season episodes of the show.  Straczynski is a well known comic writer and novelist.  Two of these early season 1 episodes I’d heard about were super meta involving the first Ghostbusters movie and how it connects to the cartoon.  This sounded super interesting to me so I thought I’d check them out.  The first of these episodes was…


Season 1 episode 10. Take Two. In this episode, Hollywood is going to make a movie about the Ghostbusters. So the guys are flown out to LA to be consultants for said movie.


While flying out to Hollywood I guess Venkman was harrassing the flight attendant because Egon mentions that she threw Peter’s suitcases out of the plane while they went over Cleveland.


The guys arrive in LA and we of course get a gratuitous Hollywood sign appearance (But it looks like it’s in the Grand Canyon for some reason).  The guys get a look at the cast list for the movie and are less than impressed. Winston reads out, “Murray, Ackroyd and Ramis? Is that a law firm?”


Oh yeah, Slimer tags along on the trip and once in LA the first thing he does is chase Carmen Miranda? WHAT?


While on the movie set an old “sleeping ghost” is awakened. A sleeping ghost hates noise so any time he hears loud noises he goes berserk. The sleeping ghost inhabits a giant robot prop from a space movie set and goes on a rampage across the movie studio lot trying to shut everyone up.  You know, making a LOT MORE NOISE while trying to get everyone to MAKE LESS NOISE.


The guys’ proton packs are accidentally switched with props so when they try to bust the ghost, nothing happens.


Slimer happens to bump into the poster for the Ghostbusters movie they are making.


We are on a movie studio lot so there are several scenes of the guys hanging out on different movie sets. Here Winston, Ray, and Slimer chill out on a western set.


After capturing the sleeping ghost the guys dress up in tuxes and attend the movie premiere.


While sitting in the theater you see actual film footage from the 1984 Ghostbusters movie including Venkman’s voice saying lines from the opening scene (the lines are dubbed by another actor, however). Peter even looks at the screen and says that Bill Murray looks nothing like him.

This was a wonderfully meta episode.  I quite enjoyed watching this one and seeing how the cartoon handled the idea of a movie being made of the cartoon.  J Michael Straczynski wrote one other “metafictional” episode right after this.  I’ll review it next.



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