Archive for the holiday Category

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Cavalcade Comics #15 – The Headless Horseman vs Ghost Rider

Posted in books, Classic literature, comic books, Halloween, holiday, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Normally I do my new Cavalcade Comics cover reveal in the “Greatest Hits” section of AWESOME-tober-fest but the cover I have for today fits the ghostly theme perfectly.

Today, the appropriately themed cover I have features The Headless Horseman vs Ghost Rider.

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I love this battle. Undead flaming skull vs undead flaming skull. Here are the covers that mostly make up the above.

Headless Horseman Ghost Rider

The Headless Horseman comes from Marvel anthology series Supernatural Thrillers, issue #6, 1973. As a matter of fact, this is the same anthology series that birthed The Living Mummy in issue #5, which I talked about last year.  Ghost Rider comes from his own title, issue #5, 1974.  April, 1974, to be precise, which means this very issue of Ghost Rider *could* have been on store shelves the day I was born in early May 1974.  But it just as likely could have been issue #6 that was on shelves.

Check back tomorrow for a ghostly movie review and the final “ghost” related article of the month!



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

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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

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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: Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray (2013)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2017 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to talk about a comic book called 5 Ghosts. It was first published by Image in 2013. It’s written by Frank J Barbiere and drawn by Chris Mooneyham.

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The premise is pretty interesting.  Fabian Gray is an adventurer and master thief.  After an accident, he was infused with an artifact called The Dreamstone.  It allows him access to the abilities of five ghosts; the archer, the wizard, the detective, the samurai and the vampire.  However these abilities have a cost.  In not only his body, but his mind.  Plus, the accident also robbed him of his sister who he’s determined to find and bring back from wherever she is.  All while being chased by a shadowy group of supernaturals.

That’s a pretty great premise.  And it mostly lives up to that premise.  The art is fantastic.  It’s drawn like an old book or pulp novel.

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There’s lots of action. Lots of flashbacks. You don’t get much of Fabian’s backstory and when you do it isn’t until midway through the book. But there’s some good, snappy dialogue and great action. I like how the ghost abilities work and that the actual process of using the abilities seems to cause Fabian a lot of problems.  However, I do wish they had filled in more backstory.  Like, a fuller version of the story of how Fabian ended up with the Dreamstone embedded in his chest.  And maybe even more background on the ghosts that inhabit Fabian.  But, conversely, I also like that the exclusion of these stories allows the reader to fill some of that story in themselves.  But I also assume these story aspects will probably be told at some point.

It all boils down to this, I guess, this comic is definitely worth a read if you’ve been considering it at all.  Fun adventure, supernatural elements, cool throwback style art.  There’s something for everyone.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Casting the Runes and other Ghost Stories by MR James

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , on October 4, 2017 by Paxton

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Doing research for ghosts I looked up scariest ghost stories to see what popped up that I want to cover. The name M.R. James kept showing up in lists.

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He’s a very well respected author from the late 19th-early 20th century.  Most of his work with ghost stories shows up in the early 1900s.  James began what is now called “antiquarian ghost stories”.  James abandoned the high “Gothic” cliches of what was then the presiding style of ghost stories and set his stories in a more contemporary setting.  He also generally used a protagonist that was a naive or very reserved scholarly gentleman who had found or come into possession of a mysterious object that drives the crux of the story.

There have been several collections of James’ ghost stories, so I picked one that had the most variety but also one that included several that were generally considered his best.  Hello Oxford World’s Classics edition.

Casting the Runes cover

In this collection, the main ones I wanted to read were Casting the Runes, Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, and A Warning for the Curious. I also planned to cherry pick a few others depending on how much I liked what I read first.

So, I read the stories, what do I think?  Honestly, the stories just didn’t grab me.  There’s some interesting things James is doing, but none of them connected with me.  I read the story, liked the setup, but nothing ever creeped me out or scared me.  I came in fully expecting to be terrified of these stories but…nope.  Nothing.  I think James is a good writer, but for whatever reason, these just didn’t punch those specific creepy buttons for me.  I was more scared when I reread those old Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books than I ever was here.

This is a shame because I really was excited to read these stories for some good creepy fun.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest officially starts on Monday!!

Posted in Halloween, holiday with tags , , , on September 29, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Check it out!  The Halloween decorations are up!  We are inside the spooky season, guys! This is just a heads up to let you know that AWESOME-tober-fest 2017 begins on Monday.

So on Monday I begin talking about ghosts and ghost stories.  Expect updates every weekday in October.  I’ll be reviewing tons of books, comics, cartoons and movies all having to do with GHOSTS.  That’ll be happening for the first three weeks of October.  Then, for the last two weeks, starting on Mon October 25, I’ll begin what’s called my “Greatest Hits”.  For those two final weeks I’ll be revisiting topics from previous AWESOME-tober-fests like vampires, werewolves and zombies.  I’ll even debut a brand new Cavalcade Comics cover during those weeks and a brand new episode of I Read Movies!  So enjoy that!

If you check out that banner above this article you may notice the red burst that says “10th YEAR”.  Yes, this is the 10th year that I have done this Halloween celebration.  So help me go out this Halloween with a BANG!

Or a BOO as the case may be.  See you on Monday.

 



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Jason X (2001) review

Posted in Friday the 13th, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, Jason Vorhees, movies, nostalgia with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by Paxton

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Yesterday for my “greatest hits of AWESOME-tober-fest” week, I looked at the novelization for the movie Jason X, of which I am a fan.  I thought maybe for Fangoria Movie Friday I should revisit the movie itself and see if I do still, in fact, enjoy it.  A 15 years later retrospective on a very maligned movie.

In the late 90s, when Freddy vs Jason was still in “development hell”, Friday the 13th creator Sean Cunningham wanted to make another Jason movie to continue fostering interest in the character. Writer Todd Farmer pitched “Jason in space” and develpment began on what would become the 10th Friday the 13th movie, Jason X.

Jason X poster

The movie starts off in 2010. Jason has been captured by the government and kept in the Crystal Lake Research Facility. They have been testing his ability to regenerate tissue and stay alive. After several failed attempts to kill him it is decided to put him in cryo stasis, but certain other shadowy government departments want him for further study so they prep him for transfer to another facility. However, Jason escapes and kills nearly everyone. One of the researchers, Rowan, traps him in the cryo chamber, but Jason pierces the chamber with his machete and both Jason and Rowan are trapped in cryo sleep as the facility goes into lockdown mode.

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Over 445 years later, a scientific team stumbles upon the two and transports them to their ship. The crew revive Rowan from cryo sleep with nanotechnology and just as she is about to warn them about Jason he revives and starts killing all of the scientists. Rowan and the few survivors must figure out a way to stop Jason and get off the ship before it is destroyed.

That’s the elevator pitch, there’s a little bit more to it. But not much.  Getting this out of the way, the movie is ultra low budget.  Especially for being in space.  The actors are mostly unknowns but the lead girl, Rowan, was on Andromeda, as was one other cast member.  The cast is as good as any other standard Friday the 13th.  The kills are pretty good.  One of the more infamous being the “liquid nitrogen head smash”.

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For the characters, Rowan is pretty good as the female lead. The other “lead” if you want to call her that is an android a la Data from Star Trek: TNG named KM-14. You also get the typical smattering of other character types; “the tough military sergeant”, “the computer dork” and “the outspoken one with loose morals”. They work as well as any of the other F13 movies. Certainly no worse than Jason Takes Manhattan or New Beginning.  But saying “they work as well” and “they are good and interesting characters” are two different things.  They do what they need to do but they aren’t great.

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As far as the story goes, I like the idea of the government wanting to test the captured Jason’s supernatural healing abilities. He has this ability to regenerate after nearly 100% damage. Of course the government is going to want to study him.  I also like the idea of trapping people on a spaceship with a hunting Jason. You can tell the premise of this movie was “borrowed” from Alien. As a plot device, for me, it works.  What also works for me is the idea of Uber Jason.  Towards the end of the movie, the android character gets “an upload”, becomes Rambo and “kills” Jason by shooting off his leg, part of his rib cage and part of his head.  And despite the fact that Jason hasn’t died from some seemingly fatal wound at least 5 times before this, everyone assumes he’s dead.  Then the damaged medical station thinks Jason needs to be fixed so it takes over and rebuilds Jason.  As a cyborg.

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And so is born the best thing in this movie, Uber Jason.  We get precious little time with Uber Jason.  He’s awesome and should have been onscreen more than 20 minutes.  He’s relentless and kills gloriously.  The movie really picks up and seems more fun once Uber Jason is on the scene.  Here’s a nice gallery of Uber Jason pics.

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At one point they trap Uber Jason in a simulated 1980 Camp Crystal Lake environment.  He gets to kill two simulated co-eds by smacking their sleeping bags against a tree.  It’s a pretty great homage to past movies (the sleeping bag stunt was done back in Part VII).

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So, is this a great movie? No, not really. But it’s fun. It has fun with the concept of Jason and the idea to move him into outer space and turn him into a futuristic cyborg Jason was a clever idea. Did everything 100% work? No, of course not. The budget is uber cheap and you get what you pay for with the actors. But I had fun with what the filmmakers were trying to do and I still say I enjoy this movie.


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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: The Ghost Busters episode 10 – The Vampire’s Apprentice (1975)

Posted in Dracula, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture, TV shows, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by Paxton

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Today, I finally get to talk about the old live action TV show, The Ghost Busters, from 1975.  I talked a bit before about this show back in 2007 when I discussed the difference between The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and the Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon.  As I said earlier, I actually like the old Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon so I was excited to finally go back and check out the TV show that spawned the cartoon.

The show first aired in 1975.  It lasted for one season of 15 episodes.  It starred Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch and Bob Burns as bumbling paranormal detectives who use a “ghost dematerializer” gadget to send said ghosts back to the netherworld.

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The show made use of several famous monters in its 15 episodes including Jeckyll & Hyde, Dr Frankenstein and his monster, the Red Baron, Billy the Kid and, in the episode I’m about to look at, Dracula and his wife.

Here’s Dracula and his wife.  Since this show is a comedy, the duo are characterized as very slaptick and goofy.

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It’s interesting, the episode several times mentions that they are the GHOSTS of Dracula and his wife, which doesn’t really make a whole hell of a lot of sense.  They interact as if they are corporeal vampires, but in the beginning and the way they are dispatched in the end seems to suggest that they are ghosts.  Weird.

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The whole episode is weird and the humor is…eh.  At one point, Larry Storch’s Spencer is turned into a vampire. To ward all the vampires off, Forrest Tucker’s Kong hands them a “wooden steak” (Haha! Get it?).  Of course the vampires look at it oddly at first and then they theatrically recoil in horror when they realize it’s a “wooden steak”.  That’s the level of hilarity throughout this episode. Plus, there are constant jokes about how Dracula can’t remember anything because he’s getting old and he’s constantly running into walls when he turns into a bat.

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When it’s finally time to dispatch the vampire “ghosts” Kong grabs the “ghost dematerializer” and disintegrates Dracula and his wife back to wherever the hell they came from.

So I’ve finally watched this show.  It’s not great.  Definitely a product of the time, but the concept is solid.  I’ll check out a few of the other episodes with other more famous monsters.  I’m really interested in checking out the episode with Billy the Kid’s ghost!


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