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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

Well, I was off to a great start and writing up a storm in my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel. That promptly fell by the wayside once I went on vacation. Now I'm a few thousand words behind and still have to make today's words as well. Anybody else in the same boat? I'm pretty sure I can get it done, but it is going to be a close one this year.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Outlines and Preparations

Greetings. It's been a busy October for me. In addition to hitting a variety of horror conventions and comic conventions, I've also been working diligently on a few new works. The first up is the latest in the Friday Night Frights saga, tentatively titled She-Wolf, Take a Bow, which I've almost completed the first draft on.

Next up is the outline for a romantic comedy called Whiskey and Misery. It's a little bit Californication and Friday the 13th. I know neither of those really scream rom-com but you'll just have to trust me on it. No idea when I'm going to start work on the draft but I'm happy with the way it is shaping up so far.

Finally, I have the outline for my NaNoWriMo novel this year finished. I tend to do outlines as it helps me stay on track. Even a simple one is better than nothing and lets me look back to check something in case I forgot a plot point or need a refresher on a scene. This is going to be a new genre for me as it is a fantasy novel. I have a bunch of titles for it and at one time it was called The Goblin King, but that changed when working on the outline. On the NaNo site I have it listed as The Goblin and The Witch, which is closer to what the story is about but I'm not quite in love with it. I feel like it needs to be something more epic. Like the Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. Wait, that's already taken.You get the idea.

If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo this year, feel free to hit me up and write along with me.

See you there.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: Halloween (2018)

It's been 40 years since the original Halloween graced the screens of theaters across the nation, giving us a boogeyman like no other in Michael Myers and creating a popular horror film franchise that has endured throughout the years. However, it has been almost ten years since the last entry and the second attempt to revitalize the series so the presence of the Shape has been sorely missed on the screen.

For those just joining us, the first attempt to discard the unwieldy continuity of the Halloween series (discounting Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which was an attempt to create an anthology series out of the brand) was Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Said movie (which also happened to be the last one I saw in theaters) discarded the later films and picked up after Halloween II with Michael Myers still on the loose and Laurie having faked her death only to find that her brother has found her and is hunting her once again. This spawned a follow-up film that was widely derided, even with Busta Rhymes performing kung-fun on Michael Myers. The second attempt was by Rob Zombie and remade the first film and added more backstory as to why Michael was the way he was and resulted in a movie that had a mixed reaction amongst fans. The sequel had the same reaction and the series went dormant after that.

This new iteration follows the same route as H20 but goes even a step further and serves as a direct follow-up to the original Halloween. Forty years later after the Haddonfield massacre, Michael Myers is locked up securely in Smith's Grove Sanitarium and Laurie has never quite gotten over the night a stranger came into town, killed her friends and tried to do the same to her. As a result, she's been preparing herself and her family for the inevitable night that the Shape once again comes home to Haddonfield. What makes him decide to escape after so long? That can be attributed to the appearance of two Serial-esque podcasters showing up to interview him (he doesn't say anything) while working on an episode based on the Haddonfield Murders, even bringing along the mask to show him. That was a mistake, as during a transfer to a more secure facility, Myers escapes and a new night of horror begins that will lead to a showdown between the killer and the victim who escaped him so many years ago.

The director of the new movie, David Gordon Green, as well as his co-writer, Danny McBride, are known more for their comedies. However, they bring the horror this time around and do it well in a tightly directed piece that lovingly homages previous films in the series but doesn't go overboard with it. Fans of the series will notice these Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film that enhance and never distract, which helps to not alienate newer viewers. But Green doesn't just ape what has come before and creates new scenes to go down in a series full of iconic shots. One particular standout for me is in the sanitarium when we are introduced to Michael. It's a beautiful and eerie courtyard made of a red and white checkerboard that looks like it could be something out of an Argento film. The sound design in that scene is as unsettling and alien as the location, culminating when the mask is revealed and the inmates all around Michael know that evil is stirring once again.

Halloween's cast is superb. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role she originated and plays it well and with more depth than she was given in the script for H20. Her Laurie Strode is a traumatized survivor and it has affected her own life and those of her daughter and granddaughter. But that doesn't mean she's running scared. No, this Laurie Strode isn't so much hiding as she is waiting for that day she knows is an inevitability and has prepared for it as such. Judy Greer plays her daughter and does what she can with an underwritten role and shines in it. Newcomer Andi Matichak does a great job as the youngest Strode, Allyson, who finds herself and her friends caught up in the mayhem of Myers' rampage and learns that her grandmother wasn't overselling the menace. Will Patton plays an officer who knows as well as Laurie the horror Myer's is capable of inflicting on their town and vows to stop it.

The violence comes fast and furious in this film. Gone is the almost playful Michael who will stalk his victims for hours and toy with them. This Michael Myers is full of pent up rage and he lashes out with it indiscriminately, sparing few from the fruits of his madness. The brutality brings to mind the original Halloween II, where he displays a similar viciousness, and also the Zombie remake. Myers is a superhuman force to be reckoned with, using his bare hands and his trusty knife to savagely dispatch his victims. That's not to say there isn't suspense. Interspersed are some truly terrifying and tense moments where he closes in on his next target, leaving us unsure of where he might pop up and if they will escape. Once scene in particular involving a security light is particularly harrowing along with the scene in the restroom that you might have seen in the trailer.

John Carpenter, who scored the original as well as directed it, returns with his son Cody and Daniel Davies to supply the music and it is fantastic. Old cues and themes are remixed and new ones added, all featuring the trademark Carpenter sound but with more depth the them, reminiscent of his Lost Themes album. The tracks never overpower and serve to heighten the action on screen, a welcome change from movies that are looking to sell a soundtrack instead of a scare.

All of this adds up to a solid entry in the Halloween series and creating a film worthy of being a direct successor to the original. The story is solid, if a little light on some backstory elements, with scares that come at a regular pace but never enough to overwhelm. Some levity is injected into parts, no surprise considering the authors, but these moments never overpower the horror or turn it into a farce. There are a few missteps in the film that make it stumble, such as a reveal late in the second act that is resolved nearly as soon as it arrives and doesn't serve much purpose. It doesn't derail the movie though and we are back on track soon enough on our way to the final showdown.

Also, for those interested, the mask is damn near perfect. After years of getting masks that seem progressively worse, its nice that they can finally get it right.

Check it out at a theater near you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Elvira at the New Jersey Horror Con Part 2

One of the fun things to do at conventions if you have some free time is attend the various panels that the show has. These can be on just about anything. Some are how-to's on cosplay or comic book creation, others concern what new products a company has coming up, while others might feature the cast and crew of an upcoming movie that will be discussed in detail. At the New Jersey Horror Con, these panels took the form of  Q&A sessions with the various celebrities in attendance. I didn't realize that Ms. Peterson (Elvira) was having one until I got there. Fortunately it was scheduled for right after my photo-op so I could run over there and grab a seat without having to spend a lot of time waiting around.

The Q&A stage was a simple set up,featuring a chair and microphone each for the Ms. Peterson and the moderator in front of a white backdrop with the con's logo on it. The photo-op ran a bit longer than expected so Ms. Peterson was a little late to the panel, but was greeted with thunderous applause anyway when she showed up. After all, you can't show disrespect to the Queen of Halloween.

The moderator started things off first, with questions from the audience to be fielded later. The first question he had was the influence that Elvis had on the creation of Elvira. The answer to that? Not very much at all, outside the similarity of the names. Ms. Peterson did meet him while performing as a showgirl in Las Vegas and recounted a story where they spent all night talking and "doing other things," but nothing too bad because she was underage at the time and Elvis had handlers to prevent that sort of thing from happening. However, he did give her some advice. The first bit was to stop smoking weed, which she ignored. The second bit, which was to get out of Vegas, she did follow. "I was the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history, and if I stayed there, I'd be the oldest." On an amusing side-note, she said that Elvis' manager did note later on that her signature as Elvira looked like a dead ringer for Elvis' own signature. Just a funny coincidence.

The conversation then moved to her involvement with The Groundlings, a comedy troupe that featured the likes of Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens and Laraine Newman. She suggested everyone should take one of their classes and it helped her learn to think on her feet. You had to when you went out on stage with no script and had to make an audience laugh. In fact, the character of Elvira is based on a valley girl character she was using in Groundlings. The director of her show saw it when they were in the planning stages and said to do that so she did. Ms. Peterson said you wouldn't think the vampire outfit and the valley girl would go together, but that's what made it unique. Advice she gave for people wanting to make their own characters for acting and the like is that they should choose like on a Chinese menu. and pick little from each column. It might not be the best thing ever invented, but it'll be unique.

Concerning the character's creation the original concept was for a scarier costume with more color in it and red hair, basing some of it off of Sharon Tate's character in The Fearless Vampire Killers, as Ms. Peterson wanted to avoid all of the Morticia Addams and Vampira styles that were popular. However, when they presented it to the station, the higher-ups said it had to be black. The hair is based on Ronnie Spector's in a style the singer called a "knowledge bump." As for the dress, the station had a problem with the amount of cleavage showing at first and told her to "take care of it." She said "ok" but did nothing to change the outfit. When they asked her if she fixed the issue, Elvira said "yes" and it never came up again.



Due to her hand in creating Elvira, Ms. Peterson is one of the few people who own the character that they became famous for. Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) is the other one. She said they might let others into that exclusive club, like Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons. Well, maybe not Gene Simmons.

Speaking of Pee-Wee, Paul Reubens and Ms. Peterson text each other every day. For her, the Groundlings was her high school and where she made the friends that she still has to this very day. She had a part as a biker in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and tried to get Tim Burton to direct Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. However, after the success of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Burton became too expensive for the job. 

Ms. Peterson shared a few anecdotes about the filming of the movie. She loves animals and refused to let the wranglers use permanent or semi-permanent dye on the poodle in the film. Instead they had to use a vegetable based one that they had to apply every day. Said poodle was also the meanest dog that she had ever met and bit several of the cast and crew members--the worst of which was received by Kurt Fuller, who then had to get stitches on his ankle. Though she had an improv background, there wasn't any improv in the movie. Ms. Peterson said the improv came when she and John Paragon were writing the script and that became what they ended up filming.

For the Macabre Mobile, they used a 1958 Ford Thunderbird. However, the convertible models were rare and rather expensive, so they got a regular edition and chainsawed off the roof and made it a permanent convertible. It also barely ran and so they had to use a tow-truck to drag it along or they would push it into frame to make it appear that it was running. After the movie was done filming, she was asked if she wanted to buy it, but didn't want a car that didn't work. Years later, the purchaser of it wanted to sell it and gave her the chance to buy it and this time she did. After a $30,000 restoration performed by the legendary George Barris (designer of the Batmobile and others), the car was running perfectly and is now on display at Sweet!Hollywood so the public can enjoy it. 

Ms. Peterson doesn't appear at cons in costume any more, much to the dismay of fans. However, there is good reason for that. The first of which, she says, is that nobody else shows up in character and nobody expects them to, which is rather unfair. The second reason is that it takes two hours to get ready when putting on the costume and it would require her to bring a hair and makeup assistant along on trip. The third--and most important reason--is that while it looks great, it is uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, so she will only bring it out for special occasions. That's fine with this reporter as I want her to wear whatever she is comfortable in so she can keep regaling us with her wonderful stories.

While she is a horror host icon for the audience, Ms. Peterson revealed that she didn't watch any when she was growing up, mainly because her part of the country didn't have any. However, once she became Elvira, she got caught up on many of them and became friends with hosts like Zacherley, Svengoolie and others.

An audience member asked if she enjoyed watching the horror movies that she hosted and if she still liked watching them. Ms. Peterson confirmed that she does watch horror movies, but doesn't enjoy slasher films very much and enjoys movies with a bit of humor to break up the scares. She prefers the older movies and watches them on Svengoolie when she can to relax.

In terms of her older work, Ms. Peterson said that she doesn't like watching it. Mainly because she spoke so slowly that "you could fall asleep between words." The movie she liked least on her show was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This wasn't because of the movie's quality, as it's a good movie, but because the writers of the movie used up every tomato and ketchup joke in it so that she had nothing to do for her sketches during the breaks.

Currently, Ms. Peterson is doing more cons as she isn't doing Knott's Scary Farm this year as she had been for awhile. Doing two shows a night made for a rough schedule and though she was thankful for the opportunity, she was glad to stop. She'll be attending cons the weekend before and the weekend after Halloween as it falls on a Wednesday this year, which means two Halloween weekends.

One of the last questions concerned the fact that Dave Navarro bought a house next to her. Ms. Peterson said he was great and that she held his hand as he got an Elvira tattoo over the last open bit of skin. She offered a bit of advice concerning that last part. "Do you have a neighbor with your name tattooed on them? If so, move." Navarro has Suspension Sundays where he hangs himself with hooks and chains over the pool and everyone drinks beer while he drips blood in it. That's why she doesn't like to go swimming over there.

Although Elvira doesn't have a show on currently, that doesn't mean she doesn't have anything in the works. Ms. Peterson revealed that she is in talks with a cable network to do a third Elvira movie. After all, she saw Pee-Wee's latest movie and he's only a year younger and still has it so she has another movie in her. Plus he can wear more makeup than he can. This development came about due to her shopping around the idea of an Elvira animated cartoon. The network passed on that but said they would be interested in something live-action so she started work on a treatment. Look for news about that in the future.

For information on Cassandra Peterson's future appearances, please visit: https://www.elvira.com/

That's all, folks! Thanks for reading! 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Elvira at New Jersey Horror Con

It was a rainy Sunday on the first full day of fall that I headed on down to Atlantic City and the New Jersey Horror Con with one goal in mind--to meet Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. If you're unfamiliar with her, she is a horror host whose persona was that of a Valley Girl dressed like she stepped out of a Hammer vampire film. The clash between the two elements made her one of the most memorable and long-lived characters to come out of the 1980s.

I caught her show through the magic of VHS as a kid and became entranced with her and her peers at the time like Zacherley. The outfit she wore was clearly part of her appeal for me, but the humor was what kept me coming back to her show. Elvira could fire off witty one-liners with the best of them and her skits were often the highlights of the show as some of the films could be pretty dreadful.

Despite being an avid con goer for the past twenty years, I've never actually gotten a chance to meet this idol of mine. Some of it was due to logistics and being unable to attend the cons she has been to, and some of it was that Ms. Peterson was busy around Halloween with other commitments so she wouldn't be able to attend the shows that popped up around that time of year like Chiller Theatre. When I saw that she was going to be attending the relatively-new-on-the-scene New Jersey Horror Con, I jumped at the chance to go and see her and tell her what an inspiration that she has been to my love of horror and writing.

The convention was being held at the old Showboat Casino down in Atlantic City, now just referred to as The Showboat. It's changed a lot since I had last been there. All of the machines that had littered the floor were removed, though the light up displays that could be found above them are still there and blinking away. Gone is the House of Blues where I enjoyed many a show and sprained my ankle once. The bar we sat at while waiting to go up to see the bands we loved sits empty next to broken escalators. All of this empty space was ripe for the taking, and the NJHC filled it up to the best of its ability.

Vendors from all over came to set up tables and hawk their wares. Looking for horror themed prints? They had them. Maybe you were looking for an old movie that you half-remember seeing on a cable channel one night. There was a booth selling them too, as well as representation from official outlets like Troma and Vinegar Syndrome. Mixed in between these were vendors selling toys and props and replicas and crafts of all sorts. The amount of dealers wasn't as large as in a con like Chiller, but it was an impressive showing.

Lining the edge of the show floor were the celebrity guests. While Elvira and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider had a place of honor in one of the old poker rooms, the rest could be found out here--not that they were any slouches. Genre favorites young and old like Linda Blair, Ted Raimi, Amy Steel, Adrienne King, Edward Furlong, Tiffany Shepis, William Katt and more were on the scene and ready to meet with their adoring fans and sell some 8x10s and other memorabilia. In addition, the celebrities were all available for photo ops so you could get a picture to remember the day by that would turn out better than the one you could just snap with your phone.

If people in costume were your scene, you'd find plenty of them wandering around. Evil clowns seemed to be the theme that day and there were a few Pennywises and others running around. My favorite had to be a young girl dressed in the sackhead outfit from Friday the 13th Part 2. She was killing it.

After a quick tour of the show floor, I went to the photo op I had scheduled with Elvira. Meeting her was an amazing experience. She is warm and funny and an altogether wonderful human being. We only had a minute to chat before the next person so I didn't have too much time to make a fool of myself but got to say how great it was to meet her and how much she meant to me growing up as a young horror fan. The set we were on was recreated to look like the one she used on her show. I might not have gotten a photo otherwise, but being on the set of Movie Macabre? That was too good to pass up. Now I have a memory that I will always treasure...and probably hang up at the bar in the basement with the other horror hosts I've met. She'll be in good company with them.

One my photo was done, I scurried across the show floor to the next destination and to where I knew Elvira would be showing up next--the Q&A room.

Stay tuned for Part 2!



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Cover for The Dead Next Door

Been busy lately so I apologize for the radio silence. I'll have some new posts for you soon. In the meantime, I'd like to present the new cover for the Kindle version of The Dead Next Door. I'll be redoing the covers for books two and three as well in the coming weeks/months. Then I'll most likely be migrating them to the paperback versions as well.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

As horror fans, we all have series that are our favorites. For me, Halloween comes first. Then there's Romero's Dead series. After that, it has to be Puppet Master. I don't know what drew me to the series at first. Maybe it was an article in Fangoria or Gorezone. Maybe it was the VHS covers that featured puppets and promised mayhem. Maybe it was just because I was a sucker for Full Moon films. While they first two films had the puppets as the antagonists and murdering those who came to stay at the Bodega Bay Inn with stop motion goodness, the latter films turned them into heroes and used them to fight off Nazis. It was an interesting change and resulted in the best film of the series, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. But something for me was lost. While I enjoyed the new direction, I missed the puppets being the little bastards that they were built to be.

Fortunately, it seems that someone else felt the same way and graced us with a reboot to the series in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Ditching the bogged down continuity the films had created until now, the movie finds us in America, where Toulon (now a Nazi) is hiding out and using his puppets to continue the horrible work he had started in Germany of killing those who do not fit into the master race and also to keep himself alive. He runs afoul of the law after they catch wind of the murders he is committing and dies in the ensuing gunfight. Fast forward to thirty years later where Edgar (Thomas Lennon), his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) attend a convention celebrating the anniversary of Toulon's death in the hopes of selling a Blade puppet Edgar found in his late brother's possessions. Things are going swimmingly until the puppets are reanimated by a mysterious force and all hell breaks loose.

Working from a script by S. Craig Zahler, director's Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund give us a fun ride that gives us some great character performances and some room to breathe and get to know then before bringing the bloody good fun of puppets vs. people. They don't shy away from showing the puppets doing what they do best, and while there isn't as much stop motion as in previous entries, they look good and believable. The new designs for the puppets are great, too. Blade has has a complete overhaul, with his trademark albino face now a more skull-like sculpt and shines as the leader off the puppets.

Lennon shines in the part and I don't understand why he doesn't get more lead roles as he is often the best part of the movies he is in, and this is no exception. He plays a man who is broken and with a tragic past, trying to find happiness again while dealing with a story so ludicrous it could be in one of the comic books that he writes. His co-stars are equally impressive and the trio form a tight knit group that forms the heart of the film. As if that wasn't enough, we have Udo Kier in a flashback as Toulon, Barbara Crampton as cop and Michael Pare as a detective showing up to breathe even more life into the film. There's also a character played by an actor I'm not familiar with who really steals the show. You'll know who I'm talking about when you see it.

Did I mention that Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombie 2, City of the Living Dead) did the score for the film? His work is as good as ever and his new theme for the series is fantastic and I hope to hear more of it in the inevitable sequels as it is never overpowering and complements the action on screen nicely.

It's a fun flick that hits you fast and furious. There are a few missteps here and there, namely some plot questions that go unanswered, but it's a solid entry that has breathed new life into a series that has grown slightly stale over the years. If you're a fan of the OG puppets, fear not, as Charles Band is still making new movies featuring the old favorites. But with this reboot we have a new world to play in and the promise of a sequel is great and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Check it out.