HALLOWEEN’ING Day 31: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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It’s here! It’s here! The Greatest Day of the Year! Okay, so I usually don’t get this kind of excitable, but…IT’S HALLOWEEN! It’s the day we’ve been counting down to, waiting for with baited breath, marking the passage of time with…well, you know. Anyway, it’s time to do whatever it is you do for this day of days. As for me, I’m going to probably do what I always do: Stay in, make up some snacky-snacks, and settle in for a bit of a Horror Movie Marathon! But, not too late…it is a work night, after all. Until next year, cheers, and keep the Halloween Spirit alive for the rest of the year…

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 30: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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halloween'ing 2017bram stokers dracula

I realize that it seems odd that I’m recommending the Francis Ford Coppola-directed remake of the movie Dracula that came out in 1992 for a Halloween movie viewing, rather than the original Bela Lugosi classic from 1932. And believe me, it’s not because I think that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is superior to the first one. Far from it. It’s just that, this iteration of the big screen Dracula was the first movie I watched straight through, and ignited an interest in the character that has lasted for decades later.

Comparisons to the source material aside, as a movie itself, Bram Stoker’s Dracula still holds up as a Gothic romance movie, complete with great period visuals, breathtaking scenes, and some great performances…and also Keanue Reeves. Who, I think, can be forgiven his performance, as he was still trying to shake free of being pigeonholed as Ted “Theodore” Logan at this point in his career.

Greatly atmospheric, a nice slow and dark buildup, and a first part that actually references Vlad Tepes, aka the inspiration for the character of Dracula. And let’s face it, there are way worse Dracula movies out there.

Bram Stoker’s DRACULA

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 29: The Golden Arm

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halloween'ing 2017golden arm
It was October of 1984. I was at a sleepover at a friend’s farm, along with various other grade school chums. We were out in the back area, near the grove of trees that seemed to go on forever. The sun had gone down a while ago, and we were all sitting around a fire, and began telling stories ghost stories. I mostly listened, myself having not yet developed the story-telling skill, and not being well-versed in some of the more traditional campfire stories. But, these guys did. One of which was the classic tale, “The Golden Arm”.

Doing some research on the history of this particular folk tale, “The Golden Arm” dates back to at least 200 years prior, and was used by one Mark Twain as an example of how to tell a story.

Truly, the best way to get the most out of this story is to tell it orally. And it’s not just how you tell it, but also the place you’re telling it and the aesthetics of the setting are part of the whole experience. That night, all those decades ago, was the perfect setting, which is probably why this story has stuck with me for so long, and probably was instrumental in collecting folklore and ghost stories.

The GOLDEN ARM

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 28: “Cold” (Static-X)

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I first heard the song “Cold” as part of the movie Queen Of The Damned. It’s played during the part where Lestat is playing around with a couple of groupies’ heads before he eats them. It’s one of the highlights of an otherwise passable vampire film (in and of itself; as an adaptation…well, that’s not the point of this article, really). I soon came to find out that this song was re-purposed for the film, and the original was done by cyber nu-metal group Static-X.

Coming off of their 2001 release Machine, “Cold” is chilling enough as it is, a nice neo-Gothic metal ode to vampires. However, it’s the video that really makes this a staple in my Halloween music mix: A disheveled looking Wayne Static inside a remote house that’s heavily fortified and barricaded, preparing for a showdown with vampires once the sun goes down. It’s very much an homage to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and is awesome in its own right.

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 27: Trick Or Treat (1986)

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TRICK OR TREAT
This is one of my favorite cheesy rocksploitation horror flicks from the 80s. This has it all: a B-List sitcom star (Marc Price, who played “Skippy” from Family Ties), a hard rockin’ metal soundtrack, over-the-top cartoonish occult wackiness, and cameos from Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons. Marc Price plays Eddie, a metal-head High School misfit whose hero–infamous heavy metal star Sammi Curr–has just died in a hotel fire. Understandably distraught over this, he is gifted Curr’s unreleased album Songs In The Key Of Death by local DJ Nuke. Soon, Eddie discovers that the soul of Curr is trapped inside the record itself, and is giving Eddie instructions on staging his big comeback…from death!

Trick Or Treat is one of those tradition movies, where I try to watch it at least once during the Halloween season. It’s fun 80s horror cheese at its finest.

TRICK OR TREAT

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 26: Randumb Stuff

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Over the course of this year’s season, I’ve picked up some randumb bits that I wanted to share before everything is over and the Christmas stuff begins its senses-choking takeover.
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First, I did finally run into another Halloween-themed version of a popular breakfast cereal, this being the Halloween Crunch, which I found at a HyVee…in the candy isle. Tucked away, not displayed prominently. As a matter of fact, there was more general Fall-related stuff than Halloween-related stuff at that particular location. Pity. Anyway, bought a box, and it was like crack…
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Next, over this year’s annual Seclusion & Writing Weekend at my Aunt and Uncle’s camper by the lake (great setting for a slasher flick, there), I was bequeathed my Aunt Jan’s whimsical witch figurine. I don’t know if she gave her a name; also, from just the looks of it, it seems like one of those flimsy lightweight things that can break easily…but rest assured, this thing is made of metal. Literally metal. Don’t drop it on your foot kind of thing. A very welcome edition to my decor, thanks again Aunt Joyce…

And then a couple of things I picked up at ManGHOULsen’s this year: First, a mason jar mug in the shape of a skull (actual glass, not one of those cheep plastic knockoffs you see around this time of year)…
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…and a tie that, from a distance looks like it’s a bunch of white polka-dots, but when you come closer, you realize those are tiny spiders. I wore it to my friends’ wedding the next night…
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So, that’s it for now. There was so much more looking around for Halloween-themed food items and nick knacks that I wanted to do, but for the health reasons with my knees this year, I wasn’t strong enough to continue the pace for very long. Maybe next year, if I’m not dead by then.

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 25: The Anatomy Lesson

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swamp thing 21
Utter the name of Alan Moore, and usually the first things to spring to mind is his seminal works Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke. (Utter the name of Alan Moore three times into a mirror, and he will appear behind you with a pint and a grumpy British disposition) Maybe the last Silver Age Superman story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” There’s no denying that Alan Moore’s work on DC titles had a kind of magic to them. One particular character in DC’s stable that he managed to reinvent–and do so convincingly–was Swamp Thing.

Originally, Swamp Thing was a scientist that, due to sabotage, mutated into a plant-based swamp monster. When the first proper Alan Moore-penned Swamp Thing story was published in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, it was revealed that, rather than being a mutated version of the scientist, instead Swamp Thing was a plant elemental that absorbed the memories and personality traits of the dying scientist, and since then actually believed itself to be the scientist. After discovering the truth in this issue, well…he’s none too happy about the reveal.

My copy of this issue is the Millennium Edition reissue on the Vertigo label that was reprinted in black and white in 2000. That was during my Collecting All Things Alan Moore era. I would advise, my tender dumpling, to get the trade paperback collecting Alan Moore’s entire Swamp Thing run.

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, Book 1

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 24: The Monster of Walnut Grove

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TheMonsterOfWalnutGroveOne of my favorite childhood prime-time television shows was Little House On The Prairie. It was one that I would sit and watch along with my family, and while it was one of the more schmaltzy television shows on at the time, I have some rather fond memories associated with watching the adventures of a young Laura Ingalls and her prairie home outside the town of Walnut Grove.

Anyway, this particular episode, “The Monster of Walnut Grove”, was the first Halloween-themed episode, which was part of the show’s third season in 1976. I was just a month shy of the age of three when the episode originally aired; thanks to the magic of syndicated reruns, I was able to watch several times in the early 1980s.

It’s Halloween night in the town of Walnut Grove, and the Ingalls girls are out doing whatever they did back in settler days, when Laura sees local general store owner Mr. Olsen behead his wife with a sword. Of course, this was a mannequin head that Mr. Olsen lopped off, with the real Mrs. Olsen out of town for a few days, but Laura doesn’t know this, and has a devil of a time convincing anyone of the possible murder of one of the town’s more memorable characters. And while the general shenanigans involving the Olsen children playing with their heads does ensue, the best part of this episode happens to be the completely wacked-out dream sequences Laura has, some very EC Comics-level horror sequences that, for a family show, were very scary and effective for this grade schooler. That bit where Mr. Olsen serves up his wife’s head, and she opens her eyes and starts screaming? Yeah, nightmare fuel right there. Oh, and the Headless Horseman makes a cameo in the last place you’d expect.

It might be overlooked, but “The Monster of Walnut Grove” is a good old-fashioned American Gothic style story for a series that was more Hallmark Channel style.

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 23: The Simpson’s Treehouse Of Horror

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simpsons halloween special
If you’re anything like me (in which case, you have my pity), the yearly Simpsons Halloween episode Treehouse Of Horror are something you look forward to every year, despite the drop in quality of the show overall, and sometimes having to wait until after Halloween to watch the episode. Being a Halloween geek isn’t easy sometimes.

The very first Treehouse Of Horror aired early in the show’s second season in 1990. It centers around Bart, Lisa and Maggie sitting in their treehouse, telling each other scary stories. Homer is outside eavesdropping, and imagines the tales in his head, which of course segue into the segments:

“Bad Dream House”, where the Simpsons move into an Addams Family style old house that happens to be possessed by a poltergeist that tries to scare them off. Marge is having none of it…

“Hungry Are The Damned”, as the Simpsons are enjoying an outdoor barbecue in their back yard, they’re abducted by aliens (Kang and Kodos in their first appearance ever) and find themselves in a possible “To Serve Man” situation…

And finally, “The Raven” has Homer imagining himself as the lead character in Edgar Alan Poe’s famous poem, Bart as the titular Raven, while the whole thing is narrated by the legendary James Earl Jones.

This episode is classic. It’s the first in what would become a long-running tradition of EC Comics style horror fun. If you haven’t seen this one yet, remedy this oversight.

The SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 22: Trunk Or Treat (A Rant)

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trunk-or-treatOne of my co-workers is starting to talk about some places around Omaha to take her kids “trunk or treating”. I’ve heard of this practice: Instead of taking the kids around the neighborhood, door to door to get candy handouts, the kids are now taken to a parking lot, where people have parked their cars and filled their trunks (or unmarked windowless vans) with candy for the kids to wander around to. The idea is that doing this instead of the traditional practice of trick-or-treat is safer for the kids.

I’m calling B. S. And not because I’m some sentimental traditionalist when it comes to Halloween…although, I do tend to be.

No, what bothers me about this practice is that we’re assuming the point of Trick-or-Treating is getting the candy. It is not. Well, that is a nice perk, but the point of Halloween is to dress up, pretend you’re something or someone you’re not normally all the other days out of the year, and then go pay visits to your neighbors at an hour that you normally wouldn’t be caught dead outside. Bad pun intended.

The big thing we’re losing here is community. We’re giving the impression that it’s dangerous to go around even your own neighborhood, and should avoid everyone at all times, because MONSTERS of the REAL KIND! But…what takes away that fear? Getting to know your neighbors, maybe? And what really brings the community together, mingling in a way that the adults can know each other better, for the safety of their children?

TRICK OR TREATING, PEOPLE. You can’t get that same sense of community by driving several miles out of the way to a parking lot to get candy from people you’ll probably never see again for the rest of the year. If that. You might as well just take your costumed kid to the grocery store, buy a bag of fun-sized whatever, and go back home and sequester yourself in the safety of your locked house and call it a night.

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