About Lola Tarantula

I'm a lifelong lover of the macabre. My hobbies include writing, theatre, makeup, and art of any kind. In 2015 my film, Plastic Bodies screened at Screamfest Horror Film Festival. I've also been featured in Urban Death at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Follow me on twitter at @LolaTarantula.

Knott’s Scary Farm- Tricks, Treats, and Halloween Scares

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Official Knott’s Scary Farm promotional photo

Knott’s Scary Farm is always one of the top haunts on the AHH list, and the 2017 season did not disappoint. This year’s Scary Farm offered guests two new mazes, an updated Trick or Treat, and the final Elvira: Mistress of the Dark show. In addition to the new attractions, attendees were given the opportunity to revisit classic attractions from previous years. Ok, let’s take this step by step, maze by maze.

THE MAZES

Dark Ride– Dark Ride was one of the two new mazes. This was my 2nd favorite maze. The theme is pretty straight forward. It’s modeled after an old carnival dark ride. In my opinion, this was an excellent theme choice. It’s something that seems obvious, but I haven’t seen almost anyone else try this concept. I loved almost everything about this it. It had colors, glowing elements, and mechanical wizards. You name it, it was probably in Dark Ride. This maze gave off a deep appreciation for the theme parks and rides of the past. It reminded me of everything I loved about going through the haunted house at the state fair.

Pumpkin Eater– Pumpkin Eater was the other new maze for 2017. Like Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater appealed to my nostalgia. If Dark Ride was an ode to theme parks of the past, Pumpkin Eater served as an ode to Halloweens of the past. I loved all of the jack o’ lantern motifs and the many different textures within the maze. There were so many wonderful classic Halloween elements. It was a delight being able to walk through the inside of a pumpkin right into a corn maze. If I had one complaint about Pumpkin Eater, it’s that I didn’t completely understand the story they were trying to convey. However, overall the maze was a win.

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Photo by Andy Shultz

Trick or Treat: Lights Out– I don’t have much to say about Trick or Treat. It was kind of fun being able to walk through the maze with a flashlight, but I liked the previous year’s maze better. I have to agree with my friend who felt that making everything so dark rendered all the creative details  insignificant.

Red Barn– This maze has consistently been my least favorite. I don’t hate it. In fact, I quite like the giant diseased horse. Still, the whole cannibal farm theme feels a bit uninspired.

Shadowlands– From my least favorite to my most favorite. Shadowlands is once again my number one. A big part of that is the Japanese theme. I have a strong interest in Japanese culture, particularly J-horror. I noticed a lot of cool stuff about Shadowlands. For example many of the classic youkai like Rokurokubi, (a very, very long necked woman) could be found within the maze. I definitely appreciated the designer’s commitment to historical accuracy.

Tooth Fairy– Tooth Fairy is another Knott’s staple. This maze is like your wort dentist trip times ten. Like Pumpkin Eater, Tooth Fairy has some wonderful textures. I particularly liked the walls that are made to look like gums. While I wouldn’t call Tooth Fairy one of my favorites, it’s absolutely worth checking out.

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The AHH Team- Photo by Brandon Scullion

Voodoo– Voodoo is another maze that stands out for me. I like these mazes with a heavy cultural aspect, and Voodoo provided it in spades. The maze guided you through all of the types of places associated with Louisiana voodoo. One highlight from this maze is the scene of a mechanical alligator being served a living man as a sacrifice.

Paranormal Inc.- The maze Paranormal Inc. is what occurs when an episode of Ghost Adventures goes terribly wrong. Like Dark Ride, Paranormal Inc. is so enjoyable because it contains many campy elements such as glowing lights and vibrating floors.

Special Ops: Infected– I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the opportunity to try this real life zombie shooting game.

THE SCARE ZONES

Fiesta de los Muertos– Once again, Fiesta de los Muertos provided all of the bright hues and sugar skulls associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

CarnEvil– I’m obsessed with anything circus or carnival themed, but even I think clowns are getting a bit overdone. For that reason, I wasn’t too excited about this scare zone.

The Hollow– The classic “Halloween” aesthetic pairs perfectly with the new maze, Pumpkin Eater. I liked this scare zone, because it contained some unique light up tree trunk props.

Ghost Town Streets– This was my favorite scare zone, because it had the best monsters. This was also probably the foggiest part of the park, and I love fog.

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Official Knott’s Scary Farm promotional photo

THE SHOWS

The Hanging– I didn’t care for The Hanging. The stunts were exceptional, but the show was way too frantic. The writing felt like it was trying to cram the top 100 pop culture moments of the year into about 30 minutes. I can see why people might enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark– I couldn’t think of a better sendoff to the “Queen of Halloween”. Elvira was as vivacious as ever, and her dancers were equally impressive. The show had some priceless moments like Elvira recreating that famous Flashdance sequence. I was so happy I got to see her final show at Knott’s.

Overall, my Knott’s experience was well worth the price of admission. Knott’s has been one of the few attractions that I feel is consistently outdoing themselves. I always tell those who are short on money/time and want the best Halloween experience for their dollar to go to Knott’s Scary Farm. That advice still stands.

If you like our content, please follow us on Twitter @HallowsHaunts and right here on the blog.

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10 Great Overlooked Halloween Movies

Halloween is the best time of year. One of the best ways to celebrate the best time of year is to watch Halloween movies. There are of course a limitless amount of films you could watch. However, many online lists seem to only acknowledge the usual suspects. I totally support watching John Carpenter’s Halloween or Hocus Pocus a few thousand times. Still, there are many other seasonal movies out there that deserve a view. I put together a list to spotlight a few of those hidden gems. My only criteria is that Halloween/Autumn must play a major role in the film. Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.

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WNUF Halloween Special

The WNUF Halloween Special is one of the most charming films on this list. This found-footage treasure is designed to mimic a late 80s live news broadcast. The film takes place on Halloween. It follows a reporter and psychic duo that go to film inside an allegedly haunted house with a violent history. Needless to say things go wrong, very wrong. The best aspect of this film is that the filmmakers inserted faux commercials into the movie. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the VHS/cable years, give this film a go.

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Hell House LLC

I’m surprised this one hasn’t been more popular. It has positive reviews, but still it seems to have slipped under the radar. The film opens with glitchy footage of a massacre unfolding at a haunted house attraction. From there, the film moves backwards showing the team dealing with strange occurrences while building the haunt of their dreams. I like this film, because it paints a solid picture of the amount of work and stress involved in running a haunt, even without the genuine paranormal happenings.

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Boys in the Trees

If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably already know I’m a fan of this one. This Australian supernatural drama follows two teen boys reconnecting on Halloween night. Throughout the night the boys are forced to confront death and learn some very painful, very adult lessons. Like the works of Ray Bradbury, this film captures the beauty and sadness of Halloween.

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Riding the Bullet

I think many people didn’t enjoy this one, but I’m a big fan. This Mick Garris film is an adaptation of a Stephen King story. It revolves around a suicidal artist forced to hitchhike on Halloween night to see his dying mother. During his trip he is pursued by a phantom driver, who wants him to choose between his own life and his mom’s. The film is set in 1969 and uses some of the best music of that era. In addition to the music, there is an uncanny quality to much of the imagery. Take for example, the school bus full of people in costumes on an otherwise empty road. It’s this poetic nature of Riding the Bullet that keeps me coming back over and over again.

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The American Scream

The American Scream is a 2012 documentary about home haunts. The documentary details the experiences of three different families as they plan, build, and tear down their haunts. The film’s director, Michael Stephenson was the kid from Troll 2. He went on to direct Best Worst Movie, a documentary that explored the making of Troll 2. Like Best Worst Movie, The American Scream paints honest portraits of its subjects, warts and all. The film manages to be humorous, awkward, and endearing all at the same time.

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Murder Party

This is a low budget, high enjoyment film. The plot follows a loser guy who finds a mysterious invitation to a Halloween “murder” party. He puts on his finest cardboard robot costume and heads to the address on the card. When he arrives he discovers a group of college students who wish to murder him in the name of art. This situation would be terrifying, except the group of wannabe creators are woefully incompetent. Having run in the “art school” crowd, I was amused by many of the character tropes in this movie. Combine the wacky cast with Halloween mischief, and this film is an all around win.

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Satan’s Little Helper

When I first watched this movie, I thought it was going to be awful. I mean, the cover looks dreadful. However, it ended up being an excellent Halloween treat. This dark comedy involves a little boy with a sister complex that teams up with a serial killer to get rid of his sister’s boyfriend. The boy is a fan of a game called “Satan’s Little Helper”. In the game, you have to help Satan kill people to win. When he spots a guy dressed as the devil killing someone, he interprets it as fate and this is where their merry killing spree begins. This film is both wildly funny and twisted. If you’ve got a wicked sense of humor, this film should tickle your funny bone.

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Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman & Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein

I included these two together, because I bought them in a double feature pack. Though only the Wolfman one seems to be set around Halloween. Anyway, these straight to video movies were meant to be homages to the Abbott and Costello Universal horror-comedies. While these films may have been marketed to kids, I think the adult fan will enjoy them even more. Both films contain plenty of references to the Universal monster movies . For example, Alvin believes his neighbor, Lawrence Talbot is a werewolf. If you like the Chipmunks, classic horror, or animation you need to see these movies.

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Once Bitten

Most of the old Jim Carrey films seem to have long lifespans in the public consciousness. Yet Once Bitten was poorly received, so I almost never hear it mentioned. Yes it’s juvenile as hell, yet I personally find this film to be a lot of fun. It uses every vampire joke ever. However, those tired jokes feel right at home with Carrey’s exaggerated acting in this cheesy 80s romp. The best part of the film involves a dance off at a high school Halloween party. What more could you ask for?

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I’ve Been Waiting For You

This movie is really hard to find. I mean, it was hard to even find an image from the film. It’s possible, but not easy. It’s a made for TV movie based on a Lois Duncan novel. The plot follows a teen girl that moves to a town in New England. The mystery begins when a stranger calls and tells her “I’ve been waiting for you.” From then on, she is buried neck deep in the town’s secrets. The film is set in Autumn and involves witchcraft and curses. If you’re a fan of Practical Magic or The Craft, you’ll probably like this movie too.

There you go. Ten great Halloween films that you might have missed. If you have more recommendations or you want to discuss my list, drop me a comment or hit me up on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

Under the House

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I didn’t crawl under the house

The damn thing fell on me

My broken toes peeking out

A wicked witch parody

 

Like The Fall of the House of Usher

Another woman screaming in the night

With clawing bloody fingers

Body adorned in white

 

Trapped beneath the weight

Of a fate just not worth living

Below the pale stars

Neither forthright nor forgiving

 

Those celestial dancers

Eyes appointed to preside

Over the Hell where we reside

 

From Gothic to suburban

The housewife with her bourbon

The gypsy in her turban

 

Even the devil is down here with me

He’s a fallen angel too, you see

 

He likes to whisper in my ear

“It’s not so bad down here”

“Close your eyes, my dear”

 

I find relief at his behest

Yes there is shade

There is rest

10 Lady Horror Villain Costumes to rock this Halloween.

Halloween is a great opportunity to dress like some of our favorite characters. While most of our horror icons, are dastardly lads, there are plenty of wicked ladies out there too. Maybe you’re a girl who’s bored with the whole female Freddy thing. Perhaps you’re a dude who’d like to get in on the whole gender-bending craze. Either way, here’s a list of costume concepts that will excite any horror fan!

1. Lola – The Loved Ones

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When talking about psycho prom dates, Carrie is the queen supreme. Still, Lola from The Loved Ones is not a girl to take lightly. When she fails to obtain the attention of her high school crush, she sets up her own prom for just the two of them. Lola’s idea of prom includes torture and lobotomy, all with a little help from her daddy. For this costume just get a hot pink dress, a crown, a drill, and maybe some blood. Also this could make a cool couple’s costume, if your significant other wants to go as her date, Brent.

2. Esther- Orphan

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She’s just an unloved orphan having difficulty adjusting to her new home, right? Wrong! In reality, Esther is a childlike adult with psychotic tendencies. Once she sets her eyes on her new father, it’s just a matter of getting rid of her other inconvenient family members. Dressing as Esther presents a range of options. The easiest Esther look requires an old school blue dress, pigtails, bows, and maybe some white tights.

3. Sadako- Ringu

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A cursed videotape, a well, a vengeful ghost? Yep, we’re talking about Sadako from Ringu. Sadako is possibly the most well known onryo (vengeful ghost) in Japanese cinema. There are at least 6 books, and 7 movies existing in the Ringu universe. Over the course of time, Sadako’s history has become muddled. Still, her appearance has always remained the same. To rock Sadako’s look, you need a tattered white dress, long black hair, and the ability to crawl out of the television. I wish you luck with that last part.

4. Thomasin- The Witch

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The 1600s were a tough time to be alive, especially when there’s witchery afoot. In The Witch, poor Thomasin and her family are banished to the woods. As their religious zealotry grows, so does the power of evil. A proper Thomasin outfit needs Puritan garments and a bonnet. To really make it clear who you are, find a stuffed black goat.

5. Mary – American Mary

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Katharine Isabelle is something of a horror goddess, and Mary Mason is one of her best characters to date. For those who haven’t seen the film, Mary starts out as an on edge med student. Then she is raped as her professor’s party. Mary decides to put her surgical skills to work. She uses her medical capabilities to seek revenge on those that abused her, but can she stop at simple revenge? Mary’s outfit is easy to master. You just need a basic white top, black pencil skirt with tights, a pair of black heels, and a black vinyl apron. I’d also add a surgical mask,  some gloves, and some bloody surgical tools.

6. Baby Jane Hudson- Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

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Bette Davis is my absolute favorite actress, because she just got better with age. Her finest work is Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Those of us who’ve seen the movie know that Baby Jane grew up to be a bitter alcoholic, who dominates her paralyzed sister. As the film goes on Jane becomes more and more delusional. Jane believes in all sincerity that she will become a Hollywood star again, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her dream alive. If you want to transform into Baby Jane Hudson, you’ll need a frilly light colored dress, red lipstick, messy curls, and a baby doll. It also helps if you walk around singing “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy”.

7.  Nina – Black Swan

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Like Baby Jane, Black Swan’s Nina cracks under the pressure of trying to be a star in a competitive field. Ballet is tough enough as it is. If you throw in an overbearing mother, a lecherous choreographer, some repressed sexual desires, and few hallucinations you get the absolute insanity that is Black Swan. To look like Nina as the Black Swan, wear a black tutu, tights, some ballet style shoes, a tiara, some dark makeup, and red contacts.

8.  The Female- Hellraiser Series

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Huge Clive Barker fan? Are you a master at makeup? Maybe The Female is the right costume for you. The Female was a nun until she opened the box. She was then whisked away to Hell, where she became a cenobite. If you’re a diehard horror fan looking to impress with your costume, give this one a shot. To turn into the lovely female cenobite, you’re going to need some FX supplies, a wig cap, a ton of blue and grey makeup, and a black leather wardrobe.

9. Moira- American Horror Story

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I’m hesitant to bring up American Horror Story. I was really into the first couple seasons, but then it just kind of descended into self indulgent chaos. Still, Murder House was pretty awesome. If you’re interested in going as one of the AHS ladies, I suggest sexy maid, Moira. While Moira is seen by women as her true age, men see her as a young pin-up babe. This is her curse to carry. Before the events of Murder House, Moira made the mistake of becoming involved with Constance’s (Jessica Lange) husband. This led to rape attempts, jealousy, and ultimately Constance shooting Moira’s eye out. To perfect this costume, pick up some maid attire and play around with retro makeup and hair. I’d also make one eye nice and gross.

10. Dracula’s Brides- Dracula

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This costume really only works in a trio, but what devilish beauties you will be.  The Brides are timeless icons. There have been many depictions of the bloodsucking group throughout the years. Usually they’re depicted as mysterious and captivating. I can picture tons of options when it comes to these vampiric vixens. I like the traditionally elegant look, but a modern twist could be fun too. Let your creativity take over and see what you come up with. My only advice is to make sure the three of you at least kind of match.

There you go! Hopefully this list helps you to come up with a unique Halloween costume that you feel proud of. If you liked this article, please follow us here on the blog and also on Twitter. @HallowsHaunts Happy Haunting!

IT- No Clowning Around

 

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It has only been out for a week, and it’s already completely smashed box office records and blown up social media feeds. It’s seeming likely, that this latest Stephen King remake/adaptation will be the biggest horror movie of the year. Perhaps I’m a bit late to the game, but I figured I’d chime in anyway. It’s taken me some time to compile my thoughts on this one. My feelings are rather jumbled.

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For those of you that have somehow remained unaware, It follows a group of kids trying to stop an ancient evil disguised as a clown. Of course the first element I need to address is the clown, Pennywise. While Tim Curry left some large clown shoes to fill, Skarsgard is a worthy replacement. Skarsgard’s Pennywise doesn’t speak as much as Curry’s, but he’s just as menacing. His fish like eyes that tend to cross, and the weird way he trails off when speaking hint at him being something far more sinister. In the book, it’s quite clear that Pennywise is a Lovecraftian-ish entity. While Curry’s interpretation is more entertaining, Skarsgard’s feels more in line with King’s original vision.

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While Skarsgard’s performance is top notch, it’s the kids who carry the movie. Each of the children stand out as individual characters. Not a single one of them failed to measure up. The interactions between them are humorous, emotional, and authentic. The relationships of the kids in It have been compared to that of the children in Stranger Things. That’s a fair comparison, and audience members that enjoyed one are bound to enjoy the other. While the young actors of It deserve the most credit for bringing their roles to life, director Andy Muschietti is owed praise as well. It can be difficult to work with child/teen actors, and Muschietti managed to bring the best out of all seven of them. Sophia Lillis as Beverly is particularly enchanting. I can see her becoming a household name.

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In addition to the acting, there’s also some bloody good cinematography. The version from 1990 was made for television, so the shots are practical rather than artistic. The new film is a theatrical release with a huge budget, so Muschietti was able to integrate more cinematic camera techniques. The movie is full to the brim of grand drone shots of Derry and slick slow-motion. The scene that stands out for me is the one where Beverly is listening to the voices bubbling up from the sink drain. Then the entire bathroom is splattered with blood in slow motion, while she screams her head off.

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Unfortunately, not all of the visuals hold up. I had a problem with the lighting in most of the interior scenes. While the low lighting worked for the outdoor scenes, it made the indoor scenes just too dark to see. Sometimes even the characters eyes weren’t lit. It’s a small thing, but it makes a world of difference. Horror filmmakers need to learn that just because the subject matter is dark, it doesn’t mean it has to be visually dark.

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I also took issue with the majority of the scary scenes. There is something going on in the current state of horror, where every horror scene is designed to be manic. That’s definitely the case with It. The cuts are too fast, the sound is too loud, and the camera motion is just excessive. I’m a slow burn fan, so I prefer the creeping dread that exists in the form of stillness, or perhaps a room that’s just too quiet. Maybe the climax scene could have benefited from the chaos, but when every Pennywise scene is that wild, the effect wears off fast. It seems like it’s trying too hard. Think about being at a haunted house. What’s creepier, the guy in a mask shouting in your face, or that thing in the lurking in a corner that you only get a glimpse of?

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As long as we’re discussing the scares, I should point out that there were a few questionable effects. For the most part the movie used practical stuff, thank God. Still there were a couple times I caught some weird CGI. The most glaring example is at the beginning. Pennywise is tempting Georgie to get closer to him. Georgie moves in slowly, and then Pennywise opens his ridiculous CGI mouth and chomps down on Georgie’s arm. I wouldn’t say it ruined the scene, but it made it less enjoyable for sure.

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My complaints aside, I’d still give this film a favorable review. If I had to offer a grade, I’d give it a solid B minus. I explained my issues with it to a friend, and he made the point that this movie still signifies that big budget horror is moving in the right direction. I have to agree. While It is not a great film by any stretch, it stands miles above the likes of other theatrical horror films. Still, I think I’ll stick with wacky Tim Curry.

Do you want more AHH in your life? Follow my personal Twitter account @LolaTarantula and our blog @HallowsHaunts.  We can also be found on Facebook All Hallows’ Haunts.

Annabelle Creation: They’ve Created a Monster

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Please note: Annabelle in italics refers to the film, while plain text Annabelle refers to the character.

Annabelle: Creation is the cinematic form of Frankenstein’s monster. By that I mean it’s a bunch of parts stitched together to make an abomination trying to pass itself off as the real deal. The film desperately tries to cram in all of the usual possession film tropes in order to create tension. Since the tension is never allowed to evolve naturally, the results feel heavy handed and laughable. At this point, Hollywood’s desperation to imitate the James Wan aesthetic is nothing more than a pathetic cash grab.

This catastrophe revolves around a group of young orphans sent to live in the country with a couple of doll makers. These doll makers are of course the creators of the original Annabelle who was modeled after their daughter. When their daughter dies tragically, they seal her room away with the doll in it. The arrival of the young girls triggers her awakening. Terror ensues.

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The first problem of Annabelle: Creation is that there is just too much happening. The film tries to introduce about 50 set pieces. There’s a tea set, a dollhouse, a scarecrow, a stairlift, and more. While each of these elements could be wicked cool on their own, none of them are ever given the proper amount of time to shine.

Then we have the forced supernatural atmosphere. I’m convinced someone over at Blumhouse has a checklist of all the cliches that need to be shoved into every modern horror film. Annabelle: Creation provides all the usual suspects including loud string music, fake jump scares, and little girls bending like contortionists. Unfortunately all of the tropes leave little room for actual plot. For example, a demon possesses the doll, and it needs a human host. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It already has a physical form. Plot holes like this can be found popping up throughout the entire movie.

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Another unavoidable issue with the film is that the doll is absurd looking. They tried way too hard to make her look creepy. No one would buy a doll that ugly. She looks like a Halloween decoration. Dolls are inherently creepy. It’s just unnecessary to take it so far. In a campy film like Dolly Dearest, this approach works. However in a gravely serious supernatural horror/drama it does not.

In all honesty, I’ve never cared for Annabelle. I didn’t like her in The Conjuring. The Annabelle portion of The Conjuring always seemed out of place, like that subplot was an afterthought. I absolutely despised the first Annabelle spinoff, and this latest addition isn’t much better.

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Annabelle: Creation does contain some spooky stuff, but the majority of the film is messy and unentertaining. While the setting and costumes are appealing, no amount of scenery can make up for the lack of a good story. I love The Conjuring 2 and Ouija: Origins, but I’m starting to think it might be time to put the “little girls getting possessed” narrative back into the coffin. Anyone with me?

If you want to read more articles like this one, follow our blog and be sure to follow us on Twitter @HallowsHaunts. For professional inquiries reach out to us (allhallowshaunts@gmail.com). I can also be found on Etsy, selling stuff for weird girls on my store page, Lola Tarantula.

Halloween Horror Nights at Midsummer Scream

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One of the biggest attractions at Midsummer Scream is always Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Every year fans gather in a room to hear any bit of news from HHN’s creative team, John Murdy and Chris Williams. This panel always draws an enthusiastic bunch of haunt fans, and this year was no exception.

Before jumping into the new stuff, they provided some background information regarding how they became involved in Horror Nights. Both men painted rosy pictures of their childhood love of monsters, and how it inspired them later in life.  None of this was news to me, but Murdy and Williams were as charismatic as usual, so it was still entertaining.

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As for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, they walked the audience through pictures chronicling the process of building The Shining maze. They promised the Grady sisters, room 237, Danny on his tricycle, “Here’s Johnny”, and of course the famous carpet. Murdy stated that his goal with this maze is to capture the slow burning dread of the movie.

They delved into scare zones a bit, too. One of the scare zones will be Hell on Earth set in New York City. Guests can expect to see an assortment of demons roaming the streets. HHN always creates top notch monsters/effects, so haunt lovers will definitely be in for a devilish treat.

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Finally, for those super fans, Universal is bringing back their VIP tours known as the R.I.P. Experience. This walking tour includes front of the line passes to everything in the park, free valet parking, special entry, a buffet dinner, and reserved seats for shows.

Keep your peepers here for updates about Halloween Horror Nights. Also be sure to follow us on Twitter at @HallowsHaunts. We’ve got lots of spooky stuff in store this Halloween season, and you won’t want to miss it.

 

Midsummer Scream’s Hall of Shadows 2017

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Hey weirdos! This article marks the beginning of my Midsummer Scream coverage. My weekend consisted of attending panels, buying spooky shit, and of course walking through haunts in the Hall of Shadows.

For those unfamiliar, the Hall of Shadows is a gigantic blacked out, fogged out space where SoCal haunters set up miniature versions of their Halloween attractions. This year’s Hall of Shadows featured 14 mazes of a wide variety.

My favorites included Hyde Street Massacre, Cold Storage, and The Maritime Horror. Hyde Street Massacre felt like an adaptation of Jack the Ripper. This walk-through included enough blood and screaming girls to keep even Leatherface appeased. The gritty slasher atmosphere made it fun and easy to understand. Some of the other haunts tried to cram complicated stories into their very brief mazes, so the simplicity of Hyde Street Massacre was appreciated.

My 2nd favorite was Cold Storage by Terror Trucks. Cold storage is a high tech haunt trailer. Like Hyde Street Massacre, Cold Storage made use of an easily recognizable genre trope. There is a zombie outbreak, and you’re trying to escape. Cliche? Yes, but what made this maze so special, was all of the little tricks and traps. The maze began with a horde of digital zombies banging on the door in front of you. You’re led down an alternative route with a shaky bridge and one of those puffy marshmallow tunnels that squeezes you as you crawl through it. This one was definitely the most interactive of the 14. While none of the effects were anything groundbreaking, I was quite impressed that they could work all of that stuff into such a small trailer.

Finally, there’s The Maritime Horror. The Maritime Horror utilized a Lovecraftian sea theme to add a bit of literary spice to their attraction. Guests were treated to an assortment of aquatic monsters inspired by the master of weird fiction. This one was pretty quick, so I don’t have much to say about it, but I did like the theme.

Other haunts I enjoyed were Gorelesque, Mutation Analysis Center, Apparition Adventure: Terror Twins, Mable’s 6 Feet Under, and Higgins Manor. I didn’t care for last year’s Gorelesque, so I was pleased to see that they stepped it up this year. Gorelesque is basically exactly what it sounds like, horror combined with burlesque aspects. This year’s attraction used a creepy cult recruitment video, and a talented actress to coerce the audience into taking “pills” designed to make you perfect. This one stood out for me, because it was unique. I liked that it was more performance based than the rest.

Mutation Analysis Center was another “viral outbreak” maze. It used a multitude of glowing elements and neon colors to provide a radioactive feel. This maze was a grand buffet for the eyes.

Apparition Adventure: Terror Twins contained a found footage theme. Guests were ushered into a small room and shown a video of a ghost hunter assuring people that the hauntings had stopped. Of course, right at that moment two ghostly twins flashed by on the screen. Then haunt fans were led into the maze full of spirit children and paranormal activity. This one was very cute in a home haunt kind of way. I could tell they put a lot of work into it, and their efforts showed.

Mable’s 6 Feet Under was the only haunt that was an actual maze. Throughout the maze, you think you’re walking towards the exit, but you’re actually being led to a dead end. You’re then forced to turn around and go back towards the front, where there was a secret exit. The maze’s best feature was the confusing signs labeled with the names of the other mini haunts with arrows pointing in every direction.

Higgins Manor was your typical gothic mansion full of Victorian decor and brooding characters with homicidal inclinations. This one wasn’t a standout for me, but it intrigued me enough that I’d be willing to check out a full length version.

As for the ones I didn’t care for, I wouldn’t say there were any I actively disliked. However, there were a few that just didn’t quite measure up. Mazes like The Fleshyard, The Last of Man, and Grimm’s Hallow failed to deliver.

The Fleshyard was a bizarre space themed haunt, that seemed to be lacking in actors. It consisted of a few hallways that all looked the same and a giant pit of packing peanuts at the end. I’ve heard from others that there were more actors in it, so maybe when I went through they were just all on break. Still, this one didn’t impress me.

The Last of Man by Unhallowed wasn’t too bad. I liked the front facade and the characters in gas masks. However, when writing this article, this one was the most difficult to recall which leads me to believe it wasn’t especially memorable.

Then there’s Grimm’s Hallow by Phobia Productions. To be honest, I couldn’t even figure out what the theme of this maze was supposed to be until I checked the program. Apparently, Grimm’s Hallow was supposed to be based on fairy tales and old world horror. The concept sounds amazing, but the talking trees and elves just left me perplexed. I’d like to see this haunt on a bigger scale, because I have a feeling it could turn out well if given more time and more space to work with.

Overall the Hall of Shadows offered a delightful sample of the treats Halloween season has in store. I had a blast going through each individual maze and seeing the tricks each haunt group had up their sleeve. Unfortunately the Hall of Shadows was limited by the same thing that limits all attractions- there are just too many people. The lines were long, due to the fact that each haunt could only allow so many people through at one time. I also thought the entryway theme by CalHaunts was a tad weak. It was supposed to be based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell if I hadn’t already known. Problems aside, I still believe the Hall of Shadows was a necessary addition to an already fantastic convention.

10 Creepy Films About Toxic Relationships – Part 1

I have a deep appreciation for human psychology, especially abnormal psych. A big part of psychology is how we relate to each other as human beings. Human relationships can be beautiful, and complex, and they can also be horrific. Today I’m listing some great films that examine the disturbing results that occur when fate brings the wrong people together. I’m breaking this article into two parts, because I don’t want it to get too long. (Keep in mind these are in no particular order.)

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301/302

301/302 is a Korean film that examines what happens when two people’s obsessions clash. The two female characters live next door to each other in an apartment complex, one is a chef and the other is a writer with anorexia. The chef ends up taking desperate measures to force the writer to sample her culinary talents. This film is weird, and funny, and gross. I like how it shows the histories of both women, allowing the viewer to understand how they came to be the way they are. There is an American remake of this film. It’s called Compulsion, and it stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Heather Graham. The original is by far the superior film, though.

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Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues is one of my favorite films about sociopaths. I’m shocked this movie isn’t more popular. It revolves around a couple that moves from place to place, finding people to psychologically toy with. Unlike 301/302, there is no deep reason for why the main characters do what they do, which makes it all the more troubling. They seem to just enjoy destroying the lives of others for kicks.

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Grimm Love

Grimm Love is one of the horror films released by Fangoria as part of their FrightFest. It stars Keri Russell as a psychology student studying a case that is based on Armin Meiwes, aka “The Rohtenburg Cannibal”. As many of you may know, Meiwes is known for convincing a man to let him eat him. Of course for the purposes of the movie, the names of the characters are changed and the details are scrambled about, but it preserves the shocking nature of the real crime. Russell puts in an excellent performance, and the film raises some interesting questions, like “What is love?”. I’m still saying it’s not cutting off a guy’s penis and eating it front of him, but hey, that’s just me.

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Bug

Bug is the story of the insanity that blossoms between a mysterious drifter and a battered woman. Bug can be considered a textbook example of Folie a deux. Folie a deux is a French term that basically means ” a madness of two”. It occurs when two people share a delusion. In order for Folie a deux to occur, there has to be isolation and one of the parties is dominant, while the other just sort falls in line with the delusion. In this William Friedkin film, Michael Shannon’s character convinces a damaged Ashley Judd, that the government has planted insects in their hotel room. It’s all downhill from there.

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Proxy

I don’t feel like I can say much about this film without giving plot points away. I guess I’ll just have to tell you something vague, like “No one is what they appear to be.” While, that’s true, it hardly does this movie justice. Proxy is bursting at the seams with well crafted shots, fascinating characters, and gut-wrenching violence.

What are some of your favorite horror/thrillers about toxic relationships. Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

It Comes at Night… Sort Of

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Theatrical horror releases have been pretty thin this year so far. So when I saw the trailer for It Comes at Night, I couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The limited cast and ambiguous threat had me hoping for something like It Follows, but the film that was advertised wasn’t exactly the film I saw.

It Comes at Night centers around a family living in a post apocalyptic world where infection lurks around every corner. The film opens with the family being forced to kill the diseased grandfather.  It’s an introduction that packs an emotional punch and sets the tone of the movie quite well.

From there on, our young protagonist Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) struggles to come to terms with the emotional reality of the situation. He is overcome by ghastly nightmares involving the sickness and his grandfather. Then one night a man breaks into their home. His parents (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) and the intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott) form a tentative agreement to pool their resources. Will retrieves his wife and child (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner) and the two families begin living together. At first, things are great, but then suspicion and paranoia begin to propel them all in a violent direction.

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It Comes at Night has a lot going for it. The performances are top notch. I was especially partial to Harrison and Keough. All of the characters are well rounded and they all feel like real people. The relationships between the characters and the mounting tension create a palpable sense of dread. I’d compare It Comes at Night to The Walking Dead. Both rely on characters in desperate situations facing heavy moral dilemmas, where neither party is right or wrong.

In addition to the characters, the architecture of the cabin allows for a unique setting. With its narrow passages, woodwork, and the surrounding forest it presents a wide range of cinematography options.

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The soundtrack consisting of a lot of low key drumming also stands out. It’s a sound I definitely haven’t heard in any other recent horror movie, and its a nice break from the usual orchestral or synth music that seems to pervade the genre.

Unfortunately, for all of its positives, It Comes at Night still doesn’t feel like much of a movie. It was halfway over before I could even figure out exactly where the plot was going. It’s only about 90 minutes, but it feels about twice as long. The supernatural threat alluded to is nonexistent. All of the nightmare fuel imagery is from Travis’s dreams, and those dreams are a rare occurrence throughout the film. In fact, not much happens in the movie at all. The characters are almost enough to make up for this, but not quite.

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I tried to pinpoint why this film felt so lackluster for me, because on paper I should love it. Usually, psychological slow burn films are my favorite, but this one didn’t stick the landing. I think it’s because many of the scenes don’t serve to drive the story forward, so it starts to feel stagnant. When the climax finally came, it was about what I expected. Then it just sort of ends. Everyone in the theater started grumbling, saying things like “That’s it?”. I liked It Comes at Night, and I’m glad it’s out there because it is something fresh in this landscape of Alien and Annabelle sequels. Just don’t expect it to live up to the hype.