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.

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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.

The Shining announced at HHN Hollywood

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As we creep towards Halloween, we’re beginning to get some great news about upcoming haunt events. The best news so far, comes from Universal Studios. Universal Studios has just announced that The Shining will be a maze theme at Halloween Horror Nights. Guests at HHN in Orlando and Hollywood will be given the chance to wander the dizzying corridors of the Overlook.

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Universal promises to include many iconic scenes from the film, while adding their own creative flair. Those brave enough to enter will encounter a crazed Jack Torrance as well as the spirit of room 237. While not explicitly stated, the maze is also expected to include the eerie little girls Danny encounters in the famous hallway scene. Hopefully, we’ll also be treated to the blood gushing elevator and the guy in the bear suit blowing another guy. Seriously, it’s the weirdest part of The Shining.

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Click the link above to view the official maze teaser. Also follow us right here on All Hallows’ Haunts and on Twitter @allhallowshaunts for more Halloween updates.

The All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards

With 2016 almost in the books and 2017 right around the corner, the team here at All Hallows’ Haunts thought it would be fun to look back at what we thought was the best of the best in 2016. So, without further ado, here are the All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards.

Movie

Andy’s Pick- Hush

Lola’s Pick- Train to Busan

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TV Show

Andy’s Pick-  The Exorcist

Lola’s Pick- Stranger Things

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Creepy Album

Andy’s Pick- Metallica- Hardwired To Self-Destruct


Lola’s Pick – Birdeatsbaby- Tanta Furia

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Book

Andy’s Pick- Maggie Goes To Hollywood & Maggie Reloaded by Kate Danley

Lola’s Pick- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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Convention

Andy’s Pick- Midsummer Scream 

Lola’s Pick – Midsummer Scream

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Unique Event

Andy’s Pick- Serial Killer Speed Dating

Lola’s Pick- Halloween Club’s 4th Annual Spookshow

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Play

Andy’s Pick- Demonic Housewives

Lola’s Pick – Wicked Lit

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Haunt

Andy’s Pick- Knott’s Scary Farm

Lola’s Pick – Knott’s Scary Farm

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Haunt Show/Attraction

Andy’s Pick- Queen Mary’s Freak Show

Lola’s Pick- Micah Cover’s Haunted House Calls

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Maze

Andy’s Pick- Shadowlands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

Lola’s Pick – Shadow Lands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

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Scare Zone

Andy’s Pick- The Hollows (Knott’s Scary Farm) 

Lola’s Pick – Fiesta de los Muertos

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Lola’s Creepy Christmas Countdown- Part 2

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(I do not own any of the images featured.)

Alright guys, it’s round 2 of my Creepy Christmas Countdown! We’ve reached the top five, and there’s no turning back. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter what your favorite films of the holiday season are.

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5. Dead End

There are so many reasons to love this movie. From the flesh eating lady in white to the severe psychotic breakdowns, Dead End is the gift that keeps on giving. Dead End follows a family on their way to a holiday gathering. They become lost, and all hell breaks loose as they face their deep-rooted resentments and the evils that lurk in the surrounding forest. You thought your family holidays were hell, just wait until you see what these people end up going through.

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4. Dead of Night- Christmas Party

Dead of Night is one of my all time favorite films. Unfortunately it’s a little tricky to find. I used to have it on dvd, but then I got in a car accident and someone stole my movie case from my car. It’s a long story. Car crashes and theft aside, Dead of Night is well worth seeking out. The Christmas portion of the anthology film is the nightmarish tale of a young girl who attends a party at an old mansion. While playing hide and seek, she ends up finding a young boy who wants her to stay and care for him forever. Like the rest of the film, Christmas Party is understated and provides a lurking dread that is like the falling snow, light but constant.

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3. Gremlins

I don’t like to judge the tastes of others, but if you don’t enjoy Gremlins than you’re just a big Scrooge. Gremlins takes the third spot on my list for its originality, its charm, and for the adorable Gizmo. Although it’s a film that can and should be enjoyed by the whole family, in my book it’s still a horror movie. If you have doubts, just watch that scene where Gizmo first starts spawning furry little demons. If that doesn’t constitute as body horror, then I don’t know what does. As a final word of warning, if you’re planning on getting anyone a gremlin this Christmas, I’d recommend you thoroughly go through all the rules.

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2. Black Christmas

It’s weird to think that Bob Clark directed Black Christmas and A Christmas Story. I guess he had a lot of Christmas to get out of his system. Black Christmas is one of the few slashers where the killer is never fully identified. This makes the film terrifying on a whole different level. My favorite part of watching Black Christmas is trying to discern WTF is going on in those weird phone calls. To this day when the phone rings, I still worry that the call is coming from inside the house.

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1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

For my top favorite creepy Christmas film, I’m going full on cliche. It may be the obvious choice, but that doesn’t make The Nightmare Before Christmas any less brilliant. This movie has everything! It’s got glorious stop-motion, a touching love story, life lessons, and best of all both Christmas and Halloween.

 

 

 

 

Get Your Boomstick! Ash Is Back!

Time to get your boomstick, your chainsaw, and your epic grooviness ready- Ash is back for Season 2 of the hit Starz show, Ash vs Evil Dead.

Last season saw our groovy hero (Bruce Campbell) return to clean up his mess… again. This time, with two companions who want to see the Deadites go back to Hell. At the end of the season one finale, Ash struck a deal with Ruby (Lucy Lawless), the author of the Necronomicon. The deal allows Ruby to reign, while Ash, Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), and Pablo (Ray Santiago) get to live peacefully in Florida, partying it up and drinking. Then, on Sunday’s season two premiere episode “Home,” Ash’s happy little existence is interrupted again as Ruby has calls off her truce and sends her Deadites to kill him. In true Evil Dead fashion, Ash goes right back into battle and creates a blood bath of epic proportions.

Before Ash finishes off the last Deadite, she taunts him with an old familiar song, “Ashey Slashey.” It turns out the song was a joke started by the people of Ash’s hometown, after he was the only survivor of the cabin (The events of the Evil Dead Trilogy). Enraged, Ash packs up the crew and heads home to find and kill Ruby.

Obviously, Ash’s homecoming isn’t appreciated by the townsfolk, since trouble seems to follow him everywhere. Even his own father (Lee Majors) has issues with him. As the team explores the town, looking for signs of where Ruby is hiding, Pablo has a nightmarish vision. It’s revealed that Pablo has been suffering these visions since he was possessed last season by the Necronomicon. Luckily for our heroes, the vision also reveals the location of Ruby- an old abandoned plant.

Ash and company arrive at the plant, and go into battle against Ruby’s demon shadow children, who have grown quite strong. Eventually, Ash finds Ruby, and discovers that she broke the truce in order to bring Ash to help her. She’s lost control of her demon children and needs Ash’s help to defeat them and to retrieve the Necronomicon. Reluctantly, Ash agrees to a temporary truce. So, once again it’s Ash vs the Evil Dead!

The season premiere continued the success from where the first season left off. It also kept me invested, interested, and on the edge of my seat the entire time. By the end of the Deadite scene in the bar, with blood and body parts everywhere, I felt as if I were home.

Above all, I appreciated the show’s continued use of more practical effects over computer effects. It adds that classic campiness of great “B” horror movies and the Evil Dead franchise itself.

Let me just say how much I love the Evil Dead franchise. It’s just beautiful, and amazing, and gives me a warm feeling all over. From the writing, the direction, the effects, and the charm of Bruce Campbell, the movies and the show are a perfect combination. With that, I highly recommend Ash vs Evil Dead. It’s great, campy, scary, and fun. You won’t regret it.

Ash vs Evil Dead airs Sundays on Starz. Check you local listings for channels and times.

(All Photos from Starz.)

Halloween and Carpenter are Together Again

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Rumors of a Halloween remake have been kicked around for about a year now, but it was mostly just speculation. Yesterday, it was announced that this film is happening. Carpenter has teamed up with the folks over at Blumhouse to bring Michael Myers back to the big screen. Carpenter will serve as an executive producer and composer. No word yet on who’s directing. (I vote for Jennifer Kent or David Robert Mitchell.)  The film is tentatively scheduled for October of 2017.

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It’s no secret that Carpenter holds a certain level of disdain for Rob Zombie’s version of the cult classic. Personally I’m a fan of both the original and the remake. Which version do you prefer? Who would you like to see as director? Do you think another Halloween remake is a good idea? Let me know in the comments!

Horror Movie Review – “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (2015)

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SPOILER WARNING! This review contains a brief synopsis of the film. If you haven’t seen the movie and wish for it not to be spoiled, watch the film and then read. If you have seen it, read the review and watch it again!

Being a huge a fan of the “Found Footage” horror films (Don’t ask me why I am a fan of them. I don’t even truly understand why. I just find them fascinating.), I wanted to check out the final installment in the Paranormal Activity series- Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. This is the sixth installment in the series and is supposed to bring the story full circle. The big thing about this movie compared to the rest of the series is that the audience will finally get to see the “Activity.”

Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his wife Emily (Brit Shaw), and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George) are just finishing decorating the house for Christmas, when Ryan and his brother, Mike (Dan Gill), find some old VHS tapes and an old video camera that has been altered. The camera has the ability to pick up fragments floating in the air. The family notices that Leila begins to act strange and begins to talk to an imaginary friend, Toby. As the days grow closer to Christmas, Ryan and his brother watch the videos, which are of Katie and Kristi, (the original victims of “the activity”) as they are trained to serve Toby. It’s also during this time that weird things keep happening around the house and the camera is beginning to pick up more and more things. Ryan observes that in the videos, Katie and Kristi are able to see into the future, even describing Ryan watching the tapes. It’s at this point that Leila’s behavior really starts to change. With Leila’s behavior becoming more erratic and Toby growing more violent, the family seeks the help of a priest. The priest determines that Leila is being manipulated by a demon of some kind. The family then learns that the house they live in was built on Katie and Kristi’s old house before it burned down and that the real estate agent who sold them the house was actually, adult Katie. Realizing that the family may have been set up and that the ghost is getting more and more dangerous, the they try to flee the house, but Leila sneaks back and actually enters a portal in her room. As Toby begins to attack the family more frequently, the priest returns to perform a type of exorcism on the house that will remove Toby. As the family prepares and attempts to trap Toby, the demon attacks and kills the priest. After taking over where the priest left off, the family is finally able to trap and rid themselves of Toby. With Toby gone, Leila turns back to normal… or so it appears. Suddenly, Toby returns and begins to kill the family. Leila escapes back to her room and enters the portal. Emily chases after her, and discovers that the portal took them back to Katie and Kristi’s house in 1992. Emily frantically searches for Leila, being taunted by children in the process. Emily finally finds Leila in the garage and they immediately hide from Toby, who has now grown strong enough to take a physical form. In the final scene of the movie, Toby grabs Emily by the throat and strangles her to death, then takes Leila by the hand and walks away.

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Being the sixth film in any franchise, there is always the concern of “will the film stand up to the rest in the series?” Films 2-5, while introducing the elements of the family story, the witches and the marked ones, relied way too much on many of the same tricks and ideas of the original. There are only so many ways to build the suspense and scare the audience with the antics of Toby (That’s the name of the demon, for those not familiar with the series.). However, this film definitely raises the stakes and changes the formula by now showing the activity through the special camera. This is the real first time, outside of the occasional shadows in the past films, that you actually see the activity in a physical form. This element changes the formula of the film enough to help it stand out from the rest of the films.

I also found the addition of the time travel aspect of the story to be very interesting. I wasn’t expecting for a doorway to be opened that traveled to the past. Throwing in something like that could ruin a plot line for a movie. However, I felt that it was used in a great way that did a fantastic job bringing the entire story of the franchise together.

Yet, is time travel and showing the activity enough? While it makes for an interesting change to the overall franchise, there is definitely a loss of suspense with the movie. The audience is more interested in seeing the ghost/demon move rather than being scared or intrigued by the story.

The acting in the film is good. Like the others in the series, and as for most “Found Footage” films, there is a degree of improvisation. This gives it a more “real world” look. No one really stood out in a great or bad way. The kid is creepy though.

The big loss to me in this film is that it’s only one in the series to not feature actress Katie Featherston as Katie. While her character appears in the film as a child, it was a real disappointment not to see the actress in this one. She has been integral to all the main entries, especially the first film.

The Paranormal Activity franchise has been one of the most successful film franchises in recent years. The first film was released nation wide in 2009 and there was a sequel released almost every year until the final film in 2015. In terms of success, all the films combined have made almost $900 million, on a combined budget of under $30 million. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension had the largest budget in the series, $10 million.

The thing about “Found Footage” horror movies is that they are either really good or really bad. We keep getting drawn to them because the ones that are really good, use the film style so well that we want to see more. As a result, we willingly try other films. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and the overall Paranormal Activity series have been one of, if not, the most successful franchises to use the “Found Footage” technique. They have found a way of making a difficult technique fun and successful.

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Overall, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is an okay movie. It’s different than the other films, better than the other sequels in the series, but it is nowhere as good as the original, and for me at least, there isn’t much of a re-watch value. It’s worth watching, but not more than once.