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.

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Unveils Chef

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.

 

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.

Breaking News- Cassandra Peterson a.k.a Elvira will be at Midsummer Scream 2017

As if the Summer couldn’t get any hotter, the team at Midsummer Scream just announced that Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira, will be making a special appearance at Midsummer Scream 2017. As of now, she is slated to appear as herself, not as Elvira. She will be at the convention on Saturday July 29th to sign autographs and meet fans.

The addition of the “Queen of the Macabre” has added a level of excitement and awesomeness to what is shaping to be an epic event!

Midsummer Scream takes place Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th, 2017 at the Long Beach convention center. Tickets are on sale and can be bought at MidsummerScream.org . You can also follow them on Twitter/Periscope: @MidsummerScream, and Instagram: @MidsummerScream.

Be sure to follow All Hallows’ Haunts here and on Twitter (@HallowsHaunts) for more information on Midsummer Scream as more announcements are made.

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.

Midsummer Scream Schedule of Events!

It’s just over two months before the return of the Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival. Now, the team behind Midsummer Scream has announced its schedule of events, and it certainly looks exciting!

Some of the panels include presentations from The Queen Mary’s “Dark Harbor”, Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Halloween Horror Night’s”, Knott’s “Scary Farm”, and much more. They also announced the return of the Winchester Mystery House, as well as a thrilling panel discussing the sadly now gone Disney’s California Adventure ride “The Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg folks, as Midsummer Scream has additional shows, the “Hall of Shadows”, and numerous other events and panels booked for that weekend. Plus, more is on the way.

You can check out the 2017 Midsummer Scream event schedule by clicking on the the following link- http://midsummerscream.org/2017-schedule/

The entire AHH team is anxiously waiting for Midsummer Scream to get here!!!

Midsummer Scream takes place Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th, 2017 at the Long Beach convention center. Tickets are on sale and can be bought at MidsummerScream.org . You can also follow them on Twitter/Periscope: @MidsummerScream, and Instagram: @MidsummerScream.

Be sure to follow All Hallows’ Haunts here and on Twitter (@HallowsHaunts) for more information on Midsummer Scream as more announcements are made.
(Midsummer Scream Poster by Midsummer Scream.)

What to Watch on Netflix- May 2017

It occurred to me recently that there are a lot of great movies streaming that get overlooked. It can be difficult when you’re browsing through Netflix and you’ve seen almost everything. Keeping that in mind I’ve decided to do a monthly round up of films that are worth watching. Bear in mind that my picks are only applicable to the American version of platforms. This week I’ll be focusing on Netflix. Ok, let’s do it.

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Para Elisa

This is a super short and sweet movie from Spain. It’s only about 75 minutes and the plot is fairly straightforward. I first saw this film at Screamfest and I was impressed, but since then I haven’t heard much about it. Like many festival favorites, it seems to have skipped the hype and gone straight to the oblivion that is Netflix. I recommend this film to anyone that digs creepy dolls. Just know this isn’t your standard creepy doll film.

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Mine Games

I’d be lying if I said I totally comprehended what occurred in this movie. Still, it’s weird and enjoyable. The story is about a group of friends that go into an old mine, and bizarre events ensue. I’m a big fan of films that are more about atmosphere than plot. To me horror is more effective when it’s not one hundred percent explained. This movie is for those that dig films like Triangle, Southbound, and Coherence.

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Almost Mercy

This indie film features appearances from horror favorites Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder, but it’s lead, Danielle Guldin that steals the show. The story follows two teen psychos who fight back against those that have abused them. The movie makes you think it’s going in one direction, and then swerves and goes the other way. If you like revenge stories, or character studies of sociopaths, then this is the one for you. Think American Psycho, the teen edition.

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Baskin

I don’t know if I would say that I like this movie, but it’s definitely worth the watch. This film from Turkey follows a group of corrupt policeman who venture into an abandoned building and discover Hell. There are many cool elements in this movie. I’m a fan of its depiction of Hell, and there are some awesome scenes of depravity. Some of the concepts are bit too literal for my liking. For example, one character has an actual lock on his head that another character must stick a key into to gain knowledge. Still, this Turkish gore fest is a safe bet for those looking for something on the extreme side of the genre.

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Mockingbird

If you check IMDB, you’ll notice that viewers hated this film. I actually found it to be quite entertaining. It’s a sloppy mess, and the ending is one of the WTF variety. Yet it’s captivating in the way it weaves together a couple different found footage perspectives. The story revolves around a couple that are forced to follow an anonymous set of instructions or else someone will die. Across town a man puts on a clown outfit after being informed that he could win a large sum of money if he plays along. There’s a sense of dread wondering how these two stories will overlap. Although, the resolution is a let down, I’ll still vouch for this found footage film by the director of The Strangers.

The Horror of Resurrection

Well it’s Easter, creeps. That means candy, rabbits, and dyed eggs… oh yeah and Jesus rising from the grave. Now I’m not particularly religious, but Easter seems like the perfect time to examine some excellent depictions of reanimation in horror films. For the purposes of this list, I’m going to try and leave off the super obvious choices, so no Frankenstein. That doesn’t mean I’m only listing indie films, it just means I won’t be recommending Evil Dead. I mean, come on, that’d just be lazy.

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Cemetery Man

There are so many weird things about this movie, apparently it’s based off a novel that is just as abstract and comedic. Although this movie is hilarious, there’s also a layer of sadness winding through it and the ending is gut-wrenching. You won’t find many clear cut answers in Cemetery Man, but one thing is clear. Keeping the dead in their graves is a lonely and unrewarding task.

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Pet Sematary

Let’s be honest, Pet Sematary is not a great film. Like a lot of Stephen King adaptations, it feels a tad lackluster. Still, I love it. This cautionary tale is well suited to this list, because it demonstrates the tragic results that can occur when the natural process of death is disturbed. Louis Creed should’ve listened to Herman Munster. I mean, hell he’d already been reanimated once. Also, can we all agree that Rachel’s sister Zelda is one of the creepiest things ever?

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Wake Wood

Wake Wood is a delightful little Irish flick that marked the return of Hammer Films. The premise is the same as Pet Sematary. A child dies, the parents are devastated, so they turn to extreme methods to bring their kid back to life. While Pet Sematary revolves around Native American mythology, Wake Wood utilizes Wicker Man style Paganism. The loopy locals combined with the gloomy Irish setting make Wake Wood a unique gem of a movie.

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Burying the Ex

Maybe you’d prefer a film that’s a bit more cute. Well if you consider flesh rotting and romance cute, then you should check out Burying the Ex. Burying the Ex features iconic Los Angeles scenery, an adorable Halloween loving protagonist, and Ashley Greene as the most annoying undead girlfriend anyone could imagine. Joe Dante’s films have always held a certain unparalleled offbeat charm, and Burying the Ex is no exception.

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Dead Alive

Before Peter Jackson made long films about fantasy creatures taking epic walks, he made some insane movies. Among those, is Dead Alive. Dead Alive begins with Lionel’s obnoxious mother dying after being bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. Unfortunately for Lionel, she rises from the dead and proceeds to devour the living. Not only does this screw up Lionel’s love life, it leaves him with a whole mess of zombies to slaughter. Like Cemetery Man this film is laugh your ass off funny. It features some of the most gore-tastic zombie killing methods I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for a zombie film that’s bursting with creativity, this is the one to watch.

I hope these 5 “Back from the Dead” films bring you a bit of macabre joy this Easter. However, if you’re having a big celebration dinner, I might wait until after you eat to check these flicks out. You might find them a bit nauseating if you’ve got a weak stomach. Check me out on Twitter @LolaTarantula and on our blog feed @HallowsHaunts. Happy Easter friends, enjoy.

 

4 Prank Endings in Horror

Beware! Here be spoilers!

There are plenty of twists in horror films, some are good, some are awful. Then, there are some that feel like the filmmakers pulled back the curtain and yelled “Gotcha!”. Unlike most twists in horror, which are used to increase the terror, these prank endings reveal that there was never any horror to begin with. It’s the movie equivalent of the end of every Scooby Doo episode ever. If there was ever a time to take a look at these wacky film conclusions, it’s April Fool’s Day. Let’s get started!

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April Fool’s Day

April Fool’s Day is the most obvious choice on this list. This 1986 slasher is part of a whole batch of holiday themed horror films of the 80s. This weird movie follows a group of bonehead college students that take a trip to their friend Muffy’s home over the weekend of April Fool’s. The group soon realizes that Muffy’s name isn’t the only odd thing about her. She seems obsessed with pranks. It starts innocently enough, but gradually her pranks become more and more sinister. Then people begin turning up dead. The last couple survivors soon discover that Muffy isn’t the killer, her evil, psycho twin Buffy is. The final girl is pursued by a knife crazy Buffy. She runs into a room, fleeing for her life.

There she discovers the whole group alive and well. What the hell happened? It turns out that there never was a Buffy and no one was ever killed. Muffy set the whole thing up as one gigantic, elaborate joke. This ending pissed many viewers off, but no one can deny that it’s clever. If you haven’t seen this underrated slasher, be sure to check it out.

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The Village

It wouldn’t be an M. Night Shyamalan film without a twist, right? Well The Village has one hell of a twist. The Village begins by introducing the audience to a village of what seems to be 19th century settlers, who live in fear of the monsters in the forest. The villagers are taught that they’ll remain safe, as long as they follow a certain set of rules and never venture into the woods.

When blind protagonist, Ivy wishes to journey through the forest to retrieve medicine for her dying love, it is revealed to the viewers that the monsters are actually the village elders in costumes. They perpetuate the legends, in order to exert control and dissuade people from leaving.  Ivy is permitted to enter the forest, where she encounters the violent, mentally disabled Noah who is dressed as a monster. In her attempt to get away, she ends up causing his death. Believing she has successfully defeated one of the monsters, she is able to reach town.

Here’s where the real twist kicks in. It is revealed that it is present day, rather than the past. The elders were just a group of individuals who experienced so much trauma in their lives that they retreated to the woods in order to live a life separate from the dangerous outside world. Due to the fact that Ivy can’t see, her interpretation of events, allows the elders to continue their lies. If you want to see a beautiful romance, a strong protagonist, and a crazy twist then you should give this movie a chance.

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Baghead

This charming mumblegore favorite revolves around a group of struggling filmmakers that retreat to a remote cabin to come up with a film script. Unfortunately, coming up with a solid film idea is more difficult than they thought. Then bubbly blonde Michelle spots a creepy figure wearing a paper bag over his head. She believes that it was all a dream, and pitches her idea to the group. They love it and quickly get to work. Then Michelle has another encounter with the bagheaded figure.

Accusations fly as Matt, Michelle, Chad, and Catherine debate over the identity and the existence of the Baghead. A couple pranks/betrayals later, Matt and Chad spot the Baghead and go to check out the situation. They realize that the situation has become dire.  The next day they attempt to flee on foot. The Baghead kills Matt, and the other three manage to run to the highway. All the chaos results in Chad being plowed down by a car.

As he recovers in the hospital, it is revealed that Matt is actually fine. He and his friend had arranged the whole thing, in order to create a movie. Chad is rightfully pissed, but after some thought, he agrees that it’ll make a great film. Baghead says a lot about the nature of the film business, and the relationships dynamics that exist within friend groups.

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Mark of the Vampire

Have you ever wished that Tod Browning’s Dracula was a bit more of a mess? Well then, Mark of the Vampire is the film for you. Browning’s 1935 follow-up to Dracula was intended to be a sort of remake of London After Midnight. The plot follows the investigation into the death of a rich nobleman. His death has been attributed to a pair of vampires. The vampires are an undead father and daughter, with the father vampire being played by Bela Lugosi.

Unfortunately for Browning, the film was too ahead of its time. Throughout the film, Lugosi sometimes sports a bullet wound in the head. This was because he had an incestuous relationship with his daughter that resulted in a murder/suicide. Due to the uproar surrounding Freaks, MGM felt the audience would find this idea too shocking, and cut 30 minutes from the movie. The result was a major plot hole.

However, that little slip up turned out to be irrelevant, because at the end of the film it is revealed that the vampires were actors hired in order to help solve the mystery. Why? Well it’s a bit illogical, but that doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyability of the film. It is moody, quirky, and satirical all at the same time. Just don’t go in expecting a typical vampire movie.

There you have it folks, four films with joke endings. If you’re thinking of playing some April Fool’s pranks, maybe these slices of cinema will give you some inspiration. If not there’s always rubber spiders, fake fingers, and ketchup blood.