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All posts for the month October, 2013

The Sarasota/Bradenton area is sadly lacking in yard displays. We went up to St. Petersburg this weekend for lizard stuff, and I was thrilled to find a full cemetery. Naturally, we had to tool around the neighborhood. Thank you, St. Pete, for making my Halloweeniac heart sing!

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Click for large view

Click for large view

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cemlogoperfect

I love home haunts. They were rare in Oregon, but Florida is a little more Wild West about these things, so you get more home-grown spook shows.

We arrived at Cemeterror an hour after they opened. They only let in about four people at a time, so there was a wait, but it wasn’t onerous. The line was entertained by belly dancers set in a circus-themed yard. It was apparent right away that the proprietors were more builders than buyers. While there were store-bought items mixed in, it was obvious that Donald Spera likes to make things.

Themed after a burned out circus, the star of the show is Zelda the fortune teller, and you’ll meet her right away. And that’s all I’m gonna say about the inside of the haunt, except: whoa, fog! The actors and costumes were great, and the set pieces were very good. Absolutely a top-notch home haunt. I wish I had time to go to all the local home haunts this year, but I’ll get a few more in next year.

I definitely recommend getting out to Cemeterror if you can! Admission is free, but donations for Juvenile Diabetes are encouraged. Be careful where you park, as the neighbors are understandably touchy about having their driveway blocked.

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The Haunted Ranch

The Haunted Ranch

It’s exciting to have a whole new set of haunts to explore in my new home. Our first stop was the closest, The Haunted Ranch, in Bradenton. The picture is of the ticket booth and surrounds. The Ranch has food, an outdoor movie theater (plus a smaller one for kids), face painting, and a long haunted trail.

I think in a few years, when they’ve had a chance to build a stock of props and buy more lighting, this will be a great home haunt. Right now, the trail takes about 45 minutes to walk, and much of it is dead space. If they cut the trail in half, they could concentrate their props and actors for some great scares.  Most of the lighting is provided by the occasional tiki torch. It’s very dark, and the ground is uneven, so it pays to move very carefully.  Lighting was my biggest beef with the haunt. There were props, but no lighting to see them by. They used a couple of strobes, which is a big no-no in such an environment.  The place is popular, so I hope they’ll be able to invest some of their ticket sales into next year’s event.

The actors were teenagers, and obviously having a great time, though a few were disappointed they couldn’t scare me. Hardly their fault, as they were well made up and doing a great job.  They did give the Spousal Unit a few startles. There were some great bits–a cemetery with graves lit from underneath, and a nice spiderweb walk through. The haunt has the potential to shine eventually, and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.

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Yep, still watching movies.

Director: So our dream cast is Julian Sands, Brigitte Bardot, and Joan Collins.

Producer: That’s fantastic! Did you get them?

Director: Oh, hell no. They wouldn’t get near this crap. I went to the corner cafe and picked up some people who look kinda like ’em.

Producer: Can they act?

Director: Is that a trick question?

Producer: Okay, what about the story?

Director: Well, people do things for no reason, and there is a moat, and there are boobs, and a gun!

Producer: Let’s go!

There are a few kinds of horror I don’t get into. This covers two of them: the so-bad-it-must-be-on-purpose, and the avant-garde. Fascination starts out with a thief taking shelter in a chateau. Wait, no, there was a slaughterhouse, but I’m going to try to blank that out with therapy. Anyway, the house is abandoned but for two hot chicks wearing too much makeup. He ineptly threatens them with his tiny gun (no entendre, it’s a ridiculously nonthreatening gun), followed by some seriously unarousing girl-on-girl, followed by, oh hell, I have no idea. Knives and robes and things. I couldn’t stand much more. Boobs.

 

“Charming” isn’t a word I usually use to describe horror movies, but it fits The Inkeepers, at least in the beginning. Luke and Claire are working the desk at The Yankee Pedlar Inn, during its last weekend. With few guests to bother with (and they don’t bother much, anyway), they are spending their time looking for the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, who hanged herself after being jilted on her wedding day.

Luke and Claire are great characters, clearly drawn through their interaction. There’s an attention to detail in the direction and performances that tells without over-telling. I love that. Luke is a skeptic, not really believing even though he’d like to make some cash from a website about the hotel’s ghosts. Claire wants very much to believe, but she’s also scared witless by the whole thing. You can only laugh when they get drunk and do the thing you never do in horror movies: go in the basement.

Where The Inkeepers misses is in the conclusion. I don’t mind some mystery, but this was a case that needed explanation. The teasers were set up, but little came from it. I still enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t satisfy my need for closure. Definitely interested in seeing other movies by the director, Ti West.

 

The Moth Diaries was adapted from the book by Rachel Klein. The trick with adapting a book to film is to create a visual story that can stand on its own, no homework required. I was left baffled by this film because we never really find out what’s going on. There are more loose ends than not. Inexplicable actions, scenes, emotional setups. All of this was no doubt covered in Klein’s novel, but it never made it to this pretty but disappointing film. The synopsis intimates that the “villain”, Ernessa, is a vampire. The movie treats her more like a ghost. We see bits of the ghost’s history through–what–hallucinations on the part of the protagonist, Rebecca? I found the whole thing unconvincing.

 

Daniel has been missing for seven years. His wife, Tricia, is declaring him dead in absentia.  Her sister, Callie, stays with her to help her cope and move to a new place. But is Daniel really dead? A mysterious tunnel, and a history of neighborhood disappearances convince Callie something else is going on.

Absentia was a pleasant surprise. Set in LA, the casting passed on the glitz and went nicely real. The film looks good on an indie budget, but don’t expect special effects. This is about the visceral scare–the thing lurking in the dark.

Two glitches: the writer doesn’t know what a “lucid dream” is (it’s when you’re aware you’re dreaming), and it’s painfully obvious they couldn’t afford a composer for the music. Despite that, this is one I would definitely recommend. The writing is tight, the performances good, and the direction and photography tell the story with art, but without gimmickry.

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Slacking on the entries! Yikes! Let me catch you up on what I’ve been doing…which is watching stuff.

The Awakening is a good old-fashioned ghost story. Set in the 1920s, it is the tale of Florence Cathcart, author, debunker, and educated woman in a time when that was a remarkable thing. She is asked to investigate a possible ghost at a boys’ school, and interesting hijinks ensue. It’s a great story, told in sepia tones, with props I wish I had in my house. I would especially like to have a seance like the one that opens the film–lots of atmosphere and sneaky tricks. I enjoyed the whole thing, from the tone, to the acting, to the rather hot Dominic West, to the unexpected and well-done conclusion. Highly recommended if you like them quietly spooky.

Genre: Catholic Horror; Subgenre: Exorcism. I love a good Catholic horror movie, and I seem to be drawn to the exorcism stories. Exorcismus is a good addition to the genre. Somewhat quiet, and easy on the special effects, it’s the story of 15-year-old Emma, who finds herself blacking out and hurting those she loves. A little levitation finally involves the priest, her uncle Chris, who has a troubled past with a prior exorcism.  Solidly written, acted, and paced, it ends up not being about quite what you think it was about. A few cliches (because really, who can resist the crucifixion float?) didn’t ruin the film, and as long as you can handle Emma being very 15, it’s a good watch.

Now, I like a quiet ghost story well enough. But not too quiet. The Last Kind Word left me trapped in a 90-minute Mazzy Star video. It wasn’t horrible, and Brad Dourif turns in a good performance, but the pacing had me checking facebook while I watched. It’s the story of a family who moves back to Kentucky to take a job on a friend’s farm. Dad is a violent alcoholic, so Eli, his son, spends a lot of time wandering in the nearby woods.  The script was reasonably tight until the end, when corpses show up in odd places for no reason, and the protagonist makes an emotionally nonsensical decision. Someone didn’t think something through. Unless you’re rabid for Dourif, I’d give this one a pass.

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Duke Skellington

Duke Skellington

Saturday is Adventure Day, but I was home long enough to add a little to the outdoor decor. It isn’t going to be much this year, since we not only moved, but I gave away my yard stuff years ago when we went from a house to an apartment. I do hope to make at least one tombstone. Went garage saling a little today, and found a fantastic sleeping angel that needs to go on a tombstone. Plus, I accidentally broke off one of Duke’s forearms, so it can be popping out of the ground.

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I realized today that I didn’t have a decent sized wreath for the door of our house. This would not do! Luckily, I had a wire wreath form and a bunch of ribbon. First, I went looking for instructions on how to use a wire wreath form, because as usual, I bought it for a project that had nothing to do with making wreaths. I was led to these simple instructions for making a burlap wreath. I figured I could manage that. So let’s begin.

I began optimistically

I began optimistically

I had this wonderful, wide, wired ribbon that looked like purple webbing. The roll was really big, so I was sure I had enough. I tied it off, and began pulling loops through the wreath form.

So far so good?

So far so good?

I worked inside to outside, making sure to keep the loops even in size, untwisting the ribbon occasionally to keep the pretty side forward, and scrunching the rows together.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I did not, in fact, have enough of the cool purple stuff. Since I bought it several years ago, I knew my chances of finding more were slim and none. But that’s okay! I have, like, five rolls of Halloween ribbon! None of it matches, but I’m not the matchy type. Surely that will be enough!

That's TONS of ribbon!

That’s TONS of ribbon!

Instead of wasting length and tying off the ribbon, I stapled one end around the inner wire of the frame with my Tiny Attacher. It gets into tight places easily, and is too small for me to be able to staple my finger. That last bit is important.

Staples FTW!

Staples FTW!

Each roll of ribbon was 9 feet long. I discovered that it takes a complete roll to cover one section of the wire form. There are 8 sections. Did you notice above where I said I had five rolls? Yeah…

So Michael’s had all of ONE roll of wide ribbon. Luckily, there was a fabric store next door, and they had a ton of cool stuff. So finally, I had enough ribbon! So much that I ended up getting rid of the purple, because everything else was black and white and orange. I may not be matchy, but I have my limits.

Putting the ribbon on the frame was really fun and easy. When I finished a roll, I stapled it on the outside wire of the frame. I love how my wreath foundation turned out.

Pretty!

Pretty!

So now what? All those different patterns needed something to unify them. I had styrofoam balls I could paint, but they were too big. I had a bunch of eyeballs that I could paint (because eyeballs would have been too much), but they were too small. I didn’t have enough little skulls. I looked through my decoration bins, and found a garland of black leaves with purple sparkles. Perfect!

Spooky leaves

Spooky leaves

They were on wire, so they were easy to secure to the frame. I wound them around and twisted and tucked until I was happy. Which coincided with when I got tired of messing with them.

After that, I grabbed a small set of LED battery-powered lights. Just 15 lights, in deep purple. I strung them under where the leaves wound around in front, so I wouldn’t waste lights on the back of the wreath. Then I didn’t take a picture, but that doesn’t matter because they barely show up in the daytime.

Hmm. Now the center needs something. Maybe a paper piece in the center with “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” on it. I went through my Halloween paper packs, which is no hardship, and picked out a couple things. Then I grabbed some puffy letters I got on sale somewhere.

HAPPY OWEEN

HAPPY OWEEN

While I liked the look of the thing on its own, it wasn’t working for me in the center of the wreath. One reason was that I couldn’t attach it without glue. So far I hadn’t done anything irreversible, and I liked that about the project. So I went hunting for more ideas.

Back in the bins, I found an old costume cape: black with silver spiderwebs. At first, I thought I could sacrifice it, but then I thought–why? It would probably look great draped behind the wreath like a spooky shroud.

I looked for safety pins, because that would have been, you know, safe. No dice. I attached it with straight pins, increasing the danger factor of the wreath. I’m sure no one is surprised that my Halloween decor would draw blood.

It's hungry for BLOOD

It’s hungry for BLOOD

Behold, the deadly Halloween Wreath of Doom. Or something.

It's just misunderstood

It’s just misunderstood

I had a lot of fun making it, and if I don’t want to keep it for next year, I can dismantle it and use everything again. Even better, going through  my supplies to do this made me want to Make! All! The! Things! So maybe you’ll get some more crafts out of me before the month is out.

 

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woee

Pretty, pretty witchlings

Caught Lifetime’s Witches of East End. It was well-written and acted, and the plot is already intriguing.  Also, I have a soft spot for Julia Ormond. Two thumbs up for this new spooky series!

Now I give you spooky things on the web:

Adorable 3-D calavera mask templates! Free! Whee!

The entire BBC documentary: BBC Mechanical Marvels Clockwork Dreams

A blog about spooking on the cheap: Frugal Frights and Delights

A blog that posts about Halloween every single day: The Year of Halloween

The place where I swiped those last two links: Dark Side of the Net

 

Happy frightening!

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wtat

It doesn’t update often enough (and seriously, I thought Windows updated constantly), but Windows Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks is one of the creepiest blogs I’ve ever read. A cross between Videodrome and Lovecraft, all in familiar (or are they?) pop-ups.

Another treat from the interwebs: a very spooky lipsync.

And that’s my Halloween filler post for today. I really gotta start making stuff.

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halloweenwars

We have cable primarily for the “nesting channels”: Food Network and HGTV. Tonight on Food Network was the premiere of this year’s Halloween Wars, and it was a blast.

There are five teams, each made up of a cake artist, a sugar artist, and a pumpkin carver. They make scary creations on a theme, with tight time limits. So far, it’s a lot of fun. They eliminated the worst carvers tonight, though there’s one more mediocre team I think needs to go. I love a good sculpt! It’s hard to keep all five teams straight, but so far, team Crypt Keepers has distinguished themselves with good storytelling and execution.

It’s a fun concept. I didn’t have cable for the previous seasons, so I missed out. Looking forward to following this fun show.

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