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How to Better Enjoy Movies... and Life!

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A year ago I joined Letterboxd ,   a social networking site where users log the movies they watch, add reviews, and follow others with similar interests to discover films. It’s a haven for movie geeks with a calling for making lists, and I imagined users would express their joys about movies with complete abandon. But spoiler alert: so much of the commentary is snark, complaints, and outright bitchery. These are people who supposedly  love movies  and use their time to write trash about them. Like friends, family and life, movies aren’t perfect but there’s usually something to enjoy, and it's said that every film made is someone's favorite.  I'm currently in a film studies program and I've begun to experience movies is a new, more thoughtful and artful way. My entire personal journey is marked by the movie watching experience, from childhood where I watched movies with my father and brothers, through adolescence where they showed me a world I was about to start explorin

Shock Docs on Trvl & Discovery+

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While I looked away, The Travel Channel delightfully morphed into an exciting outlet for all things paranormal and weird (also its now called TRVL?). This past summer they announced a new series of documentaries called Shock Docs and after the first one aired, I didn’t hear anything else. It’s not surprising since they don’t seem to market their specials well, have an elusive social/blogger presence, and their website appears hopelessly out-of-date most of the time. (Update: Found a page on Facebook dedicated to ShockDocs .) Perhaps their efforts have been spent on launching the new Discovery+ premium streaming service launching today, January 4. My guess is that they've saved up these documentaries as exclusive original  content for the streaming service.  Here are the one’s I’ve read about so far, including two unaired documentaries that both have (hidden) pages on the Discovery+ site. (FYI: Verizon Unlimited customers get a free subscription, otherwise you'll have to sign

Feliz AƱo Nuevo!

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One year is dead and buried (screw you 2020 for so many awful things including ruining Halloween), and another kicks off with a fresh new blog design (to make it much easier to read) and like Miss Patti LaBelle sings, ooh-oh ooh-oh I got a new attitude.  I've reopened Comments section after last year's onslaught of spam (over 3900 spam comments). If you haven't ever commented or connected with me, please do. I've met some great people online to chat about Halloween, horror and everything in between and now more than ever we need a sense of community. I'm always looking for contributing writers, so please let me know if you're interested! Get new posts delivered to your email inbox! Click the three lines on the upper left corner of the site to open the sidebar and find the "Subscribe" section. Enter your email and hit the button. You will immediately get an email to confirm your subscription. New posts are delivered as they are published.  There's

Best Horror Films of 2020

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While 2020 will go down as the worst year ever, at least it has been a great year for horror movies. Here are my picks for the best of the best with everything from grim trauma to lighthearted comedy to visual sci-fi madness. I normally pick 13 favorite movies but this year deserves a bonus 7, plus plenty of honorable mentions to round out the list.  1. The Dark and the Wicked - bleak, grim and terrifying haunted house film 2. Relic - family tragedy that is well-acted with an unexpected ending 3. His House - chilling haunted house tale with a unique refugee setting 4. Color Out of Space - bizarre Lovecraftian nightmare 5. Extra Ordinary - hilarious, goofy fun abroad with ghost busters 6. Gretel & Hansel - the classic story gets a beautiful and dark artistic makeover 7. Host - a surprisingly effective and timely ghost story 8. La Llorona - urgent storytelling with deeply resonate themes 9. The Invisible Man - big budget thrills done right with a great lead performance 10. An

It's Krampustime!

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Krampusnacht is Upon Us

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Before there was light, there was dark and thus begins the folklore of Krampus celebrated throughout Central Europe and now spreading throughout America’s horror-obsessed fandom. It’s simple. If you are good, Saint Nicholas will reward you with gifts. If you are bad, Krampus will come and take you away.  Some anthropologists date the horned half-man, half-goat demon to pre-Christian times, and like-visages appeared in various cultural holidays alongside the then-emerging Saint Nicholas figure. As Christianity spread, chains appeared on Krampus as a way to bind the devil. He was a fearsome symbol of warning, made more humorous over time and completely absent from America’s holiday celebrations, represented now only by the coal Santa leaves to misbehaved children. Krampusnacht is celebrated on the night of December 5, prior to the Feast of Saint Nicholas which is celebrated in several European countries on December 6. In modern times, citizens dress up in the furry Krampus costumes, nois

Quick Takes: Mortuary Collection, Scare Me, Spiral, 32 Malasana St., Cleansing Hour

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Most of movie watching time is spent on  SHUDDER , the horror movie streaming channel by AMC that has finally found the right mix of rotating catalog classics, fun original programming, exclusive movies, and adequate corporate support to ensure it doesn't collapse like Fearnet or Chiller (R.I.P.). With the continued growth, they've been able to but better and more interesting horror movies, many of which are international and indie films you'd otherwise never see. The following five films are all Shudder originals.  The Mortuary Collection  is one bad-ass movie and probably the most fun I've had with horror movies all year. It's tone is all over the place, at times wickedly whimsical & humorous and then gory & horribly fiendish – but it all works. The acting and storytelling is exceptional. An almost unrecognizable Clancy Brown, as Mr. Dark, delivers his witty lines with a deeply resonate droll that reminded me of all the best TV horror hosts: "This h

Sam Saves Halloween!

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Happy Halloween! What a long, long road to get to the darkest night of the year. This time of year certainly helps raise my spirits and this was especially needed now. Very few people decorated this year and my best guess is that they didn't want to invite little hands to their front door. But we refused to go dark. Halloween is more than just candy and trick 'r treating, and we wanted to ensure that our neighborhood had at least one gleaming house of horror.  After debating how to hand out candy safely, all the experts said to avoid it. I made the brutal decision to declare: Sorry, No Candy. While this benefits our own household safety, it was really more for the kids and families that congregate in-front of our house every year. Last year we handed out candy to 423 trick 'r treaters, and each was accompanied by at least 2 parents or friends with each trick 'r treater so we estimated at least 1200 people on our driveway Halloween night. Even if we get a fraction of th

A BOO from Me to You

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We are here at the best times Halloween (on Saturday, with an extra hour for many of us due to daylight savings ending, and with a full moon) and the worst of times (pandemic, shelter in place). The darkest night of the year goes on anyway so celebrate it to the fullest. Here's a BOO from me to you: https://vimeo.com/471809048/f0d8e2fde0 The video features a clip from Sam Haynes brilliant new album, Groovy Murder Disco , available now everywhere (click the player below to listen now). Sam Haynes is an instrumental horror wave synth artist with some of the creepy-fun Halloween music. Find the complete catalog here:  https://samhaynes1.bandcamp.com Groovy Murder Disco - Music for Halloween 2020 - Bandcamp Deluxe Edition by Sam Haynes

A Night on Magnolia Avenue

I'm currently a film studies student and my latest class explored filmmaking by actually making a film to explore the technical aspects from the inside. It's been a nightmare with COVID and don't have access to the fancy lab equipment, so I ended up postponing this class for later. But, I continued my own self-study using the book from class as well as various online learning tools.  I asked the Scream Team to help me shoot a short at their fancy-spooky Victorian mansion. This worked out since Britta wanted a promo video for Halloween. In one week, Britta wrote the shooting script, we filmed it over 14 hours one Saturday, and then I edited it over the week. Just like that we had a  silly spooky short, learn a lot, and had fun making it.  This was meant to be an educational experience and there was definitely a learning curve. I understand the need for a full crew as we all wore too many hats. I have a newfound respect for the industry and have seen first hand what it cou

Eerie Elegance Reimagined

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I met my dear friend Britta Peterson while posting about Halloween books on my main site in 2010. I loved her book Enhanced Eerie Elegance and noted in the publication data that she was living in Santa Clara, CA where I had just bought a house. We met and have been friends ever since. We have even collaborated on projects as the Scream Team , alongside her husband Glen, a fearless engineer and mad scientist behind their technical wizardry of their home haunts. He tolerates my tomfoolery and happens to be a great guy with a sort of acceptable taste in horror movies.  Her brand, Eerie Elegance , has been going through an evolution, and as a graphic designer I jumped the chance at taking a stab at her new logo. Even though she's was wary to give up control, rightfully so since she's been cultivating her brand for over two decades, she agreed to let me work my wicked magic. We came up with a great new look that I think will benefit her whimsical, spooky take on Halloween.  Britta

Can You Spot All 40 Horror Movies?

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This meme has been driving me nuts! There are 40 horror films represented in this image. I missed or could not identify 7. And I call myself a horror fan?! The answers are below (no peeking)!  The answers are... (SPOILER ALERT!) (SPOILER ALERT!) (SPOILER ALERT!) 1. The Pumpkin - Halloween 2. Striped suit - Beetlejuice 3. Lips - Rocky Horror Picture Show 4. Red balloon - IT 5. Butterfly on lamp post - Silence of the Lambs 6. Tricycle - The Shining 7. Hockey mask - Friday the 13th 8. Paws in box - Gremlins 9. Pack against lamp post - Ghostbusters 10. Silhouette under lamp post - The Exorcist 11. Hand - The Addams Family 12. Castle - Dracula 13. Unraveled bandages - The Mummy 14. Mushnik's shop - Little Shop of Horrors 15. Biohazard sign on chimney - 28 Days Later 16. Headless man - Sleepy Hollow 17. Burning Statue - Wicker Man 18. Green frog comics - The Lost Boys 19. Stick symbol on tree - Blair Witch Project 20. Striped jumper in window -The Nightmare on Elm Street 21. Slaughtered

2020 Acquisitions for My Haunted Library

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My Haunted Library is one of my prized possessions. With over 600 books in my collection, they cross multiple genres and include everything from Halloween history, cooking and crafts to scary movie companions, rare art books, and paranormal investigation. I add a handful every year, scouring Amazon, blogs and Twitter for updates on new releases. Here are some of my recent acquisitions for 2020: Pumpkins and Party Themes by Roxanne Rhoads This book cleverly groups invitation, craft, pumpkin carving projects to explain how to carry a theme across a party. Tricky Treats By Vincent Amiel A stunning hardcover book with recipes that cover all the courses with some really ghoulish recipes, like the eyeball truffles and syringe martini.  The Wicked Baker By Helena Garcia This beautifully produced hardcover book is a wealth of creepy baking projects with gorgeous photos throughout.  Fright Favorites By David J. Skal One of my favorite authors overviews 31 great horror movies giving historical c