Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A&E's American Haunting: Review

American Haunting is a desperate hodge podge of more successful genre TV shows. It's unwatchable and an embarrassment for A&E. Unfortunately, it seems like it was initially filmed as a documentary (these people don't seem like actors) which on its own might have been an interesting character study – and set itself apart from the glut of reenactment shows. Instead, some producer probably thought it was too boring to have a straight-forward documentary and added ridiculous amounts of frantic, nonsensical editing, stock sound effects, copious amounts of camera interference, and silliest of all, Paranormal Activity-like nighttime cameras to capture the obviously staged "paranormal action." There's no confidence to let the stories tell themselves. Instead overwrought tragedy, paranormal hokum, and dramatic confrontation are imposed on what are likely psychologically-damaged people. Let this one rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Halloween at Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma has unveiled their creepy line of decor and entertaining Halloweenware. (Yes, I'm calling it Halloweenware since so many high end stores are now offering party essentials that go well beyond the typical products found at Target and Spirit.) Like Pottery Barn, the price point on these items make them quite the luxury. Here are some of our favorite pieces.

Skellie Toile Tablecloth
(runner, napkins, towels and apron also available)

Victorian Medallion Plates

Vertibrae Cake Stand 
Skull Plates

Skull Place Card Holders

Skull Punch Bowl

Victorian Skull & Snake Towels 
Bat Bottle Stopper

Friday, July 26, 2013

American Haunting

The producers of Paranormal State are launching a new paranormal show on the A&E Network. American Haunting premieres this Saturday, July 27 with three 1-hour back-to-back episodes. The series takes a look at the lives of families encountering phenomena with first-hand accounts of the terrifying incidents and the psychics, paranormal investigators, demonologists and even exorcists enlisted to help them fight back. Will this be another Paranormal Witness? Concentrate and ask again later.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

V/H/S/2: Review

V/H/S/2 is a second helping of last year's indie horror anthology that's a moderate success rather than an outright improvement. The story is simple: two personal investigators looking for a missing college student stumble upon some videotapes in an abandoned house. Each tape features a supernatural incident caught on tape (which then becomes a segment of the movie).

This is an experiment in "found footage" short films told through the first person point-of-view perspective, which means shaky cams, blurred action, and creating ultra-realistic scenes with special effects. The results are varied. "A Ride in the Park" follows a bicyclist who's recording his ride when suddenly zombies attack. The chapter called "Safe Haven" set in an Indonesian cult is the most interesting and vicious. As a whole this sequel is definitely bloodier and more brutal than it's predecessor and recommended only for hardcore horror fans.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett have teamed up to create a souther gothic, supernatural musical called the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. The story revolves around two feuding brothers, a father with a tragic secret, feuding ghosts, and of course, the devil. The synopsis which appeared in the original Playbill reads:

In the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi in 1967, a terrible tragedy took the lives of two brothers and a beautiful young girl. During the next forty years, the events of that night became the stuff of local legend. But legend is often just another word for lie. Joe McCandless knows what really happened; he saw it all. The question is whether or not he can bring himself to tell the truth in time to save his own troubled sons, and whether the ghosts left behind by an act of violence will help him – or tear the McCandless family apart forever.

The musical premiered in April 2012 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta to mixed reviews, but it has continued to evolve and is scheduled for a 20-city tour this fall. To help create awareness (and fans), a concept album (performed by an array of celebrity artists instead of the original cast) was released last month is a variety of formats and editions including a Deluxe Hardcover with the full libretto, 2 CDs (one includes excerpts of key dialogue), and a making of DVD. (It's also available as digital book for iPad!)

Although I wasn't expecting to like this, I loved the mix of honky tonk, blues, and folk rock music with a very down-home and accessible Americana feel that isn't the typical shrill musical fare. It has its imaginative moments but feels grounded, honest, and never frilly. The devil's main song "That's Me" (sung by Elvis Costello), "That's Who I Am" (sung by Neko Case), "Home Again" (sung by Sheryl Crow), "You Don't Know Me" (sung by Roseanne Cash) are particular standouts. I also found it rather touching. Having three brothers, our strong, competitive personalities didn't always gel, and this musical taps into that very dynamic of brotherly love and what it means to be family – like it or not.

I'll look forward to seeing a stage production if the tour heads west, but for now, readers in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois are the lucky ones (click here for dates and locations).

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Conjuring: Review

Director James Wan knows how to scare you. He's the guy who came up with Saw (the original film), gave us the wacky retro-thriller Dead Silence, brought the practical effects back to mainstream horror movies in Insidious, and now he's mastered the haunted house genre with The Conjuring. There's no doubt that this will go down in horror history as a classic.

It feels very retro, and not just because it's set in the 70s. This is a throwback to those beloved films we all remember with fear  The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, Poltergeist – when films were not about body counts and gore. Wan is also not trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather perfect it somewhat and update it for modern (adult) audiences. This definitely is not trying to pander to the texting-tween crowd and that is a terrific thing.

Without any spoilers, I will say that the movie has so much going for it. There's the slow-building atmosphere, dissonant music, an excellent, fully-committed cast (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor) who keeps the tone dead serious, disorienting camerawork, an unrelenting sense of dread, and the surprises that never stop coming. It's exhausting and exhilarating – and the only thing horror fans should have on their schedule this weekend.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Boney Bunch Preview Sale

The Boney Bunch are back at Yankee Candle! Don't miss the preview sale on Saturday, August 3rd at 10am. Last year Halloween items appeared on the website a week before the preview sale, some as online exclusives only. Looks like Frankenstein and his Bride landed on the invite.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nightmare Before Christmas at Tee Fury

Our favorite shop for tees has two Nightmare Before Christmas shirts available today only (7.16.13)! issues a new design Every. Single. Day. but the catch is that they are only available for 24 hours. The price is a low $11 per shirt and you get 2-3 colors of material to choose from. Make sure to sign up for their email newsletters to keep up to date.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pottery Barn Halloween 2013

The Pottery Barn has been updating their site with four new Halloween collections: Pumpkin Patch, Hocus Pocus, Spooky Halloween, and Vampire's Ball and has promised more items are coming soon! Its quite a substantial collection for the Halloween party host and the quality is fantastic (as is reflected in the price). Last year, the best pieces were sold out in early August so order yours soon! Here are some of our favorites.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Heading Down Grandin Road?

Grandin Road's Halloween Haven offers sophisticated, upscale decor that rarely fails to impress. Unfortunately, there's been some questionable practices over the last couple years that negate some of their allure so I report on this with some reservation. I will say that their customer service is exemplary, the occasional sale is fantastic (usually offered only to email subscribers or through social media outlets), and their quality is relatively consistent. Halloween Haven officially "premieres" on July 31st but you can see some of the pieces online now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yankee Candle Fall Preview

It might be the height of summer, but this week marks the unofficial start of the 2013 Halloween retail season. Over the next few weeks I'll be featuring finds as they pop up.

First up, is the trusty Yankee Candle fall fragrance preview which is already in stores. Two of the six new scents are quite interesting: Pumpkin Wreath and November Rain. They'll definitely evoke a nostalgic Autumn feeling (unlike their obnoxious patchouli and candy corn candles they push every Halloween). Keep an eye out for their annual Halloween event, which traditionally is held the first week in August (although no announcements have been made). Will the Boney Bunch collection be back?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This Is The End: Review

This Is The End is an apocalyptic, buddy comedy with serious hellfire. To fully appreciate it, you must love the antics of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and the other misfits currently dominating Hollywood. The stars play exaggerated versions of themselves at a Hollywood Hills party when the end of times literally opens up beneath their feet. First to go are Michael Cera and Rihanna (yes!) until only the group of friends (and Danny McBride) are left and holed up at James Franco's house. The comedy is crass, hilarious and the insanity continues to build until the jaw-dropping last third of the movie – when was the last time you saw really scary Satan in a movie (not played by Roseanne Barr)? I loved the many references to other horror staples (Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist) and the pitch-perfect performances (Jonah Hill and James Franco were standouts). It was a little long, and it did drag a few times, but that's a minor quibble to the best horror comedy in years.

Monday, July 1, 2013

World War Z: Review

Brad Pitt has finally done a horror film! While it's not a great film, World War Z is entertainingly tense, action-filled, and safe enough for mainstream audiences. The performances are frantic, the stop-and-start rhythm is grueling, and globe-hoping setting add to the grand-scale disaster. But it feels somewhat disjointed and seems to missing an emotional core. Horror fans may be disappointed in how bloodless the movie is – one episode of the Walking Dead has more gore than this entire film. Then there's the eye-rolling aspects (Brad survives the most dire circumstances when all those around him perish), and the movie just sort of ends with a weak, abrupt finish. A sequel is already in the works so you can't really resolve everything in the first movie (sigh). To be fair, these big budget movies with name stars and impressive trailers set up the disappointment by raising expectations too high. A second viewing might reveal World War Z to be a better film.