Archive for Halloween

Friday Night Fights: Superna-Chair-Al!

Ladies and gentlemen, boils and ghouls, monsters and mischief makers, it’s the best night of the year, and we’re only going to make it more glorious with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 1942’s Feature Comics #58 by Noel Fowler and other unknown creators. Our hero is Zero, Ghost Detective, and he’s trying to stop a ghost from killing a girl at the local college.

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But the ghost has figured out that, despite Betty’s sorority sisters running her off from her prey, Zero is actually the guy standing in the way of her spectral reign of terror.

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So she decides to use her impossibly eerie powers — abilities possessed only by the unquiet spirits of the grave — to put an end to Zero’s meddling.

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Everyone have a safe, fun, and spooky Halloween!

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Halloween Horrors and Hijinks

It’s my favorite day of the year.

Most years, I take today off work so I’ll be able to maximize my time watching horror movies, reading horror stories, or even just walking around town and enjoying the simple, glorious fact that, no matter how commercialized and neutralized it may seem to be, it’s still Halloween, and Halloween is still the best day of the year.

Unfortunately, taking my usual day off is not an option this year. But I still intend to listen to a lot of horror-themed music while I work. That’ll help a lot, I guarantee.

Anyway. You guys in the mood for some Halloween comic book covers? Heck yeah, Halloween comic book covers.

Archie-Halloween-Blowout

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Marvel-Zombies-Halloween

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Smurfs-Halloween

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Golddigger-Halloween

Garfield-18-Halloween

Angel-Masks

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There we go, my children. Go forth into this wonderful Halloween — and make sure you’re back here this evening for a Halloween edition of Friday Night Fights!

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The Best Day of the Year!

It’s finally Halloween! Break out the costumes, dim the lights, fire up the horror movies. It’s the best day of the year.

You ever noticed that everyone seems to think that old movies and old stories aren’t scary, or at least aren’t as scary as more recent movies and stories? It’s not true, of course, as anyone who’s watched old movies or read old books can tell you.

But what really seems odd is the fact that, though everyone thinks old movies aren’t scary, everyone agrees that old costumes are the scariest.

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Well, okay, they’re not all old pictures. And come to think of it, they’re not all costumes either…

A very merry, very scary Halloween to everyone!

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Damn Everything but the Circus

Hellboy-MidnightCircus

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

If it’s Halloween, it must be time for a new Hellboy graphic novel. This one is written, as always, by Mike Mignola, with illustrations by Duncan Fegredo and lovely coloring by Dave Stewart.

Our story is set in 1948, when Hellboy was just a little kid. He’s stuck in the BPRD’s headquarters all the time, and everyone treats him like a baby — and he’s decided he wants to get out, for just one night, and do his own thing.

And then Hellboy runs across a circus — A.T. Roth‘s Circus Spectacular! “From the clock strikes midnight — to the fearful crack of dawn!” A whole big circus, operating only at night, with almost no publicity, out in the middle of nowhere. Sounds wholesome, doesn’t it?

It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t a normal circus, as the clown who starts the festivities does so by causing the demonic performers to appear out of thin air in the middle of the big top. He’s enticed by a sultry succubus, but rescued by the ringmaster. Hellboy tells the ringmaster about reading the story of Pinocchio — the artificial boy who wants to be real, turns into a donkey, and is then restored when he’s eaten by a fish.

While Professor Bruttenholm and the rest of the BPRD look for him, Hellboy is shown nightmarish visions by the ringmaster. He flees the circus, pursued by demonic animals — and then gets cornered by evil spectral hobos. Can Hellboy survive the night? Will the forces of Hell turn him to their side?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A great multi-layered story by Mignola. The bit about Pinocchio seems like a throw-off bit, but the theme keeps reappearing in ways both obvious and subtle that make great sense for the story.

And Fegredo’s art is just absolutely monumental. The center ring of the circus, with the flame and lightning and demonic elephants, is stunningly beautiful. The undersea voyage, the hobo camp, the attack of the animals — all simply gorgeous. You’ll want to read this over and over just so you can glory in the artwork.

And it’s Kid Hellboy. In a circus of fear.

That’s what Halloween is all about.

Go bug your local comic shop ’til they order you a copy. You won’t regret it, children.

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Happy Halloween!

Ladies and gentlemen, boils and ghouls, it’s the best day of the year.

Everyone have an outstanding, thrilling, spooky, horrifying, treat-filled Halloween.

Tomorrow, I guess we’ll start the countdown to the next Halloween…

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Tricks, Treats, and Scares

Trick ‘r Treat

Just a day left ’til the best day of the year, so let’s get one more review done — namely for this, the best horror movie about Halloween ever made.

“Trick ‘r Treat” is a movie that many of you have never seen and many have never even heard of. Thank the studio for that — it was finished and in the can, but got held back for two whole years ’til it was finally released direct-to-DVD. What can you say — sometimes, the studios are dumber’n stumps.

The film was written and directed by Michael Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer. The stars included Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, and scads of others.

So what’ve we got here? It’s a good old-fashioned horror anthology — four different stories, all taking place in the same town on the same Halloween night. All of the stories are based around various important Halloween traditions — don’t blow out a jack-o-lantern before midnight, wear a costume, give candy to trick-or-treaters, and check your candy before you eat it — and about the dangers that can befall you if you break those traditions.

We get stories about a young couple — one a Halloween fan, the other a Halloween hater. We get a school principal who has some unusual holiday traditions to share with students. We get a bunch of kids playing a prank on an awkward friend and what they learn about the urban legend of the Halloween School Bus Massacre. We get a young woman hoping to lose her virginity on Halloween. We get the cantankerous old man who hates Halloween and how he deals with a persistent trick-or-treater. And wrapped in and around these stories is one recurring character — Sam, a little kid wearing a tacky orange clown suit and an ugly, ominous burlap sack over his head.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This isn’t the scariest movie in the world — in fact, it’s really fairly tame, as horror movies go. Not to say it doesn’t have its share of scary moments — but this movie doesn’t aspire to be “The Exorcist.” This one is basically a nice little love letter to Halloween.

It’s probably more accurate to call this a horror-comedy, as it has a lot of funny or at least morbidly funny moments. Probably the funniest episode is the one focusing on the principal, though that one has some really outstanding tension. All the rest have some great humor in them, just enough to give you a short break from the scares. Probably the most purely terrifying episode is the one featuring the Halloween School Bus Massacre, which mostly sets the humor aside in favor of giving you nightmares.

And the setting and mood help make this one a winner, too. This is set in a small Ohio town that manages to have the best dang Halloween celebrations I’ve ever seen, complete with huge, anarchic street festivals, costumed marching bands, people who decorate their yards with scarecrows and hordes of jack-o-lanterns, and more kids out trick-or-treating than I’ve seen in at least a decade. This is what I wish every Halloween could be like (minus the supernatural murders, of course), and watching it really hits you in the nostalgia-bone.

It’s a fantastic movie. Rent it, stream it, buy it, whatever you gotta do.

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House of Hellboy

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead

This came out last year, and somehow I missed it entirely ’til just a couple months ago. It’s yet another installment in the always-enjoyable collaborations between writer and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and horror-art legend Richard Corben. Even better, it’s a direct sequel to their glorious “Hellboy in Mexico” one-shot from a couple of years back.

Let’s look at some of the backstory here: in the 1950s, Hellboy spent time in Mexico, drinking and fighting vampires with three brothers who were luchadores — masked Mexican wrestlers. But one of the brothers was turned into a vampire, and Hellboy was forced to destroy him in a wrestling bout in an ancient Aztec temple surrounded by zombies — and the guilt sent him into the bottle for several years. This is a story from that era of Hellboy’s history.

So Hellboy is now supporting himself and his drinking habit by wrestling as a luchadore himself. He’s visited by a man who offers him the chance to wrestle his employer’s champion — and if Hellboy refuses, he’ll kill an innocent girl. And Hellboy soon finds himself dealing with a genuine mad scientist, his genuine crazed hunchbacked assistant, and a genuine Frankenstein monster — who Hellboy must defeat to save the girl. And even if he can stop the monster — which isn’t guaranteed — he’ll also have to deal with a werewolf, vampires, and demons before the night is through.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent story, action-packed, funny, melancholy, and crammed to the gills with everything you’d want in a Halloween comic. Mignola claims to have never watched any of the classic Mexican luchadore-vs.-monster movies, but what he’s created here is at least as good — you’ve got spooky stuff from all the monsters and ghosts, but you’ve also got a massive dose of atmosphere by setting it back in 1950s Mexico — earthy, poverty-stricken, traditional, and largely focused on luchadores.

Corben’s art is, as always, phenomenal — beautiful as the innocent Sonia, depraved as the mad Tupo, gruesome as the stitched-together brute, menacing as the revitalized vampire and his brides — he even manages pure simple blandness in the dimly obedient Raul. It’s at turns gorgeous and brutal, and you couldn’t look away if you wanted to.

It’s a grand comic, perfect for Halloween or any time you need awesome monsters and luchadores to get through your day. It’s definitely worth picking up — go bug your local shop for it.

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Friday Night Fights: Eye Scream!

Well, we got ourselves a situation here. It’s the last Friday before Halloween — the best holiday of the year! — and I always prefer to feature something appropriately spooky for Friday Night Fights at this time of year. But holy circus peanuts, Halloween is still five days away! Is it going to be possible to pull up a battle so epic and terrifying that its effects will still be felt that far away? I don’t know, but I owe it to everyone to try — not just for my sake, not just for yours, but for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

So today’s battle comes to us from the horror manga series Uzumaki, Volume 1, released in October 1998, by creator Junji Ito. As I mentioned when I reviewed it a couple of years ago, this series focuses on a small town cursed by ominous, ever-present spirals that inevitably bring doom, death, mutations, terror, and madness. So we come to “The Scar,” the third chapter of the first volume, where we meet a girl named Azami Kurotani, who has a small crescent-shaped scar on her forehead.

But soon, the scar grows, curves around, and becomes… a spiral.

And things get worse from there.

Yeah, Azami, that’s one heck of a scar there. You’ll have to get plastic surgery to correct that so —

Ooh. That’s… not at all good, is it?

And as you might expect at this point… Things get worse.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

**twitch**  **twitch**

**faints dead away**

Well, that’s all thoroughly horrifying, but where’s the bit where people are doing violence to each other? That comes a bit later that night…

There you go — that’s at least a week’s worth of horror and screaming and holy-flippin’-flapjacks-did-I-really-see-that to tide you over from now ’til Halloween.

Now head over to Spacebooger’s place and vote for your favorite battle. I’m sure you can spiral in on the right choice…

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The Haunt of Horror

The Haunting

I’ll come right out and say it — in my opinion, this is the best and most frightening horror movie ever made. I don’t know why it isn’t better known….

Anyway, this one was released in 1963 (There was a remake in 1999. Don’t watch it. It’s not good.), produced and directed by Robert Wise. The script was written by Nelson Gidding, based on the novel “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. The stars included Julie Harris as the frightfully nervous Eleanor Lance, Claire Bloom as hip lesbian Theodora, Richard Johnson as level-headed parapsychologist Dr. John Markway, and Russ Tamblyn as skeptical rich kid Luke Sanderson.

The plot involves Dr. Markway inviting a small group of people to Hill House, a notorious haunted house, in an attempt to prove the existence of ghosts. Hill House is not the sort of haunted house that brings headless spirits, levitating candelabra, or ladies in white — it’s a malevolent house, seemingly alive and capable of its own devious thoughts. It manifests itself as cold spots, unpleasant smells, and doors that are hinged just barely off-center, so they never stay open or closed for very long.

In the daylight, Hill House seems almost sane, but in the night, in the dark, it conspires to separate people, slams invisible cannonballs down the hallways, and giggles, moans, screams, weeps. Whatever walks there may walk alone, but it doesn’t want to be alone — it wants company in its madness, and it ruthlessly exploits every weakness to get what it wants.

Eleanor soon finds herself as the focus of the house’s obsessions — but we can’t tell if she’s really that upset by the attention. She’s emotionally unstable, desperate for friends and acceptance, but wracked by guilt because she thinks she may have let her elderly, overbearing mother die. And Hill House offers her a place where she’ll be loved and accepted forever — granted, she’d be surrounded by the mad cackling and shrieks of the dead, but maybe she really wants to be the center of all that attention.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, my very favorite horror movie. It doesn’t look like much — it’s in black and white, it doesn’t have a lot of big-name stars, and incredibly, it has almost no special visual effects. It accomplishes almost all of this wonderful terror with great cinematography and amazing sound effects. The mood, the creepiness, the genuine fear are all there in spades.

I know, I know, it doesn’t have monsters crawling through the walls, it doesn’t have chainsaws, it doesn’t have pea-soup vomit, it doesn’t have buckets of gore, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that everyone expects from horror films. It’s quiet, it’s subtle, it gets under your skin, it grabs that part of your brain that wakes up after nightmares and wants to cower underneath the blanket because this time it really might be real.

If you love horror movies and you haven’t yet seen this one, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Go find it, pop it into the DVD player, and find out what it’s all about. It’s almost Halloween, and you deserve some truly excellent scares.

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13 O’Clock

The 13th Hour by the Midnight Syndicate

When you love Halloween the way I do, you end up collecting just about anything you can that’s horror-related. Books, comics, art (well, not much art — that’s expensive), movies, and even music — I’ve got a pretty phenomenally great collection of spooky-themed music, everything from movie soundtracks, old country songs, and experimental classical music to Rob Zombie, Oingo Boingo, and the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets to Tom Waits, Roky Erickson, and Jonathan Coulton. But I think I’ve got the most complete albums by a group called the Midnight Syndicate.

The Syndicate specializes in horror movie soundtracks, usually for movies that don’t actually exist. They’re classified as goth instrumental, or dark ambient, or ethereal wave — it all breaks down to horror movies soundtracks, usually for movies that don’t actually exist. How’s that work? They basically pick a theme — vampires, insane asylums, evil carnivals, what have you — and then they put together some symphonic music scores, combined with a nice dose of sound effects, to come up with something plenty creepy.

They tend to get the most play right around Halloween. Partly because of the horror movie soundtrack stuff — partly because they let haunted attractions use their music without licensing fees. So if you’ve got a haunted house, haunted hayride, or haunted theme park in your area, there’s a decent chance that they’re playing Midnight Syndicate’s music while they’re scaring the pants off you.

My personal favorite of their albums is “The 13th Hour” which is about a trip through the haunted mansion of the evil Haverghast family. You start out with a short walk in the woods in the middle of the night when you come upon the old deserted house, open the door, and walk inside. From there, you get a musical tour through the mansion’s glories and horrors, through the lushly outfitted drawing room to the grimy basement to the family mausoleum. The ghosts you meet range from unnerving heavy breathers and moaners to more traditional ghosts all the way up to something that tries to tear the house down around your ears. Are you going to be able to escape? Or will you be spending the rest of eternity wandering these dark hallways?

Samples? I’m not giving you many — but “Fallen Grandeur” is a really good one. “Living Walls” is wonderfully creepy. “Grisly Reminder” is quiet and spooky. And “Hand in Hand Again” does great things with just an old record player and a few rumbling sound effects.

Verdict: A very enthusiastic thumbs up. This is almost perfect Halloween mood music. Pop this in the player while you’re doing housework, reading a book, surfing the web, driving to work, writing scary stories, waiting for trick-or-treaters, or anything else, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to start feeling the Halloween spirit.

It’s a wonderful, dark, ominous, ghost-filled album. I like almost all of Midnight Syndicate’s stuff, but this is definitely my fave. Go pick it up.

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