Tag Archives: Halloween

Countdown To Halloween#2

Exploring haunted houses to find ghosts is often done by so-called paranormal teams fitted out with all kinds of special gear. Not to be outdone,the Muppet Labs has gone mobile to prove the existence of ghosts. And Beaker, the ever faithful assistant, is sent into a haunted house while the doctor in charge is safely outside in the mobile lab. And now the story of that adventure….

Countdown to Halloween#1

The animation is from Ichabod & Mr.Toad (Disney,1949) and is two animated adaptations containing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Wind in the Willows.The song was originally sung by Bing Crosby and is a delightful scene on its own. In 1963, Disney issued a record of various songs and one of the was a remixed version of The Headless Horseman Song from 1949. This version is sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. If do not recognize the name, you probably recognize the voice. His unique voice and stylings were used in other animations and in commercials. (Note:You can only watch this video at YouTube. Simply click on the text that appears on upper left side to access the video at YouTube.)


Happy Sunday

Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)
Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

We are in the last days of summer. The autumnal equinox is on September 22 at 22:49 EDT and the first full day of autumn is September 23. Wow! Only 9 days till autumn. Above the northern hemisphere we start the transition towards shorter days, longer nights and of course winter. In Australia, it is their spring. Already the signs are on television of Halloween. Spooky themed commercials,stores stocking up on Halloween costumes and decor, and haunted houses are being made ready. A Halloween themed store has already opened up in the city where I live. And my favorite pumpkin spice cookies are back in the shelves.

Have a nice Sunday everyone.

Halloween Musings

puppy-pumpkinHalloween is over. Decorations are still up though. Pumpkins are still out along with other scary and spooky things. Costumes have been put away but candy is not all gone yet. The leasing office where I live still has candy out and kids were dropping by today to get some. Not many trick or treaters came around this year. Many parents take their kids to Halloween parties, Haunted Houses, or other family friendly places (like malls). Pumpkins can be used for a few more days (if they are fresh, carved ones only last a few days unless you follow some complicated steps that seals it up). It was quiet where I was.

As my spooky movie for Halloween, I watched The Haunting. This 1963 classic based upon the Shirley Jackson book The Haunting of Hill House is noted for its clever camera work, mood setting, and how one character breaks down and becomes literally possessed by the house. Something that Stephen King would use as a them for his novel The Shining. While the book is more supernatural in tone, the movie makes it more of a psychological issue. There is no doubt a supernatural force. It is never seen but felt and heard in the movie. The movie has genuine scary moments and perhaps one of the most unsettling as well. A remake in 1999 starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson was panned and changed the story considerably. Stephen King attempted a remake in the 1990’s pitching the title Red Rose to Steven Speilberg. It never came about although eventually a miniseries called Red Rose was made in 2002, but it had very little relation to The Haunting though it used some elements from the book.

Though it is now considered one of the scarier movies of all time, it has its problems. We are never let in as to why the people are selected (except for the relative Luke Sanderson played by Russ Tambyln). This is particularly true of Eleanor Lance. Dr. Markaway apparently wrote her to come to stay at the house as part of his team. Yet we never learn the reason why he wrote her. Theodora is a psychic, so she makes sense. But Eleanor, who was fragile and had nursed an ailing mother till she died, is a mystery. Nor what whatever spectral entity that haunts the place wanted her. And she dies in the end at the very spot the first Mrs. Crain was killed. Character motivations are not explored and its plot seems to be inconsistent. Still despite this it has genuine scares and the camera angles employed (and an excellent selection for exterior using Ettington Hall). In some ways one can argue Stephen King took the cinematic depiction of Shirley Jackson’s book and improved on it for his work The Shining. In the book and the miniseries that were made, the characters are fully developed and the reason for what happens to Jack Torrance is clear (to get to Danny).

After watching a scary movie, I like to follow up with something light. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is a great way to do so. It has never lost its appeal to me. First you have Linus who believes the great pumpkin will arise out of a pumpkin patch and deliver presents to kids. He gets Charlie Brown’s sister to wait up in the pumpkin patch with him. Second you have Charlie Brown and the gang out for trick and treating followed up with a party (which Charlie Brown was not supposed to get invited to). And then there is Snoopy, who dons his aviator goggles and goes off to fight the Red Baron. He gets shot down and makes his way (in his imagination) across the French frontier until he comes to a party (the Halloween party that Charlie Brown and everyone else is attending). And then onward until he reaches the pumpkin patch. Needless to say, the great pumpkin never appears and Linus gets yelled at for missing tricks and treats. Ah but there is another year yet where the great pumpkin may yet appear.

Another family favorite is The Good Witch starring Catherine Bell who comes to Middleton to reclaim Grey House and ends up helping out a lot of people in the process. She is a mystery and whether she really is a witch or not is left open to interpretation. She ends up falling in love with the town’s police chief (played by Chris Potter) and helps out his kids. Of course not everyone is enamored of her and her shop (Bell, Book & Candle) so they are trying to get her out of town. Unfortunately things take an unpleasant turn when two boys, the sons of the woman seeking her ouster, end up vandalizing her store and are caught. However it all ends up well in the end. A good movie anytime of the year but Halloween is a great time to watch it.

Sadly it is now time to put away some fun decorations. I love my handlabra, a monster hand with twinkling lights on the fingers. I got a canvas of the Headless Horseman that lights up and is pretty cool. But what everyone thought was cool was the orange and black lava lamp. Lava lamps are strangely hypnotic. You watch the goo float up and then back down. It is a trade secret as to what it is though Mythbusters figured it out in dealing with various stories and myths about these lamps. The downside to these particular lamps is that they take a while to heat up and then you get the goo going up and down. You cannot run them more than 8 hours (otherwise they will get too hot). I have some glitter lava lamps that are pretty cool. One is a blue one in the bedroom and a silver one which is pretty cool around Christmas.

Till next Halloween….

Today is All Souls Day

Photo: public domain
Photo: public domain

All Souls Day is to commemorate the faithful dead and is celebrated by special mass by Catholics and other Christian denominations. Some Christian churches celebrate it on a different day. It is not to be confused with Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) which does remember friends and family who have died but is not a Catholic or Christian religious event(though it takes place from 31 Oct through 2 Nov which coincides with Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day).

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics

Titanic Themed Haunted House

Scary Pumpkin
Photo: Carole Pasquier

The Pageant of Monsters, an occasional event of Festival Of Arts in Laguna Beach, California, will be including in their spooky family-friendly haunted house a tour of a sunken luxury liner inspired by Titanic. Actors will be made up as ghosts as you pass through rooms converted to look those on the sunken liner. Inspiration, reports the Coastline Pilot, came from a Titanic memorial a few years ago. So it was decided to include Titanic in this years haunted house. In addition to the haunted house, the event includes live music, fortune telling, wandering zombies and even surgeons conducting an alien autopsy.

The Pageant of Monsters will be at the Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach from October 24-31 from 6 t0 9:30 p.m.. Cost is $15 for adult, $10 for children 12 and younger (kids under 5 not recommended). Further information is at Festival of Arts or by calling 1-800-487-3378.

Source: A Titanic Twist On Halloween (23 Oct 2013, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot)

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Halloween Musings: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod CraneThe dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.(Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

Washington Irving wrote many short stories (some of which deal with ghosts and other supernatural occurrences)but it is this one he is most remembered for. We have the character of Ichabod Crane, an itinerant school teacher who comes to Sleepy Hollow. He is a man with interesting contradictions. Tough when teaching with a strict moral code but outside has few morals. He tries to ingratiate himself to the locals, in particular the women and eventually settles on trying to woo Katrina Van Tassel. He is also a superstitious man, believing in ghosts, demons, and witches. A very nervous fellow because of those beliefs.

His wooing of Katrina earns him the dislike of Abraham Van Brunt, locally known for his many daring feats of strength and known by his nickname Bram Bones. Since Ichabod will not fight him, he resorts to a myriad of pranks but they seem to have no effect. But at the end of the harvest festival party, he approaches Katrina to propose but obviously he was rejected by her. So he leaves the party quite dismayed and in the night gloom all of those ghost stories he has heard make him fearful. And then he encounters the Headless Horseman.

Crane flees but eventually knocked off his horse by the pumpkin thrown by the horseman. Later nothing is found of him except his hat and the pumpkin. His horse is found but nothing else. Was he spirited away by the Headless Horseman or did quickly exit Sleepy Hollow for a better place to live? His belongings were found and destroyed by Hans Van Ripper. So all he had with him was his recent pay, clothes, and nothing else. Stories of him being seen elsewhere are mentioned, that he taught school and studied law enough to become a judge. Bram Bones always seemed to know something about what happened that night.

The story ends with the following:

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the road has been altered if later years, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The school-house,being deserted,soon fell into decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue;and the plough-boy,loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm-tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.

So Irving leaves it open as to his final fate. Either might be true but there is no proof. If he was spirited away, it would explain why everything he had in the world was left behind. On the other hand, after being rejected by Katrina and knocked off his horse later by the Horseman, he may have decided to just leave and totally start over elsewhere not caring what others thought. He knew he would be the subject of ridicule over Katrina’s refusal to marry him and likely would find it harder to find another women to marry in that area.

There have been several movie adaptations, some faithful and some not to the story. A recent one on the SyFy had the horseman as part of a devil worshiping cult. The Tim Burton adaptation (Sleepy Hollow, 1999) starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci turned Crane into a detective trying to solve a series of murders in Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman (played by Christopher Walken) has been brought back by the wife of Baltus Van Tassel (his second wife and Katrina’s step mother) to exact revenge on those that forced them out of her home when kids and get the Van Tassel properties and wealth. It is actually a good movie. The Disney animated version (1949) with Bing Crosby singing the songs and telling the tale is pretty good as well. Kolchak:The Night Stalker did a homage to the story with its own version about a dead motorcycle gang leader wanting his head back. Fox now has a series based on the characters but a wholly different retelling involving Headless Horseman being one of the Apocalypse Horseman.

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Halloween 2011-My Vampire Movie List

That time of year has come again, of pumpkins being carved into lanterns and all manner of scary decorations and costumes being put on display. Watching scary movies is part of Halloween and there are many to choose from. Night of the Living Dead usually appears somewhere on the dial. George Romero’s low budget flick delivers the goods. Seeing reanimated corpses feeding on the living has spawned countless imitators, most of them forgettable except the original Dawn of the Dead which still delivers. Dracula has spawned many movies too though few actually tell the original story. Most often the story is shortened, characters changed or deleted, and even the ending altered. That does not mean the movies are bad just telling the story in a different way.

Here is my list of favorite vampire movies (in no particular order):

1. F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922)
This classic silent was the first Dracula movie but due to legal issues, the script was rewritten with a different story and a different vampire (Count Orlock). Only Mina and Jonathan Harker remain. However Stoker’s widow sued and Prana Films went bankrupt as a result of the judgment. The negatives were ordered destroyed but bootleg copies were shown. It is now considered a film classic.

2. Dracula (1931) is famous for Bela Lugosi. Tod Browning changed the story  (using the Renfield character for Jonathan Harker for one) but Lugosi fit the bill standing six feet tall with an aquiline nose and high cheekbones, and speaking with a thick accent since he was born near Transyvania. The movie cemented the depiction of cinematic Dracula with the cape and other features. For Lugosi, it typecasted him and his was never able to get past it (not unlike George Reeves of the Adventures of Superman).

3. The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Jimmy Sangster’s script for Hammer Films brought Dracula into technicolor and an erotic element where women want Dracula to kiss them. Christopher Lee became the new Dracula (and for several Hammer movies) depicting him as a tall, thin, and ruthless vampire. Once again the story is altered from the book but the story and acting quality is superb as is the ending. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing becoming Dracula’s nemesis in a few other Hammer films. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) was a good sequel but nearly all the Hammer Dracula movies after that were not so good and mostly forgettable.

4. Love at First Bite (1979)
A comedic turn that became a success because it was funny. George Hamilton plays Dracula who is driven out of his castle by the Communists and heads to New York. There after some misadventures with his coffin, he meets Cindy Sondheim (Susan St. James). The Van Helsing character is portrayed by Richard Benjamin in the role of Dr. Rosenberg, a psychiatrist. He fumbles countering Dracula and Cindy ends up the count in the end. The movie has great lines like “Children of the night, shut up!”

5. Dracula (1979)
Frank Langella continues the notion from Horror of Dracula that the count seduces women and they accept it. Langella’s performance was pretty good in this regard though the movie was far from scary like other Dracula movies. Lavish in using actual locations in Cornwall, it has a mixed reviews among Dracula movie buffs. Many like the romantic Dracula while others find the movie boring and its ending unsatisfactory (Dracula is killed by sunlight after being hoisted above deck on the ship while trying to flee).

6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s treatment connects Dracula with the historic Vlad Tepes who fought against the Turks. His wife dies falsely believing him dead in battle (due to a forged note) and commits suicide. Since she cannot be buried since it was suicide, Dracula renounces his faith and blasphemes God desecrating the chapel. His desecration results in blood coming out of a crucifix which he drinks turning him into a vampire. Mina Westenra is a reincarnation of his dead wife which explains his interest in her. Coppola depicts Dracula in a number of ways from the old man greeting Jonathan to the young one that meets and seduces Mina. We also see the very dark side where he appears as a wolf (to attack Lucy) and a demonic figure as well. Coppola uses special effects well to show Dracula’s many ways of getting about. One criticism is how Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) is depicted. Hopkins depicts him as slightly mad, eccentric, and the suggestion he lusted after Lucy. The death is different as well for Dracula.

7. The Lost Boys (1987)
This a good movie in which a relocated family finds themselves in Santa Carla where the boys are drawn to an amusement park where vampires also hang out. Michael, the oldest boy, ends up falling in love with a girl who is part of a vampire gang (though not yet one herself) while the other boy gets drawn into the anti-vampire crowd. The ending is great with a surprise twist as to who the head vampire really is.

8. Near Dark (1987)
Outlaw vampires traveling around the country and Adrian Pasdar meets one of them. They are a vicious gang and Adrian is not quite ready for it. The ending is good for him (and the girl who brought him in) and bad for the vampire gang.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series, not movie)
The first three seasons, which deal with high school, are pretty good. A combination of horror, high school, and bits of comedy tossed in. The vampires and other monsters are generally scary and people die in the course of the show. Sunnydale is unlike any other place being a Hellmouth (where an entrance to that dimension exists) drawing all kinds of beasties. Buffy and her Scooby Gang are kept pretty busy. The college years (seasons 4-7) are not as good. It gets more dark, gothic, and in parts just plain boring. A few bright lights are Hush (perhaps the best horror episode ever and won an award) and Buffy vs. Dracula. When the show veered into an X-Files story arc (the government runs a secret program that seizes demons for study and an evil doctor is making her own monster from various demon parts) it went downhill but did get itself out of the mess but never recaptured what it achieved in the first three seasons.

10. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
An excellent movie starring John Malkovich as Frederich Wilhelm Murnau, the director of Nosferatu. Instead of just playing the vampire Count Orlock, Max Schreck (played by William Dafoe) is the real deal. At first most think he is just creepy and scary always wanting to appear in character. But Murnau made a deal with him to give him the actress at the end. It is a very interesting movie with scary moments (especially at the end). Worth watching.

Some honorable mentions:

1. Count Dracula (1978, BBC)
A mostly faithful adaptation of the Stoker story. Louis Jourdan plays Dracula but is miscast here. He is too old and does not fit the part. Likewise the special effects are not that good either. However it does show things the others did not, like Dracula’s brides feeding off a baby. The script and acting is decent building it up the way Stoker did.

3. Salem’s Lot (1979)
This adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has some generally scary moments. The vampire is different from the book (a nosferatu type) and changes to King’s story also are problems. James Mason is excellent as Straker, the vampire’s assistant.

Salem’s Lot (2004)
When the remake was planned by TNT, I hoped it would follow the book more closely that first. While having the tone of the book and Barlow (Rutger Hauer) done right, it is less scary and more suspenseful than the first. Major changes to the story as well (where it begins and ends) cause problems. However the special effects are better than the original. Also Donald Sutherland as Straker was a mistake. Straker comes across as a loon rather than the ruthless and cunning assistant to Barlow.

In short neither are great and just okay. If you want the scare, go with the first. Avoid the movie Return to Salem’s Lot. A terrible movie.

Well that is it for this year. Have more vampire movies you want to add? Send us your comments.