Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Halloween 2012 Redux

Yeah...so...Halloween has come and gone. Thanksgiving is a memory. The Yule Season is upon us...and I still haven't posted pics from Halloween Night! Well, Halloween itself went straight to hell in a handbasket (more on that some other time), so no real pictures were taken then. Fortunately, one of my neighbors took some really nice shots a few nights before the actual day, so it wasn't a total loss.

I'm sorry that I've been MIA. Life just doesn't seem to get any less hectic...in fact, it seems to be getting worse! My job has become a daily visit to the bowels of Hell, and home is filled with so many different activities and obligations that I can't even see straight. Normally, at this time of year, things start to wind down, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. So, check out the pics and provide some helpful input! Constructive criticism is always welcome:

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Haunting of Gill House: The Scarecrow

After MANY starts and stops, at last my Scarecrow has made his debut at the House of Haunted Gill! Inspired by Pumpkinrot, as well as a piece of artwork by Dave Hartman, I'm fairly happy with how he turned out. My daughter snapped a few quick pics with her cameraphone, so these aren't the best quality, but you get the general idea.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Dracula the Undead

I was digging around looking for some reviews I did for the now-defunct Border's website, since my review of Dark Harvest seemed to get a positive response.. This is the only one I was able to find...and unfortunately it wasn't exactly a glowing review. Here is my review of Ian Holt and Dacre Stoker's "sequel" to the Bram Stoker classic:
A Sequel in Name Only: Dracula the Undead

In the afterword to this book, authors Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt explain the intention behind it: to "return" the character of Dracula back to his roots in Bram Stoker's original novel, washing away the garbage that has been heaped upon the legend by countless Hollywood films. What's amazing is how far from their stated intention they have managed to stray. While the Dracula of the original book was a villainous monster, preying upon the innocent, the incarnation presented here is that of a (rather boring) anti-hero. Despite their claims, the authors borrow far more from Hollywood than they do from the novel, including such movie-based plot points as a Dracula/Mina romance, the vampire's aversion to sunlight, etc. This novel is far from a sequel to the classic book, but more like cheap fan-fiction. None of the characters resemble their counterparts from the elder Stoker's narrative, and liberal rewriting of the continuity is the order of the day. I won't delve too deeply into spoiler territory, for those who still feel inclined to read this dreck.

Picking up 25 years after the original book, the band of heroes who dispatched Dracula are being hunted and killed. In the midst of all of this is the Harker's son, Quincey, who is a whining, two-dimensional sterotype pursuing a career on the stage in London and Paris. Quincey must ultimately come to terms with his parent's past, and face the consequences of their actions. The authors try to weave a mystery into the story, but if you have half a brain you'll see where they're going from a mile away. Ultimately, this is more predictable than the average soap opera.

Dracula is one of the all-time greatest fictional villains in literature and film, so it's rather perplexing as to why Holt and Dacre Stoker chose to recast him as a heroic, romantic figure. Perhaps they were extremely enamoured of Frank Langella's interpretation from the 1979 film? Whatever the reason, it doesn't work at all in this book. Introducing the historically-based villain of Elizabeth Bathory as the novel's primary antagonist just further dilutes Dracula's impact. This interpretation of Dracula has far more in common with Edward from the Twilight series than he does the classic villain. It's possible that the authors felt that this would attract newer, younger readers, but that seems extremely unlikely. Most Dracula afficianados prefer the Count to be an evil, vicious force to be reckoned with, not a whiny fang banger. What's more, the "Twilight" crowd isn't likely to care for this character either, as he is far less interesting than any of Meyer's characters (which is really saying something, as I find those characters to be extremely one-note).

Nothing in this book is all that original either. A heroic Dracula has already been depicted in Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape and Kim Newman's Anno Dracula. The notion of Elizabeth Bathory as a vampire has been explored in numerous comics and novels as well (most scholars believe Stoker at least partially based his Dracula on Bathory). The most overdone, and trite, aspect that the authors choose to dredge up here is the romance between Dracula and Mina. This has been explored over and over again in various novels, and (most notably) in Coppola's film. Why all of this is included, in a book that was intended to do away with such pointless tripe, is beyond me.

Ultimately, this is a book that doesn't satisfy Dracula fans...and isn't likely to appeal to those who only know the character from the movies. The story presented here is nothing that hasn't been seen before in better stories. Frankly, it's an awful "sequel" that could have been dreamt up by any 12 year old who has watched lots of Dracula movies on late night TV.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Trick Or Treat Studios to Produce Halloween III Masks?

Earlier this year, the wonderful folks at Trick Or Treat Studios produced what is, in my humble opinion, the finest Michael Myers mask that has ever been mass-produced. I myself purchased one of these beauties, and I'm quite happy with it! I plan on stalking my neighborhood this All Saint's Eve decked out in this incredible rendition of the famous villian from the Halloween series.
Rumor has it that the gang at ToT are working to acquire the license to make masks for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. For those not in the know, HIII is known as "the one without Michael Myers". The original idea was to do a series of stand-alone horror films, all set at Halloween, that wouldn't connect to each other in any way other than being about the holiday. The only problem is, it wasn't remotely marketed that way. After two films featuring the character of Myers, fans expected more of the same. What they got was something completely different. While the film tanked upon its initial release, over the years many horror fans have come to love it as its own unique film. I personally really enjoy this entry, and think of it as a fun, spooky film about my favorite holiday, completely outside of the Michael Myers mythos. Plus, it has Tom Atkins. Tom Atkins rules!
Central to the plot of Season of the Witch, is the three "Silver Shamrock" masks. They are part of a nefarious plot by Conal Cochran, the owner of the Silver Shamrock novelty company. The masks were originally designed by Don Post, and the studio named for him produced a set of masks to tie in with the release of the film. Since the film wasn't a success, it wasn't until years later that these masks started to be in demand on the secondary market. Fans had asked for a re-release for years, and this past year they (sorta) got their wish. Don Post had sold his company several years ago to Paper Magic, and they produced a set of rather substandard re-issues that royally pissed off a whole bunch of collectors.
Well, Paper Magic has now sold off their costume division, along with their Don Post imprint, so now the rights for their licenses may be up for grabs! Trick Or Treat Studios has proven themselves to be a major player in the mask business, producing some of the best masks on the market right now. They have a wide variety of original and licensed properties, and they've already proven themselves to the fans of the Halloween franchise. If this rumor proves true, then they will find themselves in a position to fill a void that many feel has been there since Post sold his studio to Paper Magic. They've shown that they can produce incredible quality masks like Post used to, and now they may have the properties to match!
I, for one, truly hope this proves to be true. These masks could not be in better hands than those of the ToTS crew. Even if you aren't a fan of the film, you have to admit that these are some wonderful designs. They'd fit in nicely in almost any Halloween display.
One word of advice: if these get released to stores...don't watch the big giveaway at 9 during the Horrorthon! The Silver Shamrock jingle will spell your DOOM!
Here's a link to the original story: http://www.ohmb.net/showthread.php?p=1231655&posted=1#post1231655

Friday, September 28, 2012

The October Boy

I don't do a whole lot of book reviews...or any reviews for that matter, and that's a bit odd. I mean, I don't so much read as I DEVOUR books, and I'm pretty durned opinionated, so what gives? I've reviewed stuff in the past, usually for the now-defunct Borders website, but not so much anymore. Well, perhaps I should change that, eh? Well, seeing as the Halloween season is upon us, it seems a good time to review a tale that ties directly to my favorite holiday. I bought Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest based soley on a review from a friend. It seemed like my cuppa hemlock, so I snagged it dirt cheap off of Amazon. Now, being completely honest here, it seemed like a safe bet...you can't judge a book by the cover, but even if I didn't dig the story itself, I'd at least have that cool Jon Foster artwork to gaze at on said cover! Fortunately, I needn't have worried. Dark Harvest is a truly fantastic yarn for All Hallow's Eve.
Jon Foster's full artwork for the paperback! The problem with doing a review like this is that I don't want to delve too deep into spoiler territory, as half the enjoyment of the book is seeing the whole plot unfold, and the twists it takes along the way. The basic plot is that a small, sleepy mid-western town has a legend called The October Boy, and his presence ties into some dark secrets that the town itself harbors. Partridge's prose is absolutely stunning, painting broad pictures that really come alive, all the while using an incredibly converstational style that makes you feel like you're along for the ride with all of these characters. The events of a cold, sinister Halloween in 1963 are played out for the reader as if they were a part of the story...and in a way, they are!
This is a novel where mystery is a huge component throughout, and this may be where some readers get a bit disgruntled. Not all of the enigmas presented here are explained, and many questions will linger with the reader after the final sentence is read. Now, personally, I loved this aspect of the story.Partridge gives just enough clues for the reader to piece together in their imagination what they think this is all about, but doesn't spoon-feed them the answer. Some prominent secrets are revealed, but others are left deliberately obscured in the darkness that blankets this small community. The October Boy himself is one HELL of a great creation, and I cannot help but love the very idea of this creature. He is a true classic, tragic monster in every sense. In fact, I discovered that there is quite a bit of fan art of this great creation:
by Simon Breeze
by Mr. Dinks I really don't want to say much more about this book, because you really should go into it without a whole lot of preconceptions. It's just a fantastic, spooky story. Not so much outright horror, as a great, atmospheric tale to get you in the mood for the Witching Season.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Horrors of Childhood: The Photography of Joshua Hoffine

Fear is one of the most primal of all emotions. A case can certainly be made that it is the first emotion we feel upon leaving the comfort of the womb. I know as a child, I felt fear on a regular basis. I think this is true of most children, and it's largely due to the fact that kids have such vivid imaginations. I've often argued that a large part of the appeal of Halloween is it is a way of coping with, and ultimately overcoming, the crippling power of fear. By taking on a frightening guise, we become what we fear...and thus take away its ability to scare us.
My own childhood was filled with all sorts of terrors. The monsters in my favorite movies had nothing on those things that I just KNEW were lurking outside my window. As I lay awake at night, hiding under the covers (because, somehow, if your head wasn't exposed the monsters couldn't get you), my mind raced with all sorts of horrifying scenarios. A coat in the corner became a wicked witch, just waiting for me to get up so she could catch and carry me away. Horrid demons lurked in the hallway, ready to drag me to the netherworld for not telling my parents about that bad grade I got in math last week. A trip to the bathroom could mean that I would meet my doom at the hands of some hideous ghoul, hungry beast or some other fiend that adults claimed wasn't real. Oh, but I KNEW better!
As childhood faded into puberty, new horrors awaited. The monsters became replaced by the madmen that I was hearing about on the news. While the all-too real face of evil was now fueling my imagination, the scenarios were only slightly more plausible than my more childish musings. Many of these nightmares were akin to the urban legends we all heard as kids, from the "Hook Man" to the "Man in the Back Seat", and I must think that a great many of those probably sprung from the minds of adolescents.
Photographer Joshua Hoffine has made fear his primary subject, and many of his portraits are focused on the horrors we all imagined as children. Using his daughters as his models, he creates truly disturbing portraits of childhood fear. I think most people will find that these pics strike a rather primal chord. I know that I personally found more than one of these rather disturbing, simply because I had imagined such similar scenarios when I was little.
For those of you who may want to see more of Mr. Hoffine's freaky images, you can check his website: http://www.joshuahoffine.com/ . He has other topics that he explores aside from childhood terror, but they are all equally horrific in nature.
If you're interested in all the minutia that goes into the creation of these pics, you can hop on over to his blog, where he shows you all the behind-the-screams details you're craving: http://joshuahoffine.wordpress.com/
Sweet dreams!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Laura Gibson - La Grande

Here's a nice, spooky video for all you Halloweenheads. This one comes from Oregon indie artist Laura Gibson. The video was filmed at the Hot Lake Hotel, a location purported to be a hotbed of paranormal happenings. Built in 1812, the building  has seen quite a bit of tragedy before becoming a hotel, including (literal) trainwrecks, fires and a stint as a sanatorium. Gibson and director Alicia Rose incorporate much of this haunted history into the video's narrative.

For more on the video, check out the link:


Monday, March 26, 2012

Islands - "Hallways"

I apologize for being MIA lately. Life never seems to slow down.

I recently discovered this video from a friend who works for a local newspaper. I'm not even slightly overstating when I say that I find this to be the best video I've seen in years! I know all my fellow Halloweenheads will dig it! I admit, I'd never even heard of this band before, but I think the tune is quite catchy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Houston Gets Some Hed, Part 6: Suddenly, I'm This Punk-Rock Star Of Stage & Screen

It was the night before our "press preview" night, when we would unveil the show to Houston's media. Jef had, wisely, given us the night off. For two weeks straight, we had rehearsed non-stop on the stage upstairs at Fitzgerald's. Our pleas to be allowed to practice on the actual stage we were assigned to had fallen on deaf ears. We just couldn't get the staff to understand that we weren't just like any other band. Concepts like blocking were foreign to them, as they'd never dealt with a play before. I cannot say that they weren't supportive, as they provided us with our own storage closet, and rigged us a "backstage" area to change in. They just didn't grasp the needs that a production like this required. As I lie in bed, on the eve of us playing to a live audience, a sense of nervous apprehension crept in.
Our press night was on a Thursday, just prior to our official opening night. I left work, hurried to Towhee's to get my makeup done, and then rushed to the venue. This would become my regular Friday night ritual, with work and Houston traffic causing the whole affair to be frantic. Towhee, I found to be a quite pleasant person. She was a college student, and quite good with the makeup. I enjoyed listening to her tales of college life and clubbing while she painted my face in glittery swaths of color that would make Ziggy Stardust jealous. Driving to the venue was always amusing, as I got very interesting looks from folks. Most men would quickly look away when I made eye contact, young women would smile and wave, and old ladies would stare in disgust. Obviously gay men would cheer and blow kisses. The guys at the convenience store across from Fitz just asked me if I was playing with a band, acting like they'd pretty much seen it all. Back stage, the mood was one of pure angst. We all felt we needed about a week more to rehearse, but we were simply out of time. The press awaited us! I entered the room to the sound of Eric's guitar shredding out a Hendrix-esque "Star Spangled Banner", with me draped in the American flag. In the film and original stage production, Hedwig opens the cape to reveal the words "Yankee go home...With Me!" We changed this to be more fitting of our locale, with the interior now reading "Ride ME, Cowboy". This got a chuckle from the audience... and then the clasp for the cape promptly got snagged in my wig. Lynda had to rush over and unhook the cape, which was now hanging off my wig as I frantically held it onto my head. Things only got worse from there. Our blocking was way off, the band was out of sync, and we were plagued by sound problems. The unfamiliarity with the stage really took its toll, as we were in a much smaller space than before. We had to adjust all of our blocking to fit the stage, which wasn't easy to do while trying to retain composure in front of a live audience. The band couldn't hear each-other, thanks to the fact that our audio mix was completely screwed up. This led to people playing out of sync with one another, basically making us sound like we didn't know what the hell we were doing. Lighting cues were missed, and our video didn't come on when prompted. The sad thing was, we had put in so much hard work over so many months, and here we were coming across as rank amateurs in front of Houston's journalists. Amazingly, we got very little in the way of negative press coverage. In fact, the gay publications were actually quite complimentary. Opening night went far smoother, with many of the technical difficulties being ironed out. Lynda and I had adjusted our blocking accordingly, and the sound guy seemed to work out the kinks in that department. Jef took over the lighting, which greatly improved this aspect of the show. The band, fueled by a desire to make up for the previous night (even though they were hardly to blame), came on with a vengeance. If only the press had seen us this night instead!
One curious thing I noticed about myself is that, as I entered makeup and costume, I got more and more Hedwig-like as curtain got closer. It was almost as if I gradually sank into the character, with her taking me over by show-time. More than one person noted that I became a real bitch in the thirty minutes or so before heading on stage. One night, I ripped Tiny a new one for moving my duct-tape without informing me. The previous night I had almost missed an entrance thanks to one of my props being in the wrong place, so I was overly sensitive about this issue. I was later told that the whole time I was tearing into Tiny, I'd been doing so with my "Hedwig voice". I was berating him in character! We had an amazing team working with us on this show. Tiny's girlfriend (now wife), Mary-Ellen, was backstage to lend a helping hand on most nights. Alongside her was a friend of Lynda & Jef's, who went by the name of Jeff (the second "f" was the distinction). Both would help with costuming, with Mary-Ellen aiding the wigs, and Jeff doing make-up touch-ups. Without the two of them, I honestly don't think the show would have gone as well as it did.
Mid-way through our run, we headed to the River Oaks Theater, for a special cross-promotion set up by Rob. He had booked the film version, and asked us to come in and do a special "pre-show" performance to plug our play. For Lynda, Jef, Tiny and me, it was a strange sense of deja-vu, as the River Oaks is one of the theaters we had performed in the Rocky Horror shadow cast, all those years ago. Here we were, performing at a midnight showing, with me dressed in drag! Thing was, this promo performance was just a few hours after our regular show that night, so Jeff had to completely re-apply all my make-up. It was his first time to do the full make-up, but he did a wonderful job. We performed three songs, "Sugar Daddy", "Origin of Love" and "Angry Inch", from a stage set up in front of a movie screen. The audience seemed to enjoy this rather bizarre form of "pre-show" entertainment. It seemed a success for both the River Oaks and us, as we definitely saw some of the same faces at later performances. Later that night, a few of us went out in costume to various gay clubs to promote the show. The reaction at these venues was incredible, as I was treated like some sort of rock star when I entered!
The show got better with each performance, as the band got tighter and Lynda & I grew more and more into our roles. We noticed that we had very few folks at our Friday and Sunday performances, and packed houses on Saturdays. The 7:00 show-time only seemed to work on Saturdays, as folks were still trying to get home from work on Fridays, and were too dog-tired on Sundays. Still, we put everything we had into each night's production, and we received overwhelming praise from our audience. One Sunday night, I had lost my voice, and Jef had to step into his role as understudy. He did a fantastic job covering for me, and I just want his performance noted here. It was the only time he was able to play the role, but it would later open other doors for him.
Just prior to our closing weekend, tragedy struck when Lynda & Jef's friend, Kat, lost her battle with cancer. Lynda took this especially hard, as Kat was like a sister to her. Lynda wanted to go to her funeral, but was loyal to the show, thus putting her in a rather bad position. I understood her plight completely, so I made a quick phone call to Elaine, and she ditched work that Saturday to cover for Lynda. Elaine arrived Saturday morning, and drilled with me all day on our blocking. By the time she took the stage that night, she performed as if she'd been in the show from the get-go. She stunned everyone with her amazing take on Yitzak.
Our closing night was the Sunday before Memorial Day. We played to our biggest audience yet, with several of our closest friends amongst the crowd. We dedicated this performance to Kat, and Lynda's grief just seemed to fuel her performance. The band never sounded better, with all these weeks finely honing them into one hell of a great rock group. In the front row was Kat's boyfriend, and he seemed to be emotionally swept up in the show. During "Midnight Radio" I made eye contact with him, and the emotion in his face just touched me on such a deep level. Here was someone who had lost the person he was closest to, and here I was singing about loss and new beginnings. I can honestly say that his being there just lit a flame in me that night, and I'll never forget it.
Every night of the show was incredibly emotional, especially throughout "Midnight Radio". In many ways, it was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. I had been through a divorce, as well as an up and down relationship with another girl since moving back to Houston, and every night I felt those emotions rise to the top as I took the stage. My emotions were purged through Hedwig, and by the end of the run I felt relieved of many of the pains in my heart. It was a transformative, cathartic experience that words just don't do justice to.
Everyone involved in the show became very dear to my heart. Now, years later, I look back on this production as the best I was ever involved in. The fact that this rag-tag group managed to pull it off is actually quite amazing, and a testament to the power of human willpower. Recently, I've been discussing a possible revival with most of the principal folks. Some folks may not be able to be involved but their spirits will still be a part of this show, even if they aren't physically present. I have no idea when we'll get the show back up and running, but it WILL happen sometime in the future.
The cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, clockwise from left: Eric Allen as Krystoff, Tiny Flowers as Shlatko, Dave Gill as Hedwig, Lynda Self as Yitzak, Louis Weyrich as Skszp, Jef Withonef as Tommy Gnosis, Jenny as Jacek
Much love to EVERYONE who helped make this show happen!
Photos in this series were taken by Jordan Chan and Ishmael Lerma.