Monthly Archives: September 2009

Throw back the coffin lid – and RISE!

(or, “Straight out of Massachusetts”)

Holy smokes, has it been a year since I last wrote something? Pretty much. Mad props to Weird Jon for keeping this undead account alive and going, even though I foolhardily put a DEAD sign on it. Blah.

How I spent Halloween 2008: handing out candy.

How I spend the day after Halloween 2008: I was in Salem, Massachusetts.

Sweet bleeding pumpkins. I haven’t had the fortune of travelings this world but damned if Salem isn’t one of the weirdest, weird-not-in-a-good-way places around. I went up to Salem to see a Crimson Ghosts show, right before a showing of ‘DIE! You Zombie Bastards!’

Being that this was a strange pilgrimage to the land of the Pilgrims, I went for the whole day, figuring I’d take in the sights. There was a planned Zombie Walk to the theater, one that would only attract three shambling corpses (the organizers of the even, a pair in a wife/groom combo that was nicely done, and this individual guy who’s use of the fake blood was impressive. At least, I thought it was fake.) The show was awesome. It was one of the best performances by the Crimson Ghosts I’ve seen. They worked their new ‘Earth E.P.’ into the set, along with references to Link Wray and Dick Dale.

But. Man, fuck Salem if you don’t have any money because that place is Disney Rides the Tall Ship to New England to an outsider like me. Pirate Museums. Witchcraft Museum. Haunted Houses everywhere. And you can’t walk twenty feet without smacking your face on a Psychic Booth, Tarot Shop or some itchy Palm Reading, cosmik debris spouter in a Sears black velvet poncho.

Of course, it makes sense that such a tourist town should amp up the spooky qualities and get every cent possible out of Halloween, its most profitable holiday. And every place was doing it – a bookstore was running a ‘Dark Shadows’ marathon with a well proclaimed ‘rumor’ that one of the Cast members would show up. It was only a rumor and expressed with a shrug from the clerk but yet he took time to say ‘Well, maybe one of them will appear.’

Salem has this conundrum of rocking the spooky at level 13 while trying to maintain a sense of reverence for the real life government sanctioned murders of those accused of witchcraft. This is a town that has walking tours with hosts in period costume but also a statue of Barbara Eden as ‘Samantha’ from TV’s ‘Bewitched.’ It was a crazy experience to see all these folks, still celebrating Halloween, walk around in costume while the cops had patches on their motorcycle jackets featuring a broom-riding witch against a full moon. If you go down to Orlando to catch a cop wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, waving his full authority at you with the cartoonish stamp of the Board of Tourism in your face, how would you react? For me, I just got a headache.

This year should be even more crazy as Halloween falls on a Saturday. Tourists will flood the place and things should get crazy, I imagine. I’m sitting it out unless someone offers a ride. We can document the thing but damned if I’m going to be responsible for driving myself home after experiencing that place when it’s all dressed to the nines.

The Ghoulies are good enough

[This is where I’d put a publicity picture of W.A.S.P’s Blackie Lawless posing with one of the Ghoulies if I had the time to dig it up.]

I realized something very interesting about the Ghoulies series while watching the tail end of Ghoulies II on cable: It’s the only horror franchise I can think of where the number of monsters actually decreases with each sequel!

There are multiple versions of certain Ghoulies in the first movie,which gets cut down to just the “main Ghoulies” in the sequel. Well, sort of. All I can say without spoiling anything is to go watch the movie to see what I mean. By the time Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College came around, the cast had been reduced to three Ghoulies. Perhaps this is the reason why said three were larger in that film than they were in the earlier ones. Amazingly, Ghoulies IV didn’t have a single Ghoulie in it! Sure, the film wants you to believe that two “little people” in makeup count as Ghoulies, but it’s wrong. A Ghoulie just isn’t a Ghoulie unless it’s accomplished with puppetry or sto-motion animation. Some might even argue that Ghoulies IV doesn’t count as a real movie since it’s just a handful of new scenes wrapped around stock footage from the first movie and 976-EVIL II. It’s a damn shame, as even murderous hellbeasts deserve better than that.

Finally, it’s fall!

Although leaves were falling and the air was crisp much earlier in September, it wasn’t until September 22nd that autumn had officially arrived. Perhaps that’s why it took most of the stores I’ve visited this month waited until about now to put out their Halloween merchandise. It’s funny how they feel it’s okay to display the Halloween candy (complete with Halloween-themed packaging) out in August, but everything else is a no-no. I say if you’re going to put out stuff early, you might as well go full tilt. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the dollar stores putting out their stuff before everyone else.

Similarly, Music Choice’s “Sounds of the Seasons” channel finally started playing music related to a holiday. Granted, they’re focusing on Oktoberfest, but at least they’re actually playing something fall-related. Something tells me they won’t wait as long to play Christmas music in November as they will to play Halloween music in October.

Remember Record Store Day? Well, it turns out that it has a movie-themed sequel: Record Store Day Filmfest. The filmfest runs from Octoiber 21st through October 27th, so head on down to your local record store for all kinds of cool contests and DVD deals. While I don’t know if this is that case for a participating stores, but Newbury Comics is having 20% off used DVD sale in addition to putting discounts on select “new” titles. To see which stores are taking part, check out the official website.

Why didn’t I write about this sooner? I’m afraid some issues that’ve arisen over the past two weeks have been keeping me away from the blog at a regular basis. Since I don’t know when I’ll have everything straightened out, I thought I’d post the final GdL post for September a bit early than I’d originally planned. Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything resolved in time for the Halloween countdown. See you then!

Viva Naschy!

According to my calendar, September is Hispanic Heritage Month and I feel there’s no better way to celebrate this occasion than to profile Spain’s Sultan of Scare, Paul Naschy. Mr. Naschy is often referred to as the Spanish Lon Chaney, presumably since both Lon Chaney Jr. and he portrayed men tormented by their lycanthropic transformations (Naschy played Waldemar Daninsky and Chaney played Larry Talbot). Another potential source of this comparison is that Naschy, like Lon Chaney Sr., has portrayed numerous horror characters throughout his body of work.

Despite being born as Jacinto Molina in 1934, Naschy adopted his stage name after transitioning from the world of bodybuilding to the world of acting. Although he appeared in several non-horror films prior to making La Marca del Hombre Lobo (which translates as “Mark of the Wolf Man”) in 1968, the film is considered by many to have been when he had truly “arrived” in the industry. The film was also the first of Naschy’s horror films to be shown in America, where it was retitled as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. The reason for this was due to the American distributor having promised a film called Blood of Frankenstein to theaters and not being able to produce it due to financial difficulties. In a desperate attempt to keep their promise, an animated prologue was added to the film. This sequence quickly explained how the Frankenstein clan eventually turned into a family of werwolves known as “Wolfstein.” A little more on the matter can be found in an interview with Sam Sherman in Brian Albright’s Wild Beyond Belief!

Speaking of editing, some modern horror fans might forget that Spain was still under the dictatorship of Franciso Franco during the time in which several of Naschy’s horror films were created. As a result of this, many horror films were subject to hastily-made edits and use of alternate takes for the Spanish release in order to comply with censorship laws. Although the uncut nudity and violence were offered in the “international” prints of the films offered to foreign distributors, their removal from the original negatives (and the differing quality of the footage from other prints) has made of mess of modern efforts to release the definitive versions of those films onto DVD. In fact, it is not unheard of for hardcore Naschy devotees to import old VHS tapes (and DVDs) from other countries in order to see every last frame of film missing from their domestic versions. I cannot help but wonder if that censorship is the reason why the portrait of Naschy villain Alaric de Marnac in 1982’s Latidos de Panicos(aka Panic Beats) bears an uncanny resemblence to a painting of Franco’s ancestor, Pedro Fernández de Castro, VII Count of Lemos. You can see a screenshot of the Marnac picture here (some images there are NSFW).

I am happy to report that Paul Naschy is still doing horror films today. In fact, he was given the Spanish Gold Medal in Fine Arts in 2001 and his IMDB profile indicates that there are two new Naschy films on the way. To learn more about Señor Naschy, please visit his Wikipedia entry and the Mark of Naschy fansite.

Happy Birthday to us!

It’s hard to believe that it’s actually been a year since Gravedigger’s Local 16 first started. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it really does seem like it was only yesterday when Strange Jason set up the layout and made the first post on this blog. In celebration of this event, I thought I’d share the other names that were considered for this blog before we settled on the name we all know and love:

Frightmare Manor
The Evergraves
The Screamatorium
Deadwood Heights
Nightmare Fuel
The Night Shift
Dead Martha’s Vineyard
Gravedigger’s Local 113

The “Screamatorium” idea was the first of the names to be dropped. Although it sounded cool, we thought it best to do something original rather than just use a reference from The Simpsons. As you can see, we initially tried going for haunted attraction-style names and gradually shifted toward less location-specific names. Actually, now that I think about it, the never-used “Night Shift” name was a predecessor of sorts for GdL due to both names suggesting strange goings-on at night. In the end, the “Gravedigger’s Local” name won out, but we ran into a bit of a snag when Strange Jason discovered there was a group using a similar name. I randomly picked a new number in order to avoid any confusion and, well, you know the rest.