Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Keith Voigt Jr.

Today on the countdown, we have independent horror director Keith Voigt Jr.  I met Keith at Days of the Dead Atlanta last year and had a killer time talking to him throughout the weekend.  I snagged a copy of his dvd featuring the short films Arme and Lust from Toetag's table and was duly impressed.  It's always cool when dudes that make good movies are good dudes as well.  So Keith, what does Halloween mean to you?

"When I was a kid Halloween was just a fun time to dress up and get candy. But when I snuck "Friday the 13th" on VHS around 5 or 6 years old and watched it for the first time it changed things forever. That's when I got introduced to horror films, good ole Jason Voorhees. The next year I watched "Halloween" on Halloween and loved it too. So then like so many people it sort of became a tradition for me to watch "Halloween" on Halloween. In my High School years Halloween was a time to party! I threw these parties all the time and we called them WINKERLANd (hence the production company name) and any time we threw one for Halloween we called it HalloWINKERLANd. People dressed up and got wasted and we had a blast. Some of the best memories of my life. Now Halloween to me is a time when I feel normal around the rest of the world haha. Things that us Horror fans do regularly everyone else does for a little bit. It really is a magical time of the year. The crisp leaves are beneath our feet, the skies are beautiful and the weather is just right. Halloween has a great atmosphere and that's why I love it. Horror flicks are for sale in Walmart and being shown on TV. So like I said it means a lot of things to me. But what's really important is what does it mean to YOU?"

8 more days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  8 more days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Marcus Koch

Independent filmmaker's week rolls on with Marcus Koch.  I first became aware of his work when Chemical Burn sent me a screener of Fell (which I highly recommend), and in doing a little research for my review discovered "Hey, this was directed by the same guy that did 100 Tears!"  His contributions to indie horror don't stop at his directorial efforts, though.  Not by a long shot.  His great special effects work can be seen in a shit ton (yes, exactly one metric shit ton) of the best underground releases from the past decade and a half.  Most recently his skills helped bring the guts and gore to the first installment of the American Guinea Pig series, which will be premiering at the Housecore Festival in New Orleans.  So, Marcus, what does Halloween mean to you?

"Growing up, my parents were always all about watching horror movies, decorating for halloween, and taking my sister and I trick or treating; so Halloween has been ingrained into me all my life.
In Florida, we don't really have a change of seasons.  Its hot and muggy until it's cold for about a month in January, so we don't get to see the leaves change.  No Autumn colors there. But come closer to the end of October, you could feel a change in in the air.  It was less humid, and not sure what flower bloomed that time of year, but the air smelled sweet.  I remember seeing yard decorations going up; lots of ghosts made from pieces of sheets with eyes painted on them hanging in trees and pumpkins and  homemade tombstones filling people's yards.  Every year there was a haunted house at the mall, and I loved checking it out.  One year they had an entire Freddy Krueger House.  NOES 3 had just come out, and it was a lot of fun.  I wanted to do my own haunted houses.  When I was in 5th grade, I started making my front yard into a cemetery and making an enclosed little walk through to the front door with ratty torn sheets.  As I got into middle school, I kept making it bigger and bigger, so much that I built a 12 foot wall extension to the side of the house.  I built my first multiple walled maze to the front door, made all the gory props to go inside, and did bloody make up on my friends helping me run it.  I did a huge skull painting on the front wall.  It was so much that the city code enforcement tried to make us take it down.  (jerks)   
When I was 14, I happened to be in the right place at the right time, I was at the mall, and the store front that usually housed the haunts was boarded up.  It was Oct 3rd, and there was no sign of anything happening at all, but as I was walking by the next giant empty storefront  I saw two people inside taking measurements.  I stood there listening to them, and heard them say "haunted house".... so i went up and started talking to them. Turn out the local Girls Club was going to be taking over the Mall Haunt.  I told them what I do, what kinds of props I make, told them I've done my own mazes at my house, and somehow convinced them to let me make the floor plan and do the decorations and props.  The first year went over really well, and I wound up staying with them for the next 7 years.  Each year it grew bigger and bigger.  
Then about 10 years ago, when I was 27, I managed to get hooked up with a company that builds haunted attractions for Busch Gardens Tampa and some serious other haunts with budgets.  I started working out of town at other theme parks across the country like Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens in Virginia and Sea World San San Antonio.  We even build 3 haunts in Canada and over see all the area themeing,  This is what I do when I'm not making movies. 
Halloween always has and always will be a big part of my life.  When I'm not building them, I love traveling to other theme parks and privately own haunted attractions and going through their mazes"
9 more days'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  9 more days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Tim Ritter

It's independent filmmaker's week here on the What Halloween Means To Me countdown, and I can't think of a more fitting person to kick it off than Tim Ritter.  Not only is he the living, breathing embodiment of underground filmmaking, but his work was really my introduction to indie horror cinema.  Truth or Dare was the first movie I saw that, in my mind, took movies out of the mythical domain of Hollywood and into the realm of something a normal person like me could achieve.  Since then, he has proudly flown the indie horror flag and served as an inspiration to a current crop of filmmakers.  Go check him out HERE.  So, Tim, what does Halloween mean to you?

"It's that time of year again, when darkness overwhelms the light and there's a slight coolness in the air and the nights become so bright with mischievous possibilities under the glowing crimson moon. My mind becomes razor sharp and a chill runs up my spine...after all, it's nearing Samhain or All Hallow's Eve, best known to those who love it as....Halloween! Definitely my favorite holiday...[Happy, happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock!] Although, I must admit, I do enjoy the gluttony business of Thanksgiving as well....but that's another story.

At this time of year, I think of golden leaves spiraling through the afternoon air, shafts of dim sunlight struggling to penetrate through them, the sky a cool milky gray, resembling light chocolate in the atmosphere. There's a continuous gentle, comfortable breeze blowing through those trees, causing the leaves to almost speak as they rustle.[Or is that a madman...hiding in the bush? Crunching the leaves with his freshly polished black boots...] The humidity is lower and it's generally much more tolerable outdoors for those of us who appreciate the season...Sometimes I think of female babysitters, ambling down the sidewalks, planning rendezvous with boyfriends that somehow won't happen...

I love the stores during the autumn months...the Halloween costumes, masks, and candy that make their appointed cameos. It's always a trip to peruse the aisles of crazy gore gadgets [machetes with liquid blood sloshing around in tubes around the edges!] and props that make their way onto shelves each year. The life-size animatronic zombies and witches are always cool to ogle, but at $300.00 plus per character....who can afford those?!?! I always wait for the big markdowns, generally the day after Halloween, to pick up goodies or props for my future no-budget movies, since retailers are anxious to get rid of everything and generally mark it all down 50-75%. It's always a thrill to see the Scream and Michael Myers masks staring down at me impassively from the high shelves at mainstream big box stores. What a pleasure to see the endless variations of Jason's hockey mask! ["Mom, I wanna be JASON VORHEES for Halloween!!!!"]  This year I've noticed cammo hockey masks out there!

Growing up, I remember one of my favorite Halloweens quite vividly. I was out trick or treating with my mom supervising and it was such a cool evening. There was a full moon and these puffy gray clouds from nowhere blew over it, darkening the night. It truly felt SPOOKY with all the branches reaching out for you and waving like monstrous shadows in the streetlight....Then this howling wind came screaming around as buckets of rain let loose! I could barely see through my store-bought Halloween mask and costume [I think I was Casper or Batman, can't remember which!] but amazingly, my mom encouraged us to keep on trick or treating! I recall racing up to house after house that had front porch lights on and how brave everyone thought I was for continuing to beg for candy amidst all the bad weather. It was awesome---since most residents thought that not many more trick or treaters would show up in the inclement weather, I got LOADS of extra candy! Chocolate bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, popcorn balls, Sugar Daddy's, Bazooka Joe bubblegum [best chewed a dozen pieces at a time!] was the mother lode of goodies! My plastic pumpkin was so full of treats that I could barely carry it! How about those tasty orange pieces of candy corn? ["We all go a little mad sometimes!"]  And oh, those delicious caramel coated apples with peanuts sprinkled all over them... dazzling treats that are STILL readily available at a supermarket near you! It's ever so difficult to keep away from those or eating them "only in moderation...." Anyway, that was probably one of the most gratifying Halloweens I experienced as a young kid, begging for candy during a Florida tropical storm....

Music is the soundtrack to our lives and around this time of year, you know what the selections have GOT to be. There's just no choice. Terrorific music is great all year long, but most especially in the's simply... the best. There's nothing like some classic John Carpenter and Alan Howarth cues to liven up ANY drive around town, day or night. [And keep in mind, many folks decorate their front lawns with Halloween themed props and sets, just like at Christmas! Good to prowl around in the car and check those out...] Special musical nods are given to the HALLOWEEN 1-5 scores, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Gotta give a special mention to the HELLRAISER, PSYCHO, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and SCREAM scores as well...Of course, I also like to mix some heavier tunes into the groove as well, so consider U.D.O. [The Bogey Man, Wrong Side Of Midnight], Marilyn Manson [about anything!], Rob Zombie [I'm Your Bogeyman, Living Dead Girl], Judas Priest [Night Crawler, Love Bites, Creatures], Rammstein, and any other assortment of deranged metal maniacs out there...We all have our favorites!

This is also a great time for buying horror DVDs! I love to run into those seasonal cardboard shelf endcaps at Walmart with the "limited stock" $4.00 DVDs in them. I've found some great buys on classic movies in those things over the past few years, including THE EXORCIST, THE THING, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and various HALLOWEEN movies. How many times will THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT be released with a new cover? Why do I keep buying it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN?!?! [Uh, because it's one of my all-time favorite backyard slasher movies, that's why!!!] Keep an eye out for cool horror multi-packs, always a steal this time of year, and don't forget other stores like Target and Amazon that have sweet deals on all kinds of horror flicks. Even the deluxe Blu Rays make an appearance for under $5 bucks if you look hard enough. It's no trick, you never know what treat you'll discover when digging through those overflowing bargain bins...It's a great time to roll the dice and make new discoveries as well! Nothing like making new memories while relieving the old...

Amidst the fall season, I always watch John Carpenter's original HALLOWEEN at least a couple of times. It's a timeless classic, and reminds me of the nostalgic era when I first discovered the movie in its October 1981 broadcast premiere. The heavy breathing of Michael Myers just TOTALLY freaked everyone out when the movie first penetrated the cable and TV mainstream, and I'll never forget riding the bus to school and hearing all the frantic stories from other kids about how scared they and their parents were after viewing HALLOWEEN for the first time in their dark living rooms. No telling how much sleep was lost that night due to the "fear of the boogeyman" penetrating their minds...[Lock your doors, close your windows, and turn out the lights!] I was apprehensive myself but loving every minute of it. What a rush horror movies can be, like the most exciting of carnival rides! Carpenter's HALLOWEEN captures the holiday so perfectly- just the tone, colors, and prank atmosphere that flawlessly morph into unbridled terror. And its simple yet hauntingly perfect "eerie piano" music score that everyone now knows so well...HALLOWEEN is THE great film to re-watch every season, especially when giving out candy to the trick or treaters. ["Was that the bogey man?" "As a matter of was..."] Some years I'll give out candy wearing the Michael Myers mask and jumpsuit, loving all the reactions I get from the kids. One year I thought I was going to scare this little guy to no end when he reached up and pointed at me saying, "Captain Kirk!"  Hilarious!. Even as a diehard HALLOWEEN fan growing up, it took me a few moons to come to the realization that the original Halloween mask was just a white painted alteration of William Shatner's STAR TREK likeness! News like this traveled slow back in them early 80's, as there was no Internet, only magazines, rumors, and innuendos...

Which brings me to another memorable part of the holiday---seeing so many people, big and small, young and old, dressing up in cool costumes to beg for candy or party down. It's always exciting seeing how "all out" some individuals go in the costume and makeup department. On the big day itself, I always enjoy getting a big pumpkin and carving out a cool face on it, then setting it outside with candles burning inside. Again, just sends a chill up your spine, like you're becoming one with the holiday....Let's not forget the candy, we all know we secretly buy the stuff we love most because if the trick or treaters are light, guess who will be gorging down the leftovers? Before every Halloween ends at midnight, I'm usually pretty queasy with a sugar rush of epic proportions from overindulging in leftover goodies while binge watching horror films...

I don't want to fail to mention reading, either, because there's nothing cooler than finding a secluded area outside in the crisp, fall air with just the right amount of moonlight seeping in and reading FANGORIA magazine or a classic Richard Laymon novel [such as NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER or BEAST]. You just can't beat that spine-tingling feeling, and I always look forward to a new Stephen King book around this time of year as well. He's always got something rolling out in early autumn...FIRST BLOOD, the novel by David Morrell, is another book I love to re-read in October, since the story is set in October, and if you don't think of a young 1970's Rambo as a "slashing maniac", well,'ve never read the original novel and source material for the classic films! Check it out and you might be stunned senseless!

There's many other things you can do in October during the Halloween season if you get the chance: there's haunted houses and trails you can visit, all of which provide ample fun and scares [especially if you're longing for that crazy maniac wielding a chainsaw to actually REALLY chase you down narrow corridors...]  Horror conventions and theme parks are splendidly abundant and enjoyable this time of year and let's not forget the movie houses---nothing like seeing a new horror release on this big screen around this time [HALLOWEEN, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and SAW franchise memories anyone?] or even a classic re-release like, er...say Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, which seems to be making theatrical rounds every October now. If you're financially strapped or more of a homebody, then re-watch some of the classic films of the season. Try one a day for the month of October! Here's a small list of some of the titles I find exceptionally entertaining this time of year: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 [great suspense!], EYES OF A STRANGER [creepy!], ROSEMARY'S BABY [spooky!], THE FOG [Carpenter's classic- makes little sense but what atmosphere!], LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT [Craven's classic backwoods madness filmed in October and November], HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER [sick and powerful], THE STEPFATHER [1987 movie-brilliant!], THE EXORCIST [chilling!], BLOOD FEAST [silly but fun gore], VIDEODROME [surreal], SCANNERS [mind blowing!!!], NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD [I know, it's so dated, but I still love it!], HANNIBAL [wickedly fiendish!] and PSYCHO [the granddaddy of sleazy slasher movies]...Newer titles I've enjoyed include DEAR MR. GACY, SINISTER, and THE CONJURING. TV favorites include BATES MOTEL and the super dark HANNIBAL...

All right! There we have it, so many things you can do to enjoy the season! One other thing I failed to mention was MAKING A HORROR VIDEO or MOVIE of some sort this time of year. It's always a splendid time of year to be out there filming something under the autumn skies and contributing something, no matter how small, to the horror genre we love so much. I have many fond memories of fall shoots that were the grandest of times in my mind. There's nothing like stomping through the woods in the cool weather, making a camcorder classick! If you're a moviemaker, of course this is the best time of year to premiere your epic in an indie theater, on DVD, or streaming on the Net---or all three, if you can! The excitement from these kind of releases is always contagious, and I have been lucky enough to do this with a few of my movies over the years, including KILLING SPREE and more recently, DEADLY DARES-Truth Or Dare 4.

Going hand in hand with movie watching and premieres are Halloween Parties, which are always in abundance! In an era where large screen TVs and digital projection screens are so prevalent, heading out to such events where everyone comes in costume and watches horror movies on a huge screen in someone's back yard has become all the rage. If you're not careful, though, these parties can get pretty wild and crazy! Was that really me wearing that Michael Myers mask and....ahhhhhhh, never mind!!!!

So get out there, have a blast, cherish the time you have and make some great memories this Halloween season! But as always, use extreme caution...."

10 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  10 days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Rich Dalzotto

We're wrapping up FDTC Network week on the countdown with Rich Dalzotto.  In addition to hosting Horror Realm Radio Fridays on the network, Rich is the promoter of the Horror Realm Con in Pittsburgh. He's also heavily involved in the preservation of the historic Hollywood Theater, and you gotta love anyone who is dedicated to preserving the American movie-going tradition.  So, Rich, what does Halloween mean to you?

What does Halloween mean to me?  This is a great question considering I spend 364 days a year thinking about the Halloween holiday.  When I started to think about this I realized that it's been awhile since I reflected on why this is such an important part of my life.  It's not a simple answer such as "I like to be scared."  Of course I like being scared.  I don't know many fans of Halloween that don't.  For me the scares are just a part of something much bigger.  It's a time of memories of when everything seemed perfect. 
Growing up in Pittsburgh, I have been fortunate to experience the change of the seasons.   Despite the Fall being the decline of living things as we near Winter, I never feel more alive when taking a walk in late September or early October.  That's when you feel that first chill in the air brought in by a strong wind that has a specific smell that I can only describe as "Fall."  At 42 years old I still look forward to this experience and use it as a kick off to celebrate Halloween.
Halloween as a child shaped me as an adult. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom taking me to a local store to pick out my Halloween costume.  When I was very young my parents were working hard to build a business they started.  We weren't poor but we also had to be careful with what we spent.  But my mom recognized how much I loved Halloween and she always let me pick out whatever costume I wanted no matter what the cost and made sure I had all of the accessories needed to make it the best costume ever.  As we got closer to Halloween we would go to a local farm to pick out a pumpkin.  Once back  the house my dad would cut open the top.  My job was to scoop out the guts and separate the seeds.  After this was done my mom would begin roasting the seeds as my dad and I would figure out the design for carving our pumpkin.  Once the decision was made he would add the drawing to his papers with all of the designs we had done in years past.  To this day he still brings out these papers each year and adds new designs when one is created.  On another  night in October my Mom and I would get the Halloween decorations out and put them up.  My favorite part was hanging a cardboard skeleton on the front door.  By the time I was in High School it had been fixed with tape so many times it look more like a mummy than a skeleton.  Another highlight would be a Friday night with my dad at the local haunted house run by the Jaycees.  I was so scared sometimes that I would want to run out of there but I always acted tough because I didn't want my dad to think I was a wimp.   Of course as much fun as all of this was the only thing I could think of was Halloween night.  I had a group of friends that I trick or treated with each year and we had a neighborhood that yielded more candy than a human being should have in a lifetime.  Once the sun went down the streets would fill with hundreds of children.  I loved watching everyone else and seeing their costumes.  The chill in the air and the smell of Fall always seemed to make sure it was part of our night, adding to the pleasure.  Our parents let us run free, no supervision.  We lived in an area where fear was unknown and trust was unquestioned.  Something I miss in the same neighborhoods today.  We didn't have a specific time we had to be home.  My friends and I would usually be the last ones on the streets.  It was a mix of our desire for the night to never end and our greed for more candy that caused us to ignore the fatigue of hours of walking the hills of Pittsburgh. 
 Once home I would hand over my candy to my mom for inspection and to save me from being a total pig. While she put the candy away my dad and I would sit down in front of the TV and bond watching horror films.  Funny thing is he doesn't like these films but he knew they made me happy.  This is where my love of horror began.  My most vivid memory of Halloween movie viewing with my dad was the night we watched "Night of the Living Dead" and "Halloween."  My young mind was blown and I couldn't get enough of horror films. 
 To this day I credit my mom and dad for my love of horror.  Despite it not being their thing they provided an environment of happiness that allowed me to discover horror and as I needed to have it in my life year round they provided me the means to see the films, read the magazines and they never judged me, despite my dad having a problem with the poster of "that burned freak" on my wall.  My mom would go to the video store the morning of a new release of the latest must see film and rent it while my friends and I were at school.  She did this because she knew how devastated we would be if we had to wait even a day after it was released to rent the tape.
 Today I get to live a horror lifestyle for the most part.  I am a co-promoter of a horror convention, I helped re-open an old movie theater and get to often feature horror films, I met my girlfriend because of horror and my best friends are people I've met through horror.  All of this is a result of great Halloween experiences and a great family.  So the short answer to "What does Halloween mean to me" is Family. 

 13 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  13 days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Friday, October 17, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Bill Cesavice

I think we can all agree that there is probably no more important individual to the FDTC Network than Bill Cesavice.  He does all of that technical wizardry that I, and no doubt most of the rest of the on air talent, have not a damn clue about.  He shares my love for a great cover tune, as evidenced by his show Your Covers Blown.  He's a hearse driver, he's one of the minds behind the mayhem of Days of the Dead, and now he can add countdown alumni to his list of hats.  Bill, what does Halloween mean to you?
"Such a good question as it can be approached by many angles, Do I go by what the traditional angle is? Or do I go by what I have created it as to my son? Or do I go by what It means to my whole family meaning my wife, my son and myself? I think I will take it all in steps.
First of all, like most in the horror community (yes YOU reading this), it’s really our Christmas. It’s the time of year where all of “decorations “are smiled at vs gawked at. We are in our element during the month of October. Why do you ask? I say it’s because when we are the ones everyone looks to see what’s cool for Halloween, we are held to a higher standard on decorations and for ideas of haunts, ideas for scares and just general morbidness. In other words the things we really do every day of the year except now we are “Jones. “  I also like the looks my hearse gets when people say I am ready for Halloween… no, son, I drive that bitch daily!
Now on to ME in general. This, like I said, is my Christmas.  The stores are filled with cool things I can bring into my home, the air is filled the smell of pumpkin, and we always put out a pumpkin and treats for “the great pumpkin “ with our son Gavin. The great pumpkin returns the favor with leaving him a present next to his pumpkin (last year was a die cast car), and he looks forward to it every year. He gets to pick what he is every year and he enjoys it as much as we do. My wife and I were married on Halloween and the entire reception area was of course decorated with bats, horror, and basically our living room. While myself and the wife have officially split this year before our 8th anniversary, we will continue to take the boy trick or treating as we have the last 8 years. 
I do have one complaint? As many who love the holiday as much as we do are upset about…it is NOT DRESS LIKE A SLUT day.  Really ? What happened to the scares, the tricks, and the coolness? Look I get it; chicks like to look good, and yes you’re dressing up, but cmonnnnn.   Just cause you’re middle age, it  does not mean you have to dress like that slutty schoolgirl….AGAIN !
I am going to keep this short but I will say this…if you love Halloween, embrace the love and keep the spirit alive for future generations as we have for our son. Long like the scare!!!"

 14 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  14 Days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!
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