Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 27: Nathan Hamilton

First of all, I want to thank everyone for helping make “What Halloween Means To Me” a success.  I was really worried there for a minute.  A lot of people flaked on me, both big names and, um, otherwise, but my friends really came through in the clutch, and some celebrities proved to me how those who care about their fans act.  I know it only ended up being a 27-day countdown instead of the intended 31, but I’m damn happy with the way it turned out.  I may even post some “special features/deleted scenes” in the next few days to make it to 31.  To everyone who contributed; you are awesome beyond belief.  I’d like to give a special shout-out to Frank Browning for making that snazzy banner that’s adorned the top of each day’s post.  I’d also like to thank all of you who dropped by to witness the chaos, share the spooky spirit, and follow along with the countdown.  You long time Cellmates and new blood alike pushed this to be Son of Celluloid’s most viewed month ever.  I even reached my year-end goals for both Facebook likes and overall page views BEFORE Halloween!  Honestly, after taking a month and a half off to deal with personal matters, I figured you guys would have forgotten about SOC, but you all proved again that the Cellmates are the best readers a writer could ask for, and that I’m just about the luckiest bastard in the blogosphere to have you.  Everyone involved in this countdown in any way made my Halloween.  Thank you all.  Now, on to the question at hand.
So, what does Halloween means to me?  Honestly, if I said that Halloween is my life, it wouldn’t be very far off.  As a dude obsessed with horror (probably to an unhealthy degree), Halloween is a day to celebrate everything that makes life worth living.  Rarely does a day go by when I don’t watch a horror flick.  Horror t-shirts are pretty much my uniform.  At least 2/3 of the music I listen to is horror related.  I love playing with effects makeup.  My “living spaces” have always been adorned Halloween style year round.  I know it’s cliché (especially after this countdown) to say that “Halloween is when the rest of the world catches up with me for a little while,” but it really is true.  It feels like my own personal holiday, but it’s more than that.  A lot of the things that, over the course of my life, have come to define me are tied into Halloween.  In a very real sense, Halloween made me who I am.  I’ll give you two examples…
Halloween represents my first connections to the world of the macabre that would eventually come to define my identity.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but in my house as a kid there was no horror entertainment allowed; unless you count all of the truly horrific stuff going on in the bible.  Around Halloween, however, there was something spooky in the air.  There were Halloween decorations everywhere.  There were tombstones and cobwebs in the neighbor’s yard.  Linus waited for The Great Pumpkin and Garfield went on Halloween Adventures.  Hell, even the Chicken McNuggets were dressed up and hanging out in Frankenstein’s laboratory in my favorite commercial of all time.  I was never allowed to dress up as something horrific until later (I ended up being Snoopy, a clown, a hobo, a pirate, a Viking, etc), but I was allowed to go trick or treating.  I didn’t quite understand what was up with Halloween at first, but I was drawn to it.  This time of year and the trappings of the holiday fascinated me, and it was through this avenue of exposure that the world of horror opened up to me.  Horror eventually became the single most driving force in my life, and it was Halloween that planted that seed.
Halloween also means haunted houses to me.  I get to dress up and scare people for a month and a half, so basically my Halloween starts in mid September.  Live interactive horror entertainment has been a very big part of my life since I was 12.  From the first moment I was handed a chainsaw  and told to chase people, I knew that I had found my passion.  I went through my first haunted house and was working there the next night.  Actually, I didn’t see my first real horror movie, Night of the Living Dead, until a few days after that.  Now that i think about it, October 1992 really warped me, huh?  Anyway, from my start at The Chilling Fields through The Tribble Mill Haunted Trail, Blood Oaks, and finally Netherworld, I’ve been scaring people in haunts for 20 years, and I’m only 32.  True, I didn’t work a haunt in Savannah, but I was driving tourists around in a hearse and telling ghost stories year round, so I still count those as haunting years.  Anything you do from your late childhood, all through your teens, and your entire adult life is, needless to say, a big part of you.  Like an athlete that has been playing their sport since they were a kid, it’s in my blood.  Often you’ll hear those athletes say that the place they feel most at home is on the field.  Well, Halloween is haunt season, so it’s one of those times when I feel like I’m really where I belong.  All hail the Netherspawn, and haunt love to everyone out there causing nightmares and soiled drawers.
Now this is probably going to sound like me just trying to plug the blog, but Halloween is definitely my favorite time to be a horror blogger.  For all of the headache they’ve been at times, I’ve had a blast putting together my October blog events together.   The Horror Movie Darwin Awards were a lot of fun last year, and What Halloween Means To Me not only let me share Halloween with all of you, but I got to correspond with some of my horror heroes, read stuff by the best horror writers out there, and basically experience Halloween through many different sets of eyes.  Hopefully “What Halloween Means To Me” can become an annual tradition.  What do you think Cellmates?  Would you dig reading more of these next year, or should I try something different?  Please comment and let me know.
I could go on and on about all of the different things that Halloween means to me, but a lot of it has been said (probably better than I could) throughout the countdown.  I could go into the movies I watch.  I could discuss that intoxicating scent of fog juice, greasepaint, gas fumes, autumn, and fear.  I could discuss my mother’s vegetable soup/cornbread tradition, my annual November 1st shopping spree, doing my friend’s makeup, my obsession with Wal-Mart's Halloween shirts, haunt hopping, and a million other things.  We all have celebrating to do, however, so I think I’ll cut this short and just sum it up like this…What does Halloween Mean To Me?  Halloween IS me.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 26: Herschell Gordon Lewis

On this beautiful All Hallow’s Eve-Eve, we’re going to hear from a true legend, The Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis.  It would be impossible to overstate HG Lewis’ impact on the genre.  A maker of ‘nudie cuties” during his early career, he revolutionized the way horror was presented onscreen in 1963 when he made Bloodfeast.  Considered to be the first “splatter flick,” it was the first time gore of that kind was seen on the silver (mostly drive-in) screen.  His sanguine sin-ema classics like Two Thousand Maniacs, Color Me Blood Red, The Gore Gore Girls, and The Wizard of Gore gave birth to the idea that blood and guts sells.  Basically every genre of horror was either inspired by or altered by that concept.  Sure, gore would have eventually become an ingredient in horror, but I doubt it would have done so as dramatically.  In other words, in my mind Lewis, who has always maintaned an “Aw, shucks” type of demeanor regarding his place in cinema history, just might be the single most influential director as far as horror flicks of the last 50 years are concerned.  He’s currently looking for an adventurous producer so he can start rolling on Mr. Bruce and the Gore Machine.  Dammit, someone better get on that right away!  Mr. Lewis, would you do the honor of telling us what Halloween means to you?

For those whose sense of excitement and whose anticipation for The Unknown have been dulled by their dull lives, pedestrian holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are sufficient.
But for us gorehounds, Halloween is our holiday. We own it. We revel in it. We build anticipation to the stroke of midnight, when if the gods of hell see us cavorting, all hell breaks loose.
On a personal level, Halloween has even more significance for me, because that's when theatres that normally sneer at my schlocky splatter films will book them, even for a midnight show. (Try getting one of these movies booked into a theatre on an ordinary Wednesday night.) And DVD rentals spurt.
Yes, it's my night. C'mon and share it with me. We'll share our night in hell.”

1 more day ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  1 more day ‘til Halloween, Silver Shamrock.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 25: Roy Wooley

On season 3 of Syfy’s hit show Face-Off, the world found out what me and everyone else who works at the Netherworld haunted house has known for years; Roy Wooley is one amazing makeup and effects artist.  The resident makeup wizard of one of the consistently highest rated haunts in the nation; Roy has done horrible things to my visage and made this handsome horror blogger hideous beyond words more times than I could count.  Hell, just sitting in the guy’s makeup chair is an education.  I think the coolest thing about Roy, however, is that after being on a hit TV show and amassing quite a following (just look at how the Face-Off Facebook page EXPLODED when he was eliminated for proof), he’s the same easy going dude I’ve known for years.  The Face-Off season finale is Wednesday, with the voting taking place after Tuesday’s episode.  I know, I know, the obvious winner isn’t in the finals for some unfathomable reason, but Roy will be on the show regardless, so watch it.  Also watch for an interview with Roy coming up in November here on Son of Celluloid.  He’s here on the countdown today representing both makeup artists and the haunt industry, so lets hear what Halloween means to him…

 “I always remember loving Halloween as a child, even though at the time I couldn’t tell you when it was. I just always knew that is was soon after school started, when you started getting those first frosts of the year. They say that smell is one of the strongest triggers for memories, and I think they’re right. Any crisp fall morning reminds me of Halloween when I was younger and brings back memories of going house-to-house, hoping for the big candy bars and not the piece of bubble gum. Of course, there was always candy corn and the occasional homemade cookie, popcorn ball, and candy apple. No wonder I got diabetes!

Aside from all the wonderful treats, you have probably my favorite part of the season; monsters, costumes, and make-up. I remember one of my store bought costumes. It was a little devil costume complete with a thin little plastic mask and the non-fire-retardant suit. I also remember years of homemade costumes and really bad make-ups, but that didn’t matter because it was Halloween. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has always been my favorite holiday. Halloween is that one day out of the year when you get to totally change yourself and be somebody or something else. I always enjoyed that aspect more than the scare for personal reasons. As long as I can remember I have always had a problem with stuttering, but for some reason when I would put on a mask it would go away. When I started working at Netherworld Haunted House, we would always do “live” shows for different T.V. stations. Now, if you’ve ever had a speech impediment you can understand how terrifying that can be. But over the years it got easier, and it rarely happens now. That’s a good thing too, because otherwise I never could or would have done Face Off.

After I started working in the haunted house industry, I became a lot more interested in the scare. There is nothing more fun than seeing a grown man fall to his knees in fear over a piece of latex.  

 These days I’m almost always working on some kind of monster or creature for films or haunted houses and trying to design and build that next great scare. So what does Halloween mean to me? Well, if Christmas teaches us that it’s the one day a year when there is suppose to peace on earth and good will towards men (which I try to practice daily); then Halloween is the day where I’ll be kind and friendly, then scare the crap out of you!”

2 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  2 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 24: Linnea Quigley

There’s only one way we could wrap up Scream Queen Weekend properly, and that’s with the Scream Queen of all Scream Queens, Linnea Quigley.  What can you say about her that hasn’t been said?  I don’t have to go down a list of her credits.  If you read this blog, I’m pretty certain that you know them already.  She’s been in some of the biggest cult hits of all time, has possibly the most iconic horror movie nude scene to her credit, and has managed to carve out a career that has been going strong since the late 70’s.  If by some horrible drunken decision, miracle, or product defect I ever have a daughter, I wanna name her Linnea.  Want proof that she’s a busy lady?  Look at all the stuff she has out right now and coming up.  She’s interviewed in Celluloid Bloodbath: More Previews From Hell (that came out Oct. 8).  A documentary about her, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer called Screaming in High Heels just came out.  I’ll be reviewing that in early November.  Disciples, featuring an all-star cast (Tony Todd, Angus Scrimm, Bill Mosely, etc) is coming out soon.  Couger Cult is currently at Redbox.  She’s contributing commentary to re-releases of some of her classics, she’s got con appearances coming up, and today she’s here on Son of Celluloid telling us what Halloween means to her.  Take it away Linnea…

“Halloween is a great time for me to do special things.  It went from putting on a plastic mask and running my poor mom door to door to now just doing spiritual things on that day.  It’s not about costumes for me since I’m always in costume, hahaha.  It’s just celebrating the wonder of life.  Blessed Be.”

3 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  3 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 23: Mark Patton

What?  A guy included in Scream Queen Weekend?  That’s right Cellmates.  Mark Patton, aka Jesse Walsh from Nightmare on Elm Street 2, was awarded the official “Scream Queen” title at Days of the Dead, taking the stage alongside other great horror leading…um, ladies.  I could sit here and go over the whole “NOES 2 as the gay Nightmare” and the subtext and how Jesse was a traditional female role, but that’s all been beaten to death, so you can go elsewhere for that.  Actually, watch Never Sleep Again for that.  For my money, it’s the best horror documentary ever made.  Anyway, Mark was also my second ever on camera interview, was a pleasure to talk to, and is a genuinely nice guy.  You can check that interview out HERE.  He's also revisited Jesse, writing a series of "lost journals" that chronicle the character's thoughts during the movie and continue the story in some very surprising ways.  Nightmare fans can read a whole new chapter in the Elm Street saga HERE.  So Mark, what does Halloween mean to you?

"I loved Halloween as a child, as it allowed me to free myself of ordinary life and make myself into the fantastic creature I really am.  Of course as an actor I got to dress as many different people and experience that joy as a profession.  As you know every good costume needs an audience and that is the role I enjoy most now.  I like to watch the children and the adults become kids again...and of course I am in control of the candy!"

4 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  4 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Friday, October 26, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 22: Debbie Rochon

The term “Scream Queen” gets thrown around way too loosely these days.  Every chick with a no budget flick and a photo shoot under their belt wants to claim the crown.  I’ve seen her balk at the title in interviews before, but if there was ever an actress since the Golden Age of the 80’s that deserved every bit of the title “Scream Queen,” it’s Debbie Rochon.  With an IMDB sporting well over 200 titles, she gets my vote for “hardest working woman in the horror business.”  The talented Canadian beauty is a familiar face to anyone with even a passing interest in the genre and a sense of adventure, having appeared in some great flicks like Tromeo and Juliet, Slime City Massacre, Hellblock 13 (one of my personal favorites), Theatre Bizarre, Satan Hates You, Corpses are Forever, Dead and Rotting, American Nightmare, and couple hundred more.  On a personal note, she was a pleasure to work with on this project, taking part even though she was hard at work on the set of a Syfy original she was filming.  In a business where some people with a fraction of her body of work are impossible to deal with, she’s a sweetheart who actually cares about her fans.  Two new flicks featuring Ms. Rochon, Sick Boy and Mark of the Beast, hit DVD this week, so go check those out.  So Debbie, why don’t you kick off “Scream Queen Weekend” (sounds like a Fred Olen Ray flick doesn’t it?) by telling us what Halloween means to you?

”For me Halloween embodies all the things in life I adore. The change in season; the nip in the air, the foliage changing color from green to the most beautiful shades of orange, red and brown. There’s something exciting that floats in the air, something that is felt in my heart and in my mind. The promise of new horror movies arriving at the local theatre and on the DVD and Blu-ray shelves. All the houses decorated so festively. Christmas has a lot of joy attached to it as well but also has the pressures of a new year and taxes and spending money on the season, money you may or may not have. For some people it also has the anxiety of family gatherings, which are not pleasant for everyone. Halloween exists without these pressures. If you add on top of all the excitement of the Halloween season the ability to celebrate ‘our’ month. The season that most of the horror community enjoys year round. Other yearly events exist only on their specific dates for me. Halloween is an every day joy that just climaxes in October. It just puts me in a great mood. My favorite Halloweens have been when I am actually on set shooting a horror movie. It is a magical feeling that is hard to describe. The best way to put it is that I forget about all the pressures and problems of life and just let go and enjoy. It is a bonding ‘holiday’ like no other. The only sad thing about October 31st is November 1st. It is then officially over for most - in the stores and on the streets. But those of us that live in the spirit of the occasion carry a piece of it with us year round. Halloween is not just a day of trick or treating, it’s a way of life for me.”

5 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  5 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 21: Fred Olen Ray

Without today’s contributor, the shelves of video store horror sections would have pretty much been bare.  If you are a fan of cult cinema, just think of all of the great moments, sights, and experiences Fred Olen Ray’s has enriched your life with.  I mean, look at this list…Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Evil Toons (my personal favorite Olen Ray flick), Evil Spawn, The Tomb, Biohazard, Scalps, Alien Dead, Haunting Fear, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party, Haunting Desires, Sideshow, 13 Erotic Ghosts, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, Bad Girls From Mars, Alienator… and that’s barely scratching the surface.  Some of my favorite movies of all time are on that list.  Need more convincing?  The guy has directed 2 Emmanuelle flicks, directed Paul Naschy’s last werewolf movie, and has made no less than 20 movies with “bikini” in the title.  He even directed the best documentary about the independent wrestling circuit ever made.  Need  one more piece of proof that this man is both a legend and a genius?  Ok…Shannon Tweed making Sandahl Bergman strip at gunpoint (and her body double pleasuring herself with the gun) while a brain in a jar (with an eyeball) watches and undulates in excitement in Possessed by the Night.  See?  I told you.  Pure genius!  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Anyway, I said all of that to say this; Fred Olen Ray is the undisputed master of the VHS age of horror, and today’s directors would do well to sit beneath his learning tree.  So Fred, what does Halloween mean to you?

“At my current age the Halloween season doesn't hold nearly the anticipation it did when I was a child; but then, neither does Christmas. Now it's a time for me to sit back and watch my children experience the thrill of pouring over the various costume options and loading up for our perennial screening of the original HALLOWEEN.

When I was a kid, you couldn't just pop in a DVD of whatever classic monster movie you wanted to watch. You had to wait patiently to see if the movie you were dying to see would even air, and if it didn't... tough luck. And even if it did there would always be a certain amount of antenna twisting going on trying to get a signal to come in that didn't contain more ghosting than a William Castle movie.

In the early 1960s, the Halloween season excited this young monster fan like no other because everything around me suddenly took on a delightfully spooky veneer. TV sitcoms devoted their weekly episodes to the macabre.  Horror icons like Vincent Price and Boris Karloff popped up on talk shows and even sang and performed comedy skits on TV Variety shows. The local stations dusted off its collection of aging horrors films. Dime stores were overflowing with creepy decorations and cool costumes. Ben Cooper was a God.

I lived for this moment and it couldn't come soon enough. In 1964, I never had any real money to spend as I came from fairly humble beginnings. My weekly allowance was 25 cents, but what I could lay my hands on became treasure. I had a Grandpa Munster doll, a LP called DRACULA'S GREATEST HITS and I had just discovered FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE. Life couldn't be better. It was the great monster revival of the mid-1960s. It was the time of THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Darrin Stevens turned into a Werewolf and Gilligan became a Vampire!

I remember using cellophane tape to twist and bend my facial features one year instead of wearing a mask. Forry said that Lon Chaney suffered for his art, and I certainly did that year. I got MARS ATTACKS cards in my Trick or Treat bag... individually wrapped... one card per wrapper. OUTER LIMITS gum cards? I walked down the train tracks a literal country mile to the only roadside store that sold them.

Then suddenly, it was over. That special night of Thrills and Chills came and went and without even blinking Thanksgiving was staring me square in the eye.  But hell, that just meant another Holiday was right around the corner and it was time to start jotting down my Christmas wish list of Aurora monster model kits. Life was good.”

6 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  6 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 20: David J Skal

Today’s contributor is the foremost authority on the golden age of the horror film, historian and author David J Skal.  I first remember seeing him when I caught the great documentary Universal Horror on Turner Classic Movies one night in my late teens.  Then, when I went to film school, I discovered his written work.  The Monster Show, Hollywood Gothic, and Dark Carnival were all indispensable tomes during my studies, and they belong in ANY horror freak’s library.  Even if you haven’t read any of his books, you’re probably familiar with his work.  Remember all of those killer documentaries that came as special features on the Legacy Collection editions of the Universal horror flicks?  He wrote, directed, and appeared in most of those.  Hell, since I got that, I’ve probably watched the She’s Alive documentary almost as many times as I’ve watched Bride of Frankenstein.  He also wrote one of the definitive books on the subject of Halloween, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween.  So, in addition to being a fixture of my Halloween viewing, he’s an authority on the holiday we’re talking about.  How could I NOT have him involved?  If you’re a fan of the monochrome macabre and haven’t discovered Skal’s wealth of knowledge, then obviously you’re doing something wrong.  I order you to, at the very least, watch The Frankenstein Files and read Hollywood Gothic immediately.  Well, read what Halloween means to David first, and then go do your homework.

“Although Halloween has its roots in Celtic tradition, it has become a relentlessly American institution, and for good reason. Unlike other holidays, which are often endurance tests requiring the wearing of one’s best false-face, Halloween operates by its own rules. Americans claim as their birthright the possibility of becoming anyone or anything they can imagine, often an impossible dream in the course of everyday life, but well within everyone’s reach very October 31. Popular culture is perpetually awash with the promises, thrills, and terrors of personal transformation, and Halloween dependably takes us out of ourselves—or lets our inner selves out. Since horror and fantasy is my business, I’m usually occupied with some book tour or promotional activity at this time of the year, so when I’m asked what I’m going to be for Halloween, my stock answer (delivered in the best Boris Karloff voice I can muster) is “Why, the most terrifying monster of them all—a talk show guest!

7 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  7 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 19: The Casket Creatures

Music is a huge part of my Halloween equation, so of course it had to be represented on the countdown; and who better to represent the realm of macabre melodies than Georgia’s reigning kings of horror rock, The Casket Creatures?  It’s been a hell of a year for the ghouls from Gainesville.  They had a whirlwind summer, playing constantly with the likes of Wednesday 13 and Michael Graves.  They played at the Ghouls Night Out festival alongside horror punk legends such as Lugosi’s Morphine, Mister Monster, and Blitzkid.  With Halloween fast approaching, their schedule is as busy as you would imagine.  If you missed them at Six Flags Fright Fest or The 12th Annual Little 5 Points Halloween Festival, you can catch them November 3rd at Sweetwater Live and make the most of your last chance for spooky revelry this Halloween season.  Come out and subject your senses to the sonic sickness, they'll make a believer (and possibly a corpse) out of you.  Go HERE for details.  In addition to all of that, somehow the guys found time to record a new album, entitled Sex, Blood, and Rock & Roll, due out this winter.  Keep an eye out here at SOC, ‘cause I’ll definitely be keeping you up to date on the release info.  Until then, lets hear what Halloween means to The Casket Creatures.

“Halloween is the one time of year where people can show their underlying personalities through the costumes they wear. The Casket Creatures tend to live everyday like its Halloween but the great thing about this season is everyone else shares interest in the spooky side of life for a few short weeks. As a horror band we tend to get the "Hey its not Halloween yet!" thing a lot, but at the end of the day we are creatures of the night and we aren't going to take the stage wearing Affliction shirts and blue jeans. We live and breathe horror and are not afraid to show it.

The Halloween season captures the terror, horror and macabre that makes our music possible. We love the season so much we even have a Halloween themed song that will be coming out on the next album called "Devil's Day". When October rolls around we are in our prime and it lights up a new fire in us. LONG LIVE HALLOWEEN!

We are "The Casket Creatures" and we endorse this spooky message from the unknown.”

8 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  8 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 18: Stephen Biro

With the Halloween love-fest going on here, I figured we might need a devil's advocate.  A voice of contention.  Enter Stephen Biro.  Stephen is the head of Unearthed Films, who distributes some of the most bizarre, obscure, brilliant, controversial, and downright f**ked up movies to be found anywhere.  Go check them out HERE.  Stephen is also an author.  He recently put out his first book Hellucination, which is a memoir of his taking large amounts of hallucinogens, traveling to heaven and hell, and meeting God and Satan.  Unearthed Books is also about to unleash Masters of Taboo: Cannibalism, so keep an eye out for that tasty morsel.  I knew he would bring a unique perspective to the countdown, and he didn't let me down.  So Stephen, what does Halloween mean to you...

      “I was asked to write about what Halloween means to me. I’m sure The Son Of Celluloid was thinking that I was going to gush over the Holiday that so many of us in the horror industry enjoy and wait for all year long. It used to be exactly like that when I was six years old. I would go shopping with my dad for one of those terrible plastic facemasks with the rubber band stapled to it to hold it onto your face and the flimsy plastic raincoat with the Chinese stamp of some character,or even a logo of a TV series character; so, for one night, once a year, you can parade around pretending to be that (often lame) character from that old defunct TV show asking for candy from your neighbors… and getting it. The shock and surprise of finally getting home and dumping out all of that free candy.  Letting your parents inspect it for razorblades and LSD, then give it back to you. As a child, that three to five pounds of candy was like a gift from Heaven. Manna from the skies… and you just never wanted it to end.
      Those were different times. They were wonderful times, and little did I know back then that I was a walking billboard for Frankenberry Cereal. Yes, either at seven or eight years old, I chose to be Frankenberry, and that stamp on my plastic pajamas I so proudly walked around the neighborhood in had a box of Frankenberry as my super hero emblem. I didn’t know it at the time. I was innocent and I loved the cereal.  Dammit, I was going to be the strawberry flavored Frankenstein monster that was a part of a nutritious breakfast while stomping around the neighborhood; demanding everything that was never even close to a vitamin-fortified piece of red-dyed-funky-marshmallow or a stale, processed piece of wheat coated with sugar and passed off as part of my daily food group.
As I grew older, the girls began to dress sluttier and the parties became wilder and Halloween was good again. Once you pass the section of teenage-hood where you can’t bang on doors and demand sugar encrusted treats but you couldn’t go out and party yet - the years between fourteen and seventeen -  usually sucked.  Then the drugs, booze, and sluts took the place of candy consumption.  Then Halloween was good again.  Halloween began to take a turn in the early nineties and began to become fashionable, or should I really say, profitable? As a child, you may not notice that you’re a walking billboard for a cereal company.  But as you get older, you start to see it for what it is; a huge money cash grab that Americans were not only falling for, but were too stupid to realize. The adults were drawn into hosting adult costume parties.  We have parades, haunted houses, make up, costumes, designer jewels, and slut uniforms as far as the eyes can see. Sugar soaked dementia fills the coffers of the candy companies, who only work for that one-month a year where candy sales are thru the roof. There are specialty stores that only open once month a year to sell us rubber spiders, eyeball keychains, plastic wire zombies crawling out of the ground, fog machines, smoke machines, strobe lights, Halloween lights, fake fangs, fake hands, fake wounds, fake smiles, and all of the spooky stuff that we as a society are willing to buy in the name of fun, laughter, merriment and surprise.
      Don’t worry; I’ve fallen into the same pit as you.  Every year, the wife and me hold the ultimate Halloween party, complete with dead bodies, fog machines, and even lasers, strobes and dry ice. It’s easy to get caught up when the damn Chinese make everything and shove it down our throat in the sense that, if we don’t have fun, we don’t loosen up and pretend to be something we are not. Then, we’re failing and not as fun as we should be. Nobody wants to think they’re not fun. Everyone wants to let loose, dress up, drink, flirt and show the inner kid inside; but it’s all a ruse. It’s just a mass cash grab, playing with our emotions as human beings… and we don’t see it. We have been under the sway of big business since we were children, and even the older of us are still lurching ahead as zombies out of a George Romero movie towards the mall.
      The manipulation of mankind has been going on for centuries. Thank De Beers back in 1930’s and 40’s for manipulating society to buy a diamond ring to show that you love the woman you’re going to marry (and how much you spent depends on how much you love her).  In 1872, Julia Ward Howe called for women to join in support of disarmament and called it Mothers Day for Peace and Disarmament.  Then, in 1908, Anna Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia turned it into a day to honor one's mother, which she promoted until it was taken over by Hallmark.  You know… the greeting card company. Commercialization of the holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and spent all her inheritance, and the rest of her life, fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration. Valentines Day has been taken over. Hallmark and Godiva Chocolates make most of their money for the year from that month. Thanksgiving has been taken over by the NFL, Budweiser, and Frank Purdue.  Christmas… fucking Christmas is just a shove it down your throat expenditure that no one is safe from; spending too much money on their kids, wives and husbands, and everyone else around you. 4th of July? Fuck, back to the Chinese again with their fireworks and smoke bombs and sparklers. Don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-Chinese rant disguised as a Halloween rant, it’s just all the useless stuff we buy to celebrate holidays that are now shoved down our throats are starting to piss me off. And it’s not because I run a horror dvd label either.
      Halloween has never been a big seller for horror companies who release movies, because everyone and their mother release as much horror product into the septic pool I call the retail market that sales are the same. What I am bitching about is the wholesale destruction of a holiday that used to be fun. It was the last Holiday that suddenly began to become so commercialized that it makes me sick. Fifteen years ago, if you wanted a haunted house, you had to make it, props and all.  And if you had a strobe light, you were ahead of the game; especially if you had some sheets to turn into ghosts. Now you can buy inflatable cats as big as Ford trucks, Styrofoam gravestones, mechanical zombies, and even bubbling radioactive barrels with moaning, melting zombies pulling themselves out for a measly $250.00
      If a woman wants to dress like a sexy spider, there is a costume for that.  If someone wants to dress like an old man, there is a costume for that. If someone wants to dress up like a used tampon, there is a ready made, manufactured costume for that.   Toilet bowl, check, Hellboy, check. Hot sauce bottle, check.  Halloween used to be about ingenuity; making shit yourself, being proud of it, and wearing it several years in a row until someone puked on it and then… time to change the costume for next year. You don’t need to make anything, just buy it and set it up, stick your head in it or slip it on, and it’s made to break. When do you see anyone wear the same costume year after year?
      I long for the days when I could dress up as Frankenberry and parade around as a child, not knowing I was a walking billboard. A part of an ever growing system of checks and dollars, corporate strategies and manipulations that would always increase, taking away that wonder and innocence of youth that I try to relive and can never, ever put it back into the box it was once in.
      Now if you will excuse me, I have a two story inflatable cat and ten styro-foam gravestones I need to set up in the front yard.”

9 more days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  9 more days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 17: Amanda Jubb

Today on the “What Halloween Means To Me” countdown, we’re gonna hear from Amanda Jubb.  Amanda is a Cellmate who grew up just outside of Savannah, Ga and now resides in merry old England.  I actually met her when I was dating her sister.  Once her sister became just somebody that I used to know (that reference is for you Daniel), Amanda and I remained friends.  To tell you the truth, she helped talk me through some really tough times, so she'll always have a special place as far as I'm concerned.  Anyway, her response is kinda personal to me, because her and I share the common background of being raised in a very religious family.  True, mine wasn’t quite as extreme as hers, but I absolutely get what she’s talking about.  What better day than a Sunday to explore how an ultra-religious upbringing colors ones perception of Halloween?  Take it away Amanda…

“I suppose I should preface this by saying that I was raised in a fairly strict, very Christian, Pentecostal family.  On Christmas, we had a cake and sang Happy Birthday to the Baby Jesus. Easter had nothing to do with bunnies of any sort (and was called Resurrection Sunday in our house), and New Year’s Eve never involved any champagne or spirits; but rather overnight prayer meetings and getting drunk on the Holy Spirit.  In light of all that, it seems somewhat odd that we celebrated Halloween at all—and indeed, we were absolutely forbidden from dressing up as demons, devils, witches, warlocks, rock stars, or anything else remotely “Satanic”—but dress up, have parties, and go trick-or-treating, we did.
To some extent, no child raised in America can avoid Halloween anyway. For decades now, October has been a month-long fest of horror movies, Halloween specials in TV shows and cartoons, and scarily surreal commercials.  As a child fascinated with vampires since I first saw the Count on Sesame Street, I always began looking forward to the month of ghoulish glee sometime between 4th of July and the first day of school.  And it seemed that there were new pleasures with every passing season: the summer I got a black cat, the year I learned that in the sequel to Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara has a daughter on All Hallows Eve, the one October where I had strep throat and missed over a week of school, yet recovered sufficiently that my mother let me wear my (sadly not a vampire) costume and knock on the doors on our street (in spite of my temperature, which was 102 F).  As far as I was concerned, Halloween had the kind of magic that I suspect Christmas might have… say, to children who grew up believing in Santa Claus.
But looking back, I imagine most of it was timing.  My sister and I both had birthdays in the first week of November, and Halloween was the closest holiday: sort of like a national celebration of our turning a year older.  That was also roughly the time that The Coastal Empire State Fair came through Savannah, and since our dad took us to that every year from about the time he and Mom split up, we almost always wound up at the Fair on one of our birthdays or Halloween itself.  Under the circumstances, it would have been impossible not to feel festive.
Then, of course, there was the general business of Halloween.  I can’t imagine the child who doesn’t like to dress up, go out after dark, and get bagfuls of delicious treats.  Equally exciting, at least for me, was the ritual candy-swapping once we were back home.  Finding other candies too sickly sweet, I myself was a chocolate-and-peanut-butter connoisseur.  My little sister, always happy to trade the bulk of her Milky Ways and 3 Musketeers and Reese’s Pieces, etc, for some more jelly beans and candy corns and Skittles, found these negotiations as satisfying (and tasty) as I did.  Haunted Houses, of which there were usually several in our neighborhood, I found thrilling and delightfully taboo, as they were generally crammed full of all those signs of evil against which we’d been warned so diligently.  Finally, as my mother was never the sort of grown-up to have a Halloween party herself, our house became a yearly haven for at least half a dozen of our friends (whose own parents DID believe in dressing up—or way, way down—and enjoying a variety of adult treats).  Halloween, plus 2 or 3 days either side of it, was simply the most decadent, hedonistic, FUN day of the year, when I was growing up.
And so, to me, Halloween will always be what it always was: the one holiday in the year that was just that.  A holiday.  Not a “holy” day with some deep spiritual meaning to bludgeon naughty children with, not a religious event to make me feel ashamed of my frivolous, childish desires, not a day for looking out my window at the rest of the world eating, drinking and being merry, while my family headed to church to pray and give thanks and prostrate themselves on the altar of the Lord; but rather, a day of fun and frolics, where mischief-making was allowed and even encouraged, and every aspect of life that was denied a child like me was, if not flagrantly on display, at least alluded to.  Ah, Halloween: the religious child’s gateway to the (under)world.”

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 16: James Balsamo (Acid Bath Productions)

I’ve said many times that an independent horror filmmaker needs only two things to properly approach making fright flicks; a passion for the film they’re making and love of the genre.  It’s obvious from watching his films that James Balsamo has both.  He’s the kind of filmmaker that wears his reverence for his influences on his sleave without falling back on retreading well-worn paths.  Hack Job and I Spill Your Guts are a couple of my favorite indie flicks I’ve seen this past year, and I’m definitely looking forward to his next flick Cool As Hell.  Speaking of Cool As Hell, James is currently holding a contest where YOU could design a monster to actually be used in the movie.  How bad ass is that?  Read on for the details, and follow Acid Bath Productions HERE to stay up to date on the production and release.  So James (have you noticed that there are a lot of dudes named James in this countdown?), what does Halloween mean to you? 

"What does Halloween mean to me? Well, at one time it meant I got to dress up as Dracula or Devil Elvis, but now it means pumpkin beer and woman in hot witch costumes. A lot of people don't know this, but I had a severe injury at a young age and it was around Halloween. My hand went through a glass window and severed my nerves. I still have no feeling in my right hand. Before it happened I won a fake arm in a grab machine, so my parents thought it was a Halloween gag. After realizing the blood wasn't fake, I was rushed to the hospital. Despite this travesty around this holiday, I still have a love for Halloween and horror. I did make a career out of it, right? Besides, who doesn't love free candy? Anyway, I want to know what Halloween creatures are lurking in your mind. Check out our awesome new contest: 

Acid Bath Productions Presents: Create a Creature in a Feature Contest! Ever want to see the monster of your nightmares on the silver screen? Well, here is your chance! Send in your drawing of a creature from hell to The winner gets a free copy of "Cool As Hell", an Acid Bath Productions T-shirt and an official credit in the film! One drawing per contestant. Check out the "Cool As Hell" page for details The contest ends Halloween night, so let's see those tricks and treats creeps!"

11 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  11 days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 15: James Bickert (Big World Pictures)

In many ways, the release and rise of Dear God No! and the history of Son of Celluloid are tied together.  My first cover quote was on the limited edition VHS.  The first time my name appeared in a magazine, it was on a DGN ad.  It was also the first movie premiere that I attended as press.  At the after party, I interviewed the director, and that’s when I met James Bickert.  In addition to making that sleaze masterpiece, Jimmy is a living, breathing exploitation encyclopedia.  His knowledge of drive-in cinema is as far beyond mine as mine is beyond a normal person.  It’s not very often that people can turn me on to horror flicks I’ve never even heard of, but he can.  I mean hell, the dude has a freakin' drive-in in his back yard.  Literally.  Now THAT’S dedication.  He’s a brilliant trash historian, an excellent director, a drunken scumbag, and a hell of a guy.  He’s currently in pre-production on Frankenstein Created Bikers, so keep an ear out for news on the next bloody biker epic from Big World Pictures.  So Jimmy, what does Halloween mean to you?

“The creepy kid down the street is now an adult. As Halloween grows near and the air becomes brisk, a magic elixir begins to appear. The season brings pumpkin beers, Oktoberfest recipes and porters. Hearty beers that fill the belly and enhance the dizzy whirlwind of cheap tetanus laden fair rides, leaves floating through bare trees over a laughter filled bonfire and obscure giallos haphazardly projected onto a backyard screen. The career sinner can stagger among the crowd undetected while conjuring double vision nightmares. In a flickering light ritual, resurrected cinematic gods cast spells on my daughter and other children. We can only hope they will be infected and become the future creepy children down the street.”

12 days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  12 days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 14: Jen and Sylvia Soska (Twisted Twins Productions)

If I have to tell you who the Soska sisters are, then you obviously have your finger nowhere even remotely close to the pulse of indie horror.  Jen and Sylvia Soska, aka the Twisted Twins, are a couple of the most exciting new faces of horror filmmaking to appear in some time.  They’re also a couple of really cool chicks and good friends of the blog.  They hit the scene in 2009 with their debut flick Dead Hooker In A Trunk, which won a load of awards on the festival circuit and was distributed on DVD by IFC.  It also landed on a lot of “top 10” lists last year, including coming in at #3 on my Best of 2011 list.  You can check out my review of Dead Hooker HERE.  Fast forward to 2012, and the girls are unleashing American Mary, starring Katharine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps.  Since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival Market, Mary has been making the rounds of the major festivals; while the Twisted Twins have been busy taking San Diego Comic-Con by storm, gracing the covers of various horror mags, and getting a ton of press.  Now, I’m not the type to say I told you so, but way back at the beginning of January I wrote “…2012 looks like it just might be the year of the Soska sisters.”  Am I good or what?  I’m happy to see  Jen and Sylvia achieving such success, as, while I haven’t met them in person, they’ve always maintained a killer relationship with their fans, including always being incredibly cool, friendly, and accommodating to the ‘ol Son of Celluloid.  I cheer for the villains in the movies, but in real life, it’s always cool when the true good guys, or gals in this case, win.  American Mary will be screening at Sitges, LA Scream Fest, Toronto After Dark, and Monster Fest; as well as touring Australia and New Zealand for most of November. The Twisted Twins can also be found at Son of Monsterpalooza Con and Aliens to Zombies con in LA late October.  Keep an eye on their site HERE to find out when they might be coming near you.  Personally, I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to see American Mary.  Ladies, if you’re listening…BRING MARY TO ATLANTA DAMMIT!!!  In the meantime, lets hear what Halloween means to the diabolical duo…

“I hate that Halloween only comes once a year. I mean, why the f**k do we have to celebrate Christmas for two whole months? Shouldn't we get at least a few days of grace to mourn the passing of another Halloween before we have glitter, ornaments, and some spokes model created by Coca-cola that's become some kind of false idol shoved down our throats? Part of the reason we got into making horror movies is so that we can have Halloween every and any day we want. It's the only holiday that is just purely about fun. You don't have to buy people presents; you don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing. For one night, you get to dress up like anything you want and be anyone you want to. For one night, it's okay to be whoever or whatever you want to be and people will just accept you for it. You can be scary, you can be sexy, heck, you can be both at the same time. We embrace or dark sides and venture out into the unknown, all of us, at all ages, and of all walks of life. It's beautiful.

People are too afraid these days. Afraid of trying, afraid of failing, afraid of the world, and mostly afraid of being afraid. We throw away all that shit on just one night and it's like the world becomes this beautiful place where we embrace our fears. I love Halloween because of everything it is. With censorship running rampant, we get a whole month of horror movies and not just on the wicked awesome channels that are brave enough to play them year round. Even the most conservative of channels suck it up and show some balls. It's a holiday that embraces and encourages creativity as we all know the very best of costumes are made at home through blood, sweat, and tears rather than being store bought. 

 Halloween is the place most of us had our first taste of independence. That first year when you get to go trick or treating with a group of friends draped in monsters' clothes rather than a parent or guardian. It feels more special than anytime of year. You can smell Halloween in the air. That crisp, autumny flavor in the air that bites back at you, but doesn't freeze you out like Christmas can. It's a season for rebels. We light up the sky with fire works and play pranks on our unsuspecting victims. At an early age, I must have fallen in love with Halloween as I can't remember ever not being in love with it. It's a holiday we celebrate at night, a real rarity. I remember always loving the tradition of it. The carving of our own pumpkins, the sewing of our costumes, all the while filling up on the most perfect bite size candies, watching an onslaught of horror movies.

I love the anarchy of it. The "anything-can-and-will-happen-ness" of it all. The creation and the unveiling. The embracing of our dark sides and that one night where anything is possible. Maybe its best that it comes only once a year. It's too special. Too sacred.

Unless, of course, if you become a horror movie director. Then it's all yours whenever you want it.

Something wicked this way comes,
Jen and Sylv”

 13 days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  13 Days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.
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