Friday, December 15, 2017

Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool 2017

I'd swear that for nearly every major celebration there has to be a challenge or roadblock. If you're lucky that obstacle is nothing more than a wonky strand of lights. For yours truly I'm staring down the potential of losing a job in the first week of the new year. To my readers that should mean you'll be reading a lot more entries in the coming months. Meanwhile I have to figure out what harebrained industry to work in next, maybe I should build a media outlet in the hopes Disney will buy all the assets. Fact is I need a boost to the spirit, so it was time to look to a shining example of spiritual peace, the Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool.

Inspired by the classic Mystery Science Theater bit, the Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool stands as a outlet for your own selfish holiday whims. In truth the aim is similar to Dinosaur Dracula's (Formerly X-Entertainment) Halloween mood table. However, while that is meant to be a constant reminder of the joys of Halloween, this is meant as more of a release for pent-up holiday experimentation. Think of it this way, usually when you decorate a tree or the front yard, you're putting on a show for somebody be it family, neighbors or friends. This means you might include ornaments or lights that aren't always appealing to you personally. This bar stool gives you the chance to be as tacky or subdued as you wish. You want a wall of pearls? Go ahead! Wanna proudly display your old Tiny Toons ornaments? Here's your chance. Simply put this is the one bit of decorating you do solely for you.

Last year I opted to trace the legs of the chair with lights and droop gold pearls, this time however I went with a more traditional wrap of both lights and garland. No matter the approach, tape is always your friend when it comes to decorating a bar stool. Instead of normal lights I was able to find a strand of fiber optics which in combo with the extra thick garland make the for a (snicker) fuzzy stool.

Obviously the seat itself provides display options for your favorite movies, snacks, candlesticks, whatever you feel like showcasing. Most of our good Christmas stuff was already on display throughout the house but I remembered our collection of holiday Funko goodies which range from the Grinch to festive Batman. A lucky few of you may have trees small enough to stack atop the stool in order to make some twisted hybtrid.

I had intended to craft some Swayze ornaments to adorn the stool until being reminded our printer is only black & white. Granted that still leaves a few options but I'd rather take more time and craft some nicer items for next year. In the meantime, I used some snowman themed glass balls to help fill out the whole display.

And that's this season's bar stool. Now I'm putting out the challenge to you. Get out your extra lights, grab your favorite festive goodies, and make a towering monument of what the holidays mean to you and only you. Make this the perfect escape from gifts, charities, and obligations. Most of all, be sure to share your bar stool with us. Let's make this a true holiday tradition.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

After a Thanksgiving that frankly seemed more like “somewhat hectic Thursday” I'm happy to report that I'm feeling quite jolly about the upcoming Christmas antics. Admittedly that excitement has still faced some challenges such as a light knot so horrific it could nearly reduce a grown man to a quivering mess. Mercifully there are plenty of comfortable traditions to sooth ones bruised ego after being thwarted by decorations and one of my seasonal comforts is my collection of yuletide horror films. Tonight I wanted to share one of my favorites with you all in the bloody spirit of the season.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a 1972 production from director, Theodore Gershuny (who had a terribly short career) which may in fact be the first Christmas horror flick, having beaten Black Christmas by two years. Both films share some elements, the spooky phone calls being chief among them. Likewise, both films have little reason to actually take place during the holidays though Bloody Night makes some effort to work Christmas into it's own backstory. Don't go in expecting lots of window dressing however. Much of this film takes place in abandoned homes or dark country roads. The few decorations that manage to make an appearance are delightfully old-fashioned.

Depending on how you view the movie, the run time may be slightly different. This is mainly due to a piece of the opening that is cut off in some public domain sets. This doesn't majorly effect the storyline mind you but it does reveal that the narrating character survives the ordeal rather than us catching up to them at some midpoint. I've never liked this part as it removes a good deal of suspense. Once that's out of the way though we get one hell of an opening, compete with funerals, burning men, spooky piano playing, and the main theme which is an off-tone take on the classic carol.

From that point on you'd think the movie would get moving properly, but there's a nifty little trick here, and consider this something of a spoiler. Not unlike the last Friday The 13th, the first twenty-odd minutes of film are almost their own thing. Obviously different characters carry on to the next portion and all of those events matter but the primary storyline really doesn't get going until a third of the way through the film. While that may seem like it could be a cheap trick to pad out the running time, the build-up of one plot within the other makes it flow pretty seamlessly.

Beyond all that there's a rather large segment spent in flashback. For most people this is the highlight of the film where most of the mysteries finally come together. What makes it so special is the visuals which were filmed in a sort of sepia tone which features some massive black effects thanks to poor film quality. The resulting image is unlike much of anything you'll ever see and because of that, the sequence takes on an unearthly atmosphere.

A word of advice to new viewer. Don't go in to this expecting a standard slasher flick, this is from far before the tropes of the sub-genre were cemented which makes this play out more like a sensible version of one of this Italian Giallo movies. For that matter, don't expect normal human dialogue and interaction. Much of the film is intentionally off-center and populated by characters who indulge in strange behavior like strangling birds. This is very much in tune with most of Gershuny's work which tended to involve the limits of sanity.

For genre fans there are some extra perks to this one aside from the historical importance of being an early holiday horror tale. There are also some cult performers like John Carradine and Mary Woronov. Carradine is given an odd role completely devoid of dialogue whereas is the main heroine. Then there's Tony Award winning actor James Patterson who sadly passed the year this was released at age 40.

It's likely that I've failed to sell you on the movie so far and I suppose that's because it's become such a tradition for me that it's hard to step back and view it from an outsiders perspective. It was around a decade ago that I turned on a DVD of this for the first time, unsure of what I was going to get only to find something that provided a massive boost to my holiday spirit. Fact is most of us have our own little holiday treat. For most people it may be the Grinch, others like my nieces go with The Polar Express, but for me it's a cup of coffee and the bloodshed found at Wilfred Butler's house.

The best part of me rambling on about this film is that for once you don't have to strictly take my word for it. Since Silent Night, Bloody Night is in the public domain, you can check it out on youtube without issue. Consider it my cheapskate gift to you all. In case I'm unable to post it directly to here I highly advice seeking out the HD remaster. It's still an ugly print but far better than any other copy out there.

Now that it everything seems back on track, expect some major work from me. Not only do I plan on meeting the monthly quota for articles here, but I still have two nearly complete posts for Dread Central and hopefully a major writing project will be launching around the new year. In the meantime, watch the movie and plan to be back here at least by next week.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holiday Snacks: Hot Coca Oreo, Peppermint Twinkee, Mtn Dew Holiday Brew, Slated Caramel Pepsi.

The common practice round here whenever updates have been sparse is to blame whatever extraneous thing has been eating up my time. Lately, that's become difficult as for the life of me I can't quite figure out where November went! While most of this year has gone at a fairly steady pace, this month has just been melting away at breakneck pace. I feel lucky that I've accomplished a good deal of my recent to do list but even that still has eight or so items left to wrap up before December. I suppose it's a blessing then that there have been a few moments calm enough to allow tastes of the new holiday treats. Let's give em a look before I turn around to find out it's new years.

Another day, yet another Oreo flavor. This one comes as part of a marketing push since the company recently released their own hot coco mix. While I've yet to try the drink, I'm happy to report that these cookies mark another victory for the companies ever expending line of flavors.
Let's keep it simple; these smell like hot chocolate, they taste like it too. If you hadn't thought of it that's not much of a stretch from normal Oreo flavor. This is no wild trip into bizarre territory like Swedish Fish or Peeps. It's a fairly basic flavor executed very nicely.
Here's the odd part. Usually whenever I bring home a new Oreo variety, everyone in the house soon voices their opinion be it negative of positive. With these, hardly a word was said about them and yet they had vanished in less than 24 hours. I'd definitely call them a hit, just something of a quiet one.

A treat that has provided plenty of loud opinions are Peppermint Twinkees. And the common verdict around here is that these are gross, though I can't say I fully agree with that sentiment.
Right out of the package these are bright, cinnamon candy red. The sort of red that makes your mouth hurt just looking at it. It's such a cartoonish looking item it could have jumped straight out of some animated Christmas special. That effect if further amplified by the odd pinkish cream.
Flavor is minty but not a refreshing mint. This is the kind of situation where the flavor naturally clashes with the type of foodstuff. Mint seems nice when it's coming out of a hard candy or maybe even some refreshing cucumber water, but a fatty snack cake is another matter entirely. Perhaps they're better frozen but I've yet to try such an experiment.
While I can't wholeheartedly recommend these Twinkees, I very much enjoyed my time with them. Sure they're a little gross. At the same time they're the sort of ridiculous novelty that makes life more fun.

Cheetos Snowlfakes isn't some new right wing insult, it's simply the winter variation on the popular Cheetos Bones. If you've had those before than there's nothing much to say here. You either enjoy cramming your mouth full of somewhat dry cheese puffs or you don't. I do, which earns these a pass.

Of course you need something to wash down all this festive food and what better way than crazy high sugar soda? That's right, Mtn Dew has come up with their own Holiday Brew which I'd heard nothing about before beholding a massive end cap of this cheery concoction. That sort of surprise is rare in this day and age when everything is spoiled or reported within mere seconds of release. Major props to Dew for sneaking one out.
Oddly enough after the fun new gamer fuel flavors, this yuletide variant is simply regular Dew mixed with Code Red, cause red and green equals Christmas, get it? Soda mathematics aside this is a solid brew. The experience reminds me of the old juice and sherbet punches my mother used to make for holiday gatherings. Sure it's not quite as foamy but that nostalgic taste is there. It makes one wonder what might happen if this were used to make one of those punches. The results would most likely be diabetes but man what a trip it would be.
I think this will easily be one of the highlights of the season for junk food lovers so run out, buy a case, and give your friends a sugar high.

The other new holiday soft drink is more of an eyebrow raiser. Salted Caramel is already one of those flavors that gets tossed into far too many items with greatly differing results. The idea of drinking a Pepsi flavored in this fashion seemed like a surefire way to ruin a good night, especially after the horrendous Pepsi Fire.
I made certain to make a group experience out of this one by parceling a bottle among shot glasses. The shock heard round the living room was that this honestly wasn't too bad. Imagine Buttershots and Pepsi without the alcoholic burn and this is the result.
While the flavor turned out to be ok, it still didn't seem like the sort of thing I'd chug down on my own until one night yielded sinus drainage and an irritated throat. This being the only fizzy drink on hand made it the only option to clear out the congestion, and wouldn't ya know it made for an enjoyable time. Not saying you should stock the basement with 12 packs but at the very least give Salted Caramel Pepsi a go.

Given that this was just a handful of this years snack offerings I'd say we're in for a spiffy December. Now the trick is to accomplish something, anything before we get there. Time permitting you'll be seeing another post here this week, I'm thinking something with ruffles.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Star Wars Book Club: The Legends of Luke Skywalker Review

During The Force Awaken, Han Solo informs the newest generation of heroes that “The Force. The Jedi....All of it...It's all true.” And while that may make for a solid quote he probably should have clarified what they'd already heard about historical events as heroes tend to inspire a great deal of tall tales. That's the concept behind the most recent Star Wars novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker, an anthology of potentially false or misinformed stories about the farm boy turned space wizard. Given the nature of this storytelling format, this review is going to be slightly different than usual. More importantly, could this be the first Luke focused book of the new continuity to not completely suck? Time to find out.

The Wraparound Story

Aboard a cargo ship bound for Canto Bight, cremates swap tales of the legendary hero, Luke Skywalker. One of them is helping a stowaway who once had her own encounter with the last Jedi. Unless any of these characters manage to pop up in the new movie, this story isn't bound to prove all that important to the greater universe. That's not really the point so much as to showcase how the very idea of a mystical hero can unit and inspire people. On that point, this wraparound works out just fine, just don't go in expecting some deep emotional pathos or grand hints about the future of the franchise.

The Myth Buster

The first segment gives off some of that classic Arabian Nights vibe of stories within stories. The deepest layer of this narrative chip dip is a conspiracy theory about how Luke was just the key player in a massive con job. Honestly it's a pretty nifty write-up of how the original trilogy could have been a public relations trick meant to sucker the common man into supporting the rebel alliance. Who spearheaded this rouse you ask? Why that would be Benny O'Kenoby, a wise intergalactic grafter. Even the existence of the Death Star is waved off with alternative explanations for how Alderaan was destroyed. Essentially this is a truther version of events though the commentary of other characters along helps to keep it fun, along with an appairent cameo from the main man himself.

The Starship Graveyard

Next we have a tale from an Imperial perspective, told by a soldier who is left near death after the battle of Jakku. A mysterious figure arrives and cares for the solider as the pair braves the dangers of the desert planet and smoldering starship rubble.
Easily one of the better tales in the book, it hinges on the notion that this mystery man may not even be Luke. In fact, it seems quite likely this is just another soldier merely playing the role in order to survive a bad situation.
Another interesting aspect to this story is how Imperials thought of Luke after his duel with the Emperor. In their mind he's something close to a demon. A magical bogeyman fueled entirely by lightning and rage. The same grunt who fears this enemy is able to see another viewpoint when he meets a group of individuals who need a hero to follow.

Fishing in the Deluge

Another solid bit of storytelling arrives with this yarn about a quiet, tropical planet whose populace lives off the bounty of the sea, rides giant birds, and follows the flow of the tide, their version of the force.
Unlike the previous two tales, this seems like a legitimate record of Luke's activities as he visits this place to learn more about how it's inhabitants use the tide. He is met with resistance yet given an opportunity to learn if he can complete a set of challenges with select children as his guides.
While there's nothing massively informative here, this is a breezy and entertaining story that showcase how other people view the energy of the universe.

I, Droid

Things begin to slow down with a narrative told entirely by an enslaved droid. No, the perspective isn't the problem so much as the story they tell is an odd combination of slow and over the top. The droid in question wasn't enslaved by just anyone you see, it were taken to an inhospitable world which houses a secret cabal of rich layabouts who use droid labor to continue their elegant lifestyle.
After being altered to become an enforcement droid to keep others in line, our narrator offers details on a particularly willful specimen called R2-D2 and later a very strange droid that is revealed to be Luke in disguise. The Jedi liberates the robotic lifeforms and brings down the sheltered society of scum who enslaved them, meanwhile earning respect from the droids for his own inorganic components.
The point here is essentially how Luke is a hero to all walks of life, even those who aren't technically alive. Beyond that is a welcome look into one of the lesser elements of this franchise, the bizarre and enduring cruel treatment of artificial life. However, the dull progression mixed with the odd setting make this one a bit laborious to get through.

The Tale of Lugborious Mote

Here's the one that's quickly gotten some flack from the fanbase either because they're taking it too seriously, simply weren't prepared for such an outlandish story, or just couldn't abide it's goofy tone. The plot concerns that of a highly intelligent flea who lives on Salacious Crumb (Jabba the Hut's weird monkey pet). This flea claims credit for Luke's victory over the rancor and Jabba's barge as he tricks Skywalker by pretending to be the force.
Obviously this one is meant to be a laugh as well as a tale of fame by proximity. The person relating this tale claims that the flea in question has an act where it plays out the entire saga of Jabba's palace/barge on a miniature replica. Maybe that's true. Perhaps the truth is some higher evolved insect was witness to those events and simply twisted the narrative for personal gain. In essence, the very sight of Luke doing his heroics could open up an entire career for someone.
The problem when it comes to such a patently silly concept as this one is that it requires a light, humorous touch that simply doesn't come through as strongly as it should. Which means this farce is closer to a chore.

Big Inside

Finally we return to somewhat more traditional narrative about Luke and a biologist finding themselves trapped within a giant space slug and searching for an escape before they are digested. Personal issue; I've never liked the whole trapped inside a big monster trope. Even for someone who loves gore this setting is just too icky and weird for my liking.
Taste aside we are offered yet another take on the force via beings called Mist Weavers and the story flows fairly smoothly. It's just such an odd tale to wrap up with. More so when you try to figure out how the teller would have even heard of these events to begin with. I'd like to chalk this one up to being pure fantasy though it's written with enough of a straight face to seem legit.

In the end, The Legends of Luke Skywalker fares better than other novels based on the character by focusing on what he means to other people rather than another unnecessary tale of his force education. At the same time, this is much more of a playful love letter to the character than a hint of his journey after the original films. Anyone looking for grand tales of his work building a new Jedi academy or teaching his nephew will be sorely disappointed.
Author, Ken Liu keeps the book going mainly by staying light and breezy. Characters are largely stock personality types, events are kept at the right level of interesting while potentially false. Essentially it's the novelized form of a kid playing Jedi in the backyard. That style makes for an inherently comfortable read, just not one that's all that deep or important, making this one tough to place on the rankings.

1. Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
2. New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
3. Bloodline by Claudia Gray
4. Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka
5. Ashoka by E.K. Johnston
6. Tarkin by James Luceno
7. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
8. Battlefont Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
9. Moving Target by Cecil Castelluci and Jason Fry
10. Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka
11. The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu
12. Catalyst by James Luceno
13. Smuggler's Run by Greg Rucka
14. Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
15. Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
16.Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
17.The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry

That's all for today, folks. I've got a mountain of stuff to work on though I plan to bring another update before Thanksgiving. Remember; this Friday is The Feast of Maximum Occupancy so be sure to treat yourself. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ninninger vs ToQger The Movie: Ninjas in Wonderland

Halloween is over, a statement I find hard to believe not because I'm hanging on to the past but because I'm still elbow deep in the clean-up. When not sorting fake tombstones, working one of the jobs, or entertaining visiting relatives, I've been catching up on sleep. Of course that makes it pretty easy to let this place fall by the wayside but that ends now. What better segway could there be from pumpkins to Christmas trees than a series with space monsters and brightly colored superheroes? Seeing as I detest Kyuranger and we're still months away from its' replacement I figured we'd work our way through films based on the two Sentai series we've reviewed in full. Armed with the knowledge that we've already gone through the Ninninger summer movie we find ourselves catching up with two teams in Ninninger vs. ToQger The Movie: Ninjas in Wonderland.

Going in there was some worry about the ToQger portion of the film as life lead to me breaking off from the show less than a third of the way through its' run. It's not as if I disliked the show. I found it a nice little slice of upbeat entertainment in an otherwise sour year. Still; I never made it to any of the big revelations or even the introduction of the sixth ranger for that matter. Any worry that this would cause confusion during this film was unnecessary as this is very much a Ninninger affair, warts and all.
Fully expect this pic to increase site traffic tenfold.

The movie kicks off with the Ninninger crew riding a train towards a ninja themed amusement park during which they are each slowly sucked into strange fantasy scenarios such as being a crew of gun-toting international spies. These opportunities to let the characters play around with new situations are quickly wasted as the fantasies account for less than ten of the opening minutes. The reason these delusions don't go on further is thanks to the intervention of the ToQger who plan to rescue the ninjas from being captured and turned evil by a villain named Dr. Mavro.

Of course one of them happens to fall into the evil doctors clutches, that being Takaharu whose abilities are combined with the spirits of evil ninja clones to make an evil ranger that will spread darkness via a big cloud. This causes Taka to be ripped from his body and face slowly fading into nothingness. Sadly this is about as complex as the plot gets.
That lacking sense of scale may be the biggest issue here. Most Sentai films I've seen, even particularly lousy ones, make sure to up the threat level or take place in a new environment that makes proper use of the higher budget and run time. Other than some more active camerawork during fight scenes this may as well be another episode of the show, and not a very good one at that.
I don't want it to sound like this is an absolute shitbrick of a film here. Most of the basics of Sentai are on display without many major drawbacks. However, as usual for Ninninger it fails to chose what it wants to be. The opening delusions suggest it will be a wild trip that allows these characters to branch out, only to ditch the concept completely and become an incredibly basic team-up. Even the vs portion of the title makes zero sense as the teams don't even have a customary conflict stemming from some misunderstanding. And while it seems like there may be a slight mixing of team member as ToQger wants to rescue Takaharu without risking further ninja abductions, the notion is tossed aside within minutes in a long dramatic moment that boils down to “you should stay here and be safe.....nevermind, let's go together!”

Then there's the way ToQger is treated within the film. The team has practically zero reason to be involved and beyond that they're vastly underwritten and missing some key elements. First off Conductor, Wagen, and Ticket only make blink and you'll miss it cameos in flashbacks. Sixth Ranger, Akira doesn't appear until the halfway point only to see probably less than three minutes of total screen time, most of which is just the stuntman. Even the team's core gimmick of color swapping is totally ignored which is a massive missed opportunity as they could have confounded their new friends or possibly shared the ability to make color-swapped Ninningers.

Meanwhile the Ninninger front is just weird. Continuity wise this seems to take place after grampa dies in the show, yet nobody seems very torn up. Takaharu as always gets the most screen time but feels watered down compared to his usual antics. And you remember aht I said about, Akira? Well that pretty much applies to Kinji as well. Seriously, this movie has something against sixth rangers.

In the end we're given a straight hour of mostly lazy Sentai. There's nothing notability thrilling or funny here other than perhaps the forced cameo by Zyuohger who display far more personality than everything else going on while defeating one of the villains which our main heroes never question the fate of. Do they think the guy just disappeared? I'd recommend the movie more than an episode of Kyuranger but that's not really saying much, is it?

So my big return to Sentai coverage wasn't so hot but we've still got a handful of flicks to talk about while we wait for the next series. On top of that there are plenty of Star Wars novels, holiday foods, and oddities to discuss in the near future. I'll make an honest attempt to get around to everything as penance for missing my last Halloween article. On that matter, I gotta get back to packing up decorations but before I go, if anybody has a request for some sidelined Sentai coverage, drop a comment and we'll see what we can do.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Halloween Adventures 2017 with Awaken Haunted Attraction

Any great holiday deserves a little adventure, an event that helps us bust out of our standard routines. Appropriately all of the late year celebrations offer plenty of opportunities for such outings be they intentional or not and wouldn't ya know that yours truly was lucky enough to bookend an otherwise standard work weekend with two such trips. So if you're in the mood for tales of back roads scenery, spooky attractions, and celebrity tombstones then please read on.

Waking up on Friday I had no major plans other than a quick trip to Lansing in order to hunt down a few items and fix a mistaken charge from Barnes and Noble. The initial portion of the trip worked out largely fine with even the disappointments (Target being out of heavy resin tombstones) being made up for in other departments (Target's Stranger Things box set). After a few stops we took in delicious Turkish food at a placed called, Chupli where lamb kofta and bulgur wheat renewed my energy.
It was the next choice that changed the course of the night as my brother wanted to visit Whole Foods, a store that not only makes me shudder but exits on the other side of MSU which unbeknownst to us was kickstarting homecoming that night making for a deliriously complicated trip. Whole Foods was as usual a thorn in my side made up for slightly by the presence of Boo-Dah Gouda Halloween cheese. While hardly a slam dunk of a find and overpriced at that, I'll take victories where I can find them. Leaving the realm of man-buns behind we ventured forth to the Okemos Kroger and Target which I found to both be significantly lamer than their West Lansing counterparts.
Having endured enough traffic for the time being we set for home via the back roads. It was a beautiful evening with gloaming light granting a spooky atmosphere for country homes and farm land. Eventually our route was disrupted by a downed bridge, forcing us to improves and become briefly lost among farmers working night harvests, the lights of their combines adding another interesting touch to our travels.
As we lurched home I couldn't help but realize the good number of country dwellers who really go all out decorating. Some of these people could put me to shame and I'm working for a fanbase of eager trick-or-treaters, these folks barely have neighbors which means they're doing it largely for themselves. I salute you fine scary folk.
Arriving back in town in need of hydration for the upcoming workdays we came across a blockade for a fatal accident, forcing us back down more back roads to finally reach the comforts of home where we found most everyone to be in remarkably high spirits. To go from such a serious scene to a jovial one was odd but no one could be blamed as it was a gorgeous night.

After a couple mornings of dull work with a creamy middle of horror flicks and Halloween specials, it was time for a trek to a haunted attraction. Last year had provided quite the find in Awaken located in the small town of Leslie, Michigan. Eager to return and see their improvements this year my brother-in-law and I set forth down another set of byways.
Knowing in advance that we'd be returning I made sure to encourage an extra stop that we'd failed to make last year. Within the city limits lies Woodlawn cemetery, a peaceful rest spot with a tiny car dealership across the street. This hallowed ground plays host to a small celebrity named Frank L. White. While that name may not jump out at you most likely know his face.

The quick story is that Frank was born in Barbados, immigrated to the states, and became a moderately famous chef who once modeled for a breakfast item called Cream of Wheat. That's right, we took a few minutes to visit the Cream of Wheat guy. While not a fan of the product baring his likeness, I am intrigued how a mans life took him from the islands to cooking in Chicago before finishing out his life in a tiny town south of Lansing.
If you're ever in the area and wish to pay respects, Frank's not very hard to find. There are two main entrances into Woodlawn, one paved, the other dirt. Take the dirt path, head right at the first fork and there he is. Currently he's the first stone on the right with a planter making his marker more visible.
We looked around the cemetery a little longer, reading the historical marker for the towns first settler who was both an atheist and spiritualist, and I even took the time to climb to the top of the nearest crypt. No disrespect intended, fairly sure it was empty. Just felt like the thing to do.

Our graveside visitation complete we worked our way through the town which has once again allowed people to decorate the light posts for a Halloween competition. Some were simple and whimsical while others such as a giant pumpkin faced scarecrow or a Ghostbuster themed display were positively outstanding. Leslie really is a very small town but they endeavor to do something more and have their own little charm thanks to locations like Spanky Clean Coin Laundry.

At last we arrived at Awaken just a few minutes past opening. A good move as people soon filed in behind us. The word seems to have gotten out and brought in far more business than what they had in their first year. I'd like to think this is all thanks to the CosmicSparky bump though my lacking ego knows that to be a lie. Once again it was a mere twenty bucks to get in (cheap for a haunted house) and from what I knew, they'd expanded this year.

Right from the start I was reminded of one of the most unique features of this particular spot, the lighting. Most haunted attractions I've visited are crazy dark affairs to the extent that walking can be a little dangerous. There's been such an effort to create scenes and atmosphere here that everything is dim but still light enough for visitors to take in the craftsmanship without losing the spooky feeling. There was a proper mixture of quiet and loud moments combined with misdirection and a good combo of both props and actors. At one point I heard a loud oncoming noise that I felt assured most be an animatronic until I turned to find an actor charging at us. I'll admit it got me good.
Even with the expansions, it's still not the longest spook house I've been to but the combo of value and quality can't be denied. However, I will say I'm not sure if it was as good as last year, mostly because the final wasn't as dramatic. Still ranks as one of my favorite haunts and I'd like to visit again, plus they gave us free hats. Have I ever mentioned I don't wear hats? Aw, hell, it's still nice to get one.
and mummies love em.

On the way home, something was missing. Any grand adventure should include a proper food stop, and so we found ourselves at New China Buffet in Eaton Rapids. Can't tell you how many times I've passed by this place without much thought but it turned out to be not so bad. Obviously it's Chinese buffet so there's enough sodium to drop a bull and no one would accuse it of being healthy. That being said it lasted longer than most buffet food, digested pretty well, and we had the lovely entertainment of the cooks yelling at each other in their native tongue.
The door to nowhere is a nice touch.

Now here we are just a week away from the big event. Currently I'm working in all manner of last minute projects and picking up discounted decorations to make sure we offer one hell of a show to the kiddies. There's also the chance of more fun at a local event as our historical courthouse is having a Halloween event lead by another holiday addict like myself who over the years has served as both an inspiration and a rival even if he doesn't know it. There's still time enough to get at least one more post up here before the month is out so look out for a a big post to send Halloween out in style.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fright Crate September to Remember Unboxing

Frequent readers may recall that our previous unboxing didn't go so well. In fact, Cryptocurium's Parcel of Terror may have marked the only time when a mystery box left me in a state of irritated disbelief to the point that I wanted to take a break from mystery boxes. That wasn't an immediate option however as I already had another box on order from another service. After a series of delays due to hurricane season I finally have my first experience with Fright Crate. Does this service have what ti takes to wash away the disappointment of Cryptocurium? Let's find out.

Let's get the details outta the way first. Fright Crate is a horror themed monthly mystery box that in a welcome change of pace is not a subscription service. No sir, they simply make a certain number of boxes and you either buy it or you don't. Excess items are also made available on their store. The box comes in two versions, a twenty dollar 3-4 item option or the full 5-6 item thirty dollar version that I opted for. Note that price does not include shipping or the potential extra cost for larger t-shirts. When all was said and done my full crate with an XXL shirt cost $39. It's a pretty hefty price tag. It may actually be the most expensive box I've tried thus far. Lucky for them they had a couple of my favorite horror topics on offer, encouraging me to go through with a purchase.

On the matter of shipping and packaging they simply add some of their stickers with quotes from famous horror personalities (John Carpenter and Clive Barker in this case) to a USPS flat-rate box. The average mail-date is near the end of the month which means there's actually a chance of getting a box within the intended release month. Imagine that! Sadly all the hurricane activity in Florida during September lead to delays and this edition wasn't complete and mailed out until Friday October 13th. Enough about logistics. Who wants to see what's in this thing?

First up we've got an exclusive shirt, my first in quite some time and an item type I've missed. Of all things this is based on the 2001 remake of Thirteen Ghosts which if I remember correctly was pretty terrible. People do vote for themes though, so this thing must have garnered some sort of following over the years. Shirt wise it's not so bad. A little odd, not based on a property I care about, but where else are you going to get a spooky shirt featuring the upper half of Tony Shalhoub's head? The material is a bit clingy at first though I imagine a little bit of wear will take care of that. Still curious if anyone will recognize these ghosts when I wear this out in public.

Next up is a resin bust of Deadite Ash from Evil Dead 2 made exclusively for the this box by Serial Resin Co. Once again I'm a bit surprised as this is a more dignified and series item than the usual Evil Dead fare. It's solid, well-built, and nicely painted. Beyond that it's a first for me as figures in these boxes are usually closer to a regular toy whereas this is my first ever bust. Currently it resides near my bed as the newest Halloween decoration.
Behind the bust is an art print for Night of Something Strange. Hadn't heard of the film before receiving this, apparently it's about an STD that turns folk into zombies. Sort of an over the top version of Shivers. From the trailer it doesn't look very good but ya never know. What makes this more than mere filler is that it's sighed by the writer/director Jonathan Straiton. I may not know his work but he joins the ranks of Derek Mears, the folks from that Third Day short I interviewed last year, and a seemingly legit James Garner in my small autograph collection.

Next we have an elusive pin of the new Pennywise from It. I have yet to see the new version, haven't seen something in the theater since early August actually. My point is that while I have no basis one way or another towards this clown, the pin is great. Good weight, nice sculpt, double clutch. Plus it inspires jealousy from both my sister and nephew which is always fun.
Now we move on to a crossover item. Cryptocurium created a wall plaque of the poster art for the original Fright Night. In all fairness they are playing to a weakness of mine since that movie is pure gold and it didn't take long before I hung it above my light switch. I love totally love this thing, got zero complaints about it. It's a reminder that for as poorly as I think of his subscription service, Jason Mckittrick makes some boss items. I only wish something like this could have come in his last parcel so I wouldn't have felt totally swindled by that 35 dollar magnet. Yes, I'm still bitter. Jason, you're capable of great work, let me know when you make a better service.

Since the horrid Florida weather delayed the box by weeks, an extra item was tossed in for fun. According to the inventory sheet some boxes simply received temporary tattoos, one in three however got some old school Nightmare on Elm Street stickers. I've seen many a retro bloggers write about these over the years as a prime example of a time when violent screen villains were readily marketed towards kids. Most of mine seem to originate from Freddy's Revenge, the black sheep second entry in the series though one I hold some affection due to it's unique approach to the format and awesome score by Christopher Young. The goofy thing about these stickers is that many of them serve as puzzle pieces meant to be put together within the matching sticker book. Without the matching pieces you end up with stickers of somebody's shirt or forehead. There's more entertainment on the back of each sticker where you'll find advertisements for posters, the board game, and the legendary Freddy's Greatest Hits tape.

Is Fright Crate an excellent offering in the overcrowded world of mystery boxes? Yes, yes it is. There was enough quality and such a wide spectrum of item types that I was was almost confused. With most boxes the format is between one and three cool things and then some junk to fill in the blanks. Here there was an honest attempt to make every item special. The only one that counted as traditional filler was an apology for late shipping, a phenomenon I've never encountered in this market before. Pretty much everything here will see usage. Even the heavier price point is alright since the value is immediately apparent. I'm satisfied, and those of you who read my unboxings know I'm not easily won over. I would buy another Fright Crate down the line. Almost bought the October edition as it is supposed to be bigger than usual. While I sort of regret skipping, this has been an expensive enough month that I'm happy to have saved the money.

That's a wrap for tonight, kids. This is gonna be an odd week for yours truly as I have more responsibilities than normal, basically have yet another job albeit temporally. At the same time I also have a couple nights completely cleared for me to vedge out with Boo Berry and horror flicks. If there's nothing more on here by the end of this week, then look forward to a report from the annual haunted house trip. Going back to Awaken in Leslie MI this year. If you're in the area I highly advise paying them a visit. If you're lucky you might hear me scream like a lady.