Friday, September 29, 2017

Creepy Classics with Vincent Price

It never ceases to amaze how each holiday season becomes it own unique entity via the small additions and subtractions that occur during its run. No Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even Easter for that matter is ever really the same. For a few days I was beginning to worry about this Halloween as the weather turned into a disgusting heatwave. It's difficult for one to focus on the delights of apple cider and jack-o-lanterns when it's ninety-two damn degrees in the shade. Thankfully the heat broke, crisp and windy nights have returned, and I found something that fully recharged my spooky outlook on life.
Thursday evening after yet another round of basement cleaning we headed out to a local thrift store to donate a few boxes worth of oddities. My attempts to not restock the house with assorted junk was immediately thwarted by a display of free VHS tapes. Tape collecting may be one of my lesser hobbies but there was no way I could resist checking out this spread. Much of what was on display failed to garner any interest though I was lucky enough to add a couple of nifty titles. Easily the pick of the litter was a little half-hour Hallmark special called Creepy Classics hosted by the master himself, Vincent Price.

In case I've never made this known before, I am a huge fan of Vincent Price. Truth be told I love pretty much all classics horror stars be it Karloff or Cushing but by far Price has always been my top choice. The dude was such a perfect storm of talent, taste, and above all class. He's been an icon of mine for as long as I can recall so picking up some random special with him was already a no-brainier, the free part was just gravy.

So what is Creepy Classics all about? Well it's basically just Vincent sitting in an empty theater, talking about the wonders of viewing classic horror movies while introducing clips and trailers from assorted flicks like The Blob, Invasions of the Body Snatchers, or even some of his own work like The Raven, and The Pit and the Pendulum. Think of it as a blend of a mixtape and vlog only decently produced. These sort of videos were very much a product of their time, back when a wide assortment of viewing options was the exception rather than the norm. An average kid couldn't simply look up old movie trailers online which means this video could have simply been a collection of old clips with nothing else to back it up. The fact that someone hired a good actor to lend it a little weight shows a level of care that's downright charming.

As for Vincent himself, he's honestly not putting in a ton of effort here. Of course he doesn't really have too. Anyone whose ever seen his old PBS intros of his movies knows he can easily proforma a good six minute speech without missing a beat. Here he only needs to deliver ten to thirty seconds of dialogue at a time, which even at his age couldn't have been a challenge. Even though he's not providing a grand performance here it's still fun to watch him at work, tossing out nostalgia and puns with equal grace,

Most of the old clips won't be a surprise for hardened horror fans. Of course many of us have seen Night of the Living Dead and the old Roger Corman flicks plenty of times. One trailer however came out of nowhere, the 1960 creature feature Dinosaurus! I honestly can't say as I've ever seen this one before which is doubly shocking as I was a kid with a massive hard on for both monsters and dinosaurs. Most likely this particular monster flick will serve as a holy grail this October.

The real beauty of this video isn't Price's hosting segments, or all the goofy clips. No, the big perk of this video was just how much of a mood setter it is. From the corny music to the frequent sounds of scream queens this is nearly the Halloween equivalent of a lava lamp. In a scant amount of time this tape got me jazzed up to transform the house into something out of a Scooby-Doo caper. And that's just what I plan to do over the next couple of days. In case I'm incapable of posting the video directly to this page, the whole thing can be easily found on youtube for any of you needing a similar boost.

And with that, I'm ready for October. There's already a plan for every article coming in the next month, and for anyone waiting on new installments of our regular recurring features, they'll be back in November. Right now I've got about twenty things on my to do list and a cat who believes he owns my bed. See you all back here soon.

Friday, September 22, 2017

CosmicSparky's Halloween Haul: September 2017

Some traditions are firmly set in stone, something to follow with little if any thought to how it began or what it means. Others sort of form out of nothing with little emotional background to them. That sort of thing has been steadily forming over the past several years as I tend find myself with a higher than normal amount of cash and a craving for new seasonal goodies. I swear I've made no choice or effort to make this happen yet here we are at I believe the third or fourth year in a row where I go out in September and come home with a rather remarkable unplanned haul. Honestly I didn't spend too much either. That said let's check out how the lingering remnants of a tax return magically became a pile of decorations.

The majority of this occurred during a rushed trip to Lansing. The main intent of the night was to usher in the nephew's birthday with a trip to Five Guys Burgers. After filling our bellies with beefy goodness there was roughly a scant two hours before everything closed. Thankfully we were fairly close to the Frandor shopping center which allowed us cover a substantial amount of stores with one stop.

Kirkland's is by no means a favorite store but they do have a track-record for nice holiday items and I was eager to check out their lighted pictures. I love this thing. It's the sort of image that evokes feelings of Devil's Night or Halloween night itself when the jack-o-lanterns are burning out, the moon is bright, and the streets quiet as people return to their homes in need of relaxation and cheap frozen pizza. It's that perfect peaceful moment that makes this season so great. There were other nice pictures available but this was the one for me and if you're interested I such things I'd suggest seeking them out as they were already 25% off plus in store coupons.

Party City was decent enough to have some cheap hanging ghouls. These are decent, inexpensive filler to hang from the trees as that extra bit of visual clutter that puts your display over the top without breaking the bank.
Michaels is pretty much a requirement for every Halloween and while this year wasn't their best offering it still had a few excellent items. The bats are nice yet another great tree hanger that some kid will inevitable collide with face first. Good thing they're soft and rubbery. Next there's the light up skeleton statue that I'd seen on the Kirkland website only to not find in stores. I ain't complaining mind you, just found that a tad odd. Lastly we have a ghost projector. Not unlike inflatables, these are far too often a crutch for lazy decorating but I've found when properly paired with a nice set-up they make an excellent final touch. Plus every graveyard needs ghosts.

Then there's Target, absolutely one of the kings of Halloween and they did not disappoint. I was overwhelmed by this years offerings, self-control prevailed however and I walked out only with the most important items. Recent years have marked an effort to escape the suckfest that is Styrofoam tombstones so I picked up this lovely grave marker complete with giant spider. Next up was a simple five dollar strobe light that serves double duty as a cheap horror soundtrack with screams and the like. Last but not least is an over sized snake skeleton. Skeletal animals have been a fad I've mostly dodged but this guy spoke to me. He just demands to spend the 31st hanging out of a tree branch, tormenting the wee children below. As payment he had to endure being awkwardly draped over one shoulder so that his face repeatedly smacked against my ass as I sauntered through the aisles.

Of course all this rank consumerism left me with a bountiful thirst and more than a few ways to quench it. World Market has a nice spread of spooky sodas including some drinks from Orca Beverage. Dr Jekyl's Pepper Elixir was a pretty solid choice though the pepper aspect was overdone. Spider Venom on the other hand was outstanding. Someone please show the way to the spider nest responsible for such goodness so I can jump straight in and let the little buggers fill me with tasty diabetes. Captain Morgan Jack-o-Blast was an item I've largely ignored in the past though I've found that it pairs wonderfully with brandy. Murphy's Stout has nothing to do with Halloween, it's simply delicious.

As if all this wasn't enough I visited the local Wal-Mart plaza only to end up with more additions like plastic tombstones and dollar store ghouls. The biggest thrill here is more Pumpkin Masters books. We have a library of these things reaching back into the mid-nineties with so many patterns that I really should create a digital database of them all. The company is largely responsible for my love of and skill at carving. Nowadays I tend to aim for at least one of two unique creations but it simply wouldn't be Halloween without a few PM patterns.

And with all that I'm pretty much ready for the month of October. No doubt I'll put together some crafts and maybe grab an extra strand of lights but for the first time in......I'd say ever, all the important stuff is out of the way. I'll be able to trick the house out and ride out the season in comfort and style. Best of all I'm able to replace some older stuff, sending it out to thrift stores where some kid can begin to grow his own stash of goodies on the cheap. And on that note I'm out for today. How about you guys? Any nice new decorations to scare kiddies with? Or are you just enjoying the usual onslaught of pumpkin spice everything? Hit up the comments and we'll be back soon.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Candlemass Bewitched Video Review.

Holidays are a time for music. For many such a concept is solely represented by the usual Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole Christmas fare, but that's not the kind of merrymaking I'm here to talk about. This isn't the time for songs of goodwill and cheer. No sir, this is the time for ballads of dark magic and blood sacrifice. If Halloween had one specific musical genre to call its own, most assuredly it'd be metal. From classic power metal like Helloween to the modern posturing of Ghost, the genre falls right in line with the style of the season. That's why today we'll be spending our time checking out the fun and bad in all the right ways video for the Candlemass classic, Bewitched.

Now I'm no musical historian, so I won't pretend to know the history behind Candlemass its musicians. I had never even heard of the group until a few years ago when some drunken Youtube browsing brought them to my attention. I was in love from the start for reasons you'll hopefully soon understand. Over time the video evolved from an occasional diversion, to family running gag, and eventually a Halloween staple. The damn thing even served as my text alert for a time, warning me of work. Now let's see if we can make it a part of your yearly celebrations as well.

The video begins with a woman running away from one of the least classy funeral processions I've ever witnessed. I mean one of the pallbearers is practically having a smoke break. I guess this could illustrate just how badass these guys are, but it's probably just a goof as the cigarette quickly disappears. I suppose it was a necessary stress reducer during multiple takes of pretending to strain under the weight of a fake coffin. Upon reaching their destination, that is conspicuously lacking a hole in which to to place the coffin, we find they are at the already desecrated headstone of one Messiah Marcolin. Who's that you ask?

That's Messiah Marcolin! A frizzy haired, melodramatic, pantomiming dark metal jester who refuses to stay dead. His sudden outburst from beyond the grave sends his funeral crew scurrying like future man before hyper-intelligent apes. Can you guess what Messiah gets up to fresh outta the pit? Bewitching people of course. Lucky for him the surrounding area is almost entirely populated by metalheads who fail to notice the caterwauling warlock in their midst.
Soon enough, Marcolin attempts his witchery on the pretty girl who was previously seen fleeing in terror from his funeral procession. Didn't she have an inkling something like this might happen? Could she have perhaps left the area? Or at least warn some of the other victims in advance? These mysteries must wait for another day as she is soon bewitched.

His hypnotized army gathered together at last, Messiah takes stock of his victims during the extended guitar solo. What evil plan could he possibly have in mind? Will the streets soon run red with blood of innocents in some dark ritual from forgotten eons? Could the thin veil of reality be torn asunder by this accursed platoon of the newly damned? In reality the armada of black sorcery commences stomping towards the warlocks coffin where he returns to his unholy rest. Sounds like a bit of a let down but watching it is always a delight.

Essentially this whole music video boils down to being a crazy cheap horror flick about a corpse so disappointed with its own funeral that it rises to enchant people into partying. It's like Nightmare on Elm Street if Freddy simply wanted kids to dance the cabbage patch. Of course there's also a good amount of fog machine enhanced live performance footage sprinkled throughout the tale. Not as entertaining as the core narrative but you won't hear me complaining about the opportunity to see 80's era metalheads party till they puke.

Seems blogger won't let me include the video itself but it's not difficult to find. I highly recommend taking the nearly seven minutes out of your day. Gotta tell you there are multiple wonderful little extras that I haven't even touched on in this article. After surviving your viewing, be fine peopleand show it to your friends, have them share it with their family, and ever outward. Let's make Bewitched the White Christmas of pumpkin craving time. I must also thank giphy for helping to add some flair to this post. They run a good ship.

That's all for today, kiddies. Come back soon for....honestly not sure. That's the fun of this season. I could be doing simple candy reviews or writing a guide on how to make decorative blood vomiting spiders. TTFN.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cryptocurium Parcel of Terror August Unboxing

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity for me. A couple of folks have been outta the house which usually equates to a sort of vacation, though it also means there are less people around to deal with chores and such. Combine that with work and the yearly dig to unearth my Halloween decorations, one starts to feel the need for a reward. What luck that the first in a series of mystery boxes for our Halloween coverage arrived Tuesday. I'd like to say it was just what the doctor ordered, but...well, this one's gonna require a bit more detail than the usual subscription box review.

Cryptocurium' Parcel of Terror is a horror themed subscription service focused on handmade goods. We're talking completely unique items you can't get elsewhere which is something I appreciate in a mystery box. Usually these come in the form of magnets, wall plaques, or art prints. This homemade element also lends itself to a slightly higher price to item ratio. Turns out the the Parcel of Terror works out to being more expensive than a Funko box by a few cents. Even so; I've heard enough praise of the service especially from the patron saint of unboxings and fellow man-child, Johnny Tellez that I figured it was time to give it a try.

Before we even get to the box, I want to address the matter of timing. This box is the August, Summer of Fear edition. I ordered it in July, it didn't ship until the last day of August. It got here on the 5th of September. Pumpkin Spice foodstuffs have flooded the markets, cool temperatures have become the norm rather than the exception, Labor Day has past, for all practical purposes Summer is finished. If this sort of timing continues, future costumers will be opening their Halloween box while they're taking down decorations, and the Christmas box will arrive after the ball drops. This isn't the only service to suffer from such lackluster timing but it's still an element of the subscription service experience that I find very tiresome.

In the month of waiting for my box to ship, I learned a few things about Cryptocurium. First off is that the main site is essentially just a fancy etsy page. With that comes a certain lack of upscale features and customer service. Case in point is the manner in which one cancels their subscription. I ended up having to do this far in advance of receiving the box because I need the cash free to include some other items in this years Halloween coverage. Thanks to past experience I'm used to either having an account manager feature or just writing the guy in charge to cancel. Seeing as the former wasn't an option and I saw an e-mail address in the description for cancellations, I instinctively followed that outlet. After days without a response I was about ready to get sassy, until I realized I was a jackass who misread the whole cancellation instructions. You have to go into your paypal account and block further transactions. It's a cumbersome way of doing business though I understand the psychology behind it. Guy's busy making the items, he doesn't have time to micromanage his customers. On that topic, to my knowledge you can only buy this service with Paypal. It's not an issue so much as a notable limitation.

Finally we reached the day of arrival. The first thing I noticed is this box was small. I mean really small. Unlike the average mystery box this one fit into my mailbox along with the usual amount of ads and bills. Opening up reveals a one page letter describing the items, I always skip these things to maintain the surprise. One part that wasn't a surprise was the magnet which had been previously revealed online. It's the biggest one the service has ever done. Quite fitting for Bruce, the great white shark of Jaws fame. The magnet is made of resin and handpainted and is downright impressive. You'd have to be a real dick to say much of anything nasty about this piece of work. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the rest of this box.

The next item on hand is a small art print, well not really. It's more like a big postcard than a proper print. Titled Cruel Summer It's a purposefully rough and sketchy looking spread of classic summertime villains like Cropsy or the Humanoids from the deep. It's an ok piece, certainly not anything I'd frame, but ok.
After that is a Splatterhouse sticker. Not only do I not see the seasonal connection here but it's a sticker. As a man in his early 30's, what the hell am I supposed to do with a unique crafted sticker?
Then there's a sucker. Yep, just a random bit of candy. And that's it.
Ya want to hear the truly insulting part of this experience? Now keep in mind that that this Parcel of Terror costs $35, then take into account that there is a smaller Packet of Terror for $20 that is supposed to include the month's magnet and sticker along with some candy. That means all ya get for an extra $15 is that mostly forgettable art card.
Honestly I'm floored. I can't follow a train of thought that arrives at the conclusion that it's alright to take this much money from people only to give them so little in return. I understand that this is a small operation, lacking the corporate power that fuels so many other services. Not to mention I feel sorta mean for tearing a box like this apart as it's personal work and not mass produced nonsense from faceless corporations. The fact remains however that this is, without a doubt, the worst mystery box to ever come into my home. And I'm not saying this to be mean as I think Jason, the main man behind the operation has an immense talent for making some of these items. Yet I can not recommend his service to anyone. This was a lousy purchase that makes you feel like you've been swindled. That's not a feeling I enjoy myself and definitely not something I would wish on my readers.

For as much of a disappointment as this box was, it failed to diminish my good cheer towards the onset of Fall. On the very same day the parcel showed up I had already been to various stores, picking up new candies, decorations, and pumpkin beers. I'm more excited than ever for this season though I still can't leave Cryptocurium completely behind me as they have a crossover item with our next mystery box, Fright Crate. Until that arrives we've got plenty of fun topics to cover, which means I'll be seeing you all again soon.