Monday, October 31, 2011
I hadn't planned to do any decorating outside the house this year. Last Spring we moved to a new neighborhood that was rumored to be pretty empty of trick or treaters. The three houses to the left of us are empty except during the Summer months, and we are on a cul de sac with no through traffic and invisible from the road we turn off from do to a wooded area surrounding a vernal pool in the middle of our circle. On top of that our whole neighborhood is in a geological depression, so we're really out of view to anyone passing by.
At the last minute though (almost literally since I hadn't really decided on this until almost noon today) I decided that I couldn't stand the idea of not putting anything out in the yard, even if it was for only one trick or treater. If I was able to transform Halloween night into something magical for one kid, then it needed to be done. They sure weren't going to get it at any of the other houses.
So I quickly dug through what I had tucked away from Halloween's past and threw something together quickly in just a couple of hours, but tried to use the sight lines leading to our house to draw any trick or treaters up to our front door. This is what things looked like before it turned dark.
Looking up from the foot of our long driveway (I am so not looking forward to shoveling this this Winter). Jars containing votives line both sides of the driveway creating a visible path leading upwards towards the house. Just before our mailbox is the first Jack O'Lantern. Just beyond it are the first tiki torches with bright columns of fire drawing attention to them. There are more visible beyond them.
The first Jack O'Lantern with our name and address on it was my wife's idea as a way to help the mother of one of my daughter's friends find our house when she came to pick up her daughter. It didn't work. She still got lost.
The first tiki torches come as a pair. Normally, i would have positioned them at the base of the driveway, but one side is lined with bamboo, and I worried about starting a fire. You can see more tiki torches in the background. Some of the skulls have eyes that light up.
Here's three more seen on the woods side of the driveway. This side of the driveway has a lot of potential for future Halloween projects.
Looking towards the house from the last tiki torch on the house side of the driveway reveals the figure of Nosferatu standing on the deck watch as the trick or treaters pass by.
Here's Nosferatu illuminated in red. You can't see it but his eyes glow also.
Moving around the side of the house, the votive jars lead to the first headstones, though the ones this far out will be barely discernible in the dark. There's a window above the tree branches on the left side which has an element of visual interest which I'll show later in this post. You can also see the first view of one of the yard ghosts and can start hearing the sound effects that are playing from the graveyard.
As you come around the corner you see the first yard ghost which is recycled from last year.
You can now see the second yard ghost beyond her; the beheaded bride. All of the support structures that are visible in these photos are invisible at night.
Here's a closer view of this ghost. She needs a little repair work, but I didn't have enough time today to take care of it. She looks much better in the dark, and none of the tape visible here can be seen in the dark.
Moving along as you come towards the walkway from the driveway to the front door (which oddly is in the back of the house, or the side facing away from the street). None of the other ghosts from the past couple of Halloweens were used this year. Some were just too beat up, and I didn't have time to try and fix them.
Now we're at the base of the walk with a better view of the beheaded bride.
My son's freaky Jack O'Lantern rests beneath the decorative grass at the end of the walkway which can be seen in the previous photo.
Looking up the walkway towards the front door. If I'd planned ahead, I would have put a lot more stuff on the sides of the porch flanking the door.
One of the remaining Jack O'Lanterns.
And the other, created by my daughter.
At night things look quite a bit different.
The view looking back towards the street.
Above is the element I mentioned that was positioned in an upper window on the side of the house. It's really hard to photograph, but this skull sticks to the window via two suction cups in the eye sockets and its jaw opens and closes. I found this at Walt Disney World last February and bought it because it reminded me of the Scooby-Doo villain the Space Kook. If I can figure out how to make the clear dome helmet, I'll make the whole costume some year.
Here's another bad photograph of the light up animated skull.
The whole thing took me less than three hours to put up, including time it took me to find stuff that hadn't been unpacked from our move and to run out to buy tiki torch fuel.
So, how many trick or treaters did we get? Excluding my kids and my daughter's friend; four. One was a little girl from a few houses down who said it was two scary for her. The other three were 6th and 7th graders who thought it was really cool.
That in a nutshell was Halloween at my house. I hope everyone reading this had a great Halloween. Thanks for dropping by.
For our final print and cut paper mask, I present a whole slew of these cool Universal monsters that can be folded to appear fully three dimensional. Besides the Creature from the Black Lagoon, you can also find Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Frankenstein monster. These are all available here.
The site also boasts some Star Wars masks as well as some celebrities. If that's not enough there are printable invitations, banners, skeletons, coloring pages and more.
I usually try to showcase items from my own collection during my Halloween countdown, but this year, while I did acquire some new items I haven't really put out any decorations inside the house and probably won't be doing much with the outside of the house either.
So instead of showing anything of my own I would like to direct you to Vintage Halloween Collectors group on Flickr and impression resource of fantastic vintage items and displays of various members collections which will no doubt fill you with awe and envy. Take a look at a small sampling here, then head for the link above and check out thousands more.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Night of the Demon (1957) stars Dana Andrews as John Holden, a psychologist who debunks the supernatural who learns that a colleague died believing that he was murdered by witchcraft by an Aleister Crowley-like figure named Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) that he was trying to expose as a fraud. Now Holden, setting out to continue his dead colleagues work finds that he, too, has been targeted by Karswell and that his firm skepticism may not be enough to save him.
This movie is a masterpiece of supernatural and psychological horror directed by Jacques Tourneur, who returns to the subtle psychological horrors that made him famous in the 1940s such as Cat People (1942), The Leopard Man (1943) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943). The cast and script are excellent, and the story moves at a brisk pace from opening to finish, with beautiful cinematography throughout. This is one of my all time favorite horror movies.
This is a movie that should not be missed and would make a good double bill with Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell (2009)
The Devil Rides Out (1968) was adapted by Richard Matheson from the novel by Dennis Wheatley. Christopher Lee secured the rights to all of Wheatley's supernatural novels featuring the Duc de Richleau, hoping to create a franchise for himself as the heroic occult investigator. Alas, The Devil Rides Out is the only movie to have come from these plans and is such a fantastic movie that one only wishes that the others had been made.
The Duc de Richleau (Lee) and Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) are distressed to discover that their friend Simon (Patrick Mower) has gotten himself involved with a bunch of practitioners of black magic. They make every effort to save Simon, but discover that the group's powerful leader, Mocata (Charles Gray) is reluctant to let Simon go. The Duc and Rex find themselves in opposition to some serious powers of darkness.
This is my favorite Christopher Lee movie by far. He gives a magnificent, commanding performance in the role of the movie's hero, and I only wish his dream of following this up with more movies starring him as the Duc de Richleau. This is also my second favorite Hammer film (Brides of Dracula being number one) and it is truly a powerful film. The movie starts with a bang and never lets up through the climax. Many have said that this movie is too ambitious for its budgetary restrictions, and while the representations of the dark forces may have been more terrifying with a larger budget to invigorate them, I found their mundane natures to be quite effective, lending them an air of credibility. The excellent script by Matheson, direction by Terrance Fisher, cinematography by Alan Grant, score by James Bernard and the excellent cast and great sets and locations all make this movie feel much grander than the budget allows.
Anyone who's followed this blog for a bit will know that I'm a huge fan of the Haunted Mansion attraction at the Disney theme parks. Here's a link to some printable masks of the three hitchhiking ghosts from Disney's The Haunted Mansion attraction.
You can also print out paper models of the hitchiking ghosts, the hatbox ghost, stretching room portrait bookmarks, cupcake topper tombstones, "Tomb Sweet Tomb" candy boxes, and Madame Leota party invitations.
You can find even more Haunted Mansion papercraft projects here.
I'm not sure when this Lon Chaney puppet was made, nor do I know what this display was for. All I know is I really like it.
In continuing with all of the paper projects I've been sharing this month, from the daily print and cut out paper masks, to the paper model Psycho house, here's one where you can build your own Lon Chaney paper puppet as he appeared in his role in The Penalty (1920).
Images courtesy of the Lon Chaney Home Page
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The Return of Doctor X (1939) is not a sequel to Doctor X (1932), nor does it have anything to do with the prior movie, though the title is accurate. This movie begins with the murder of an actress and the trials of the reporter who discovered her corpse after she turns up alive the next day with no one else having seen her dead, but him. In an attempt to clear his reputation and save his job, the reporter teams up with a young doctor friend and they follow a trail of murder victims with the same blood type, resurrected dead people, and a quest for synthetic blood. Humphrey Bogart is creepy in his small role as Dr. Quesne, a man with a disturbing past and an even stranger present status in this mystery.
I wasn't expecting much from this movie, but it turned out to be pretty entertaining, with some nice elements in it. As a mystery it was very satisfying. As a horror story, not as much, but the horror elements that were present were pretty effective. The dead people brought to life were visibly cold and pallid looking, like dead fish bellies, giving them an unnatural and unsettling presence.
Dr. X (1932) is a pre-code mystery/ old dark house style movie in which a series of murders involving surgical precision and cannibalism lead police to Dr. Xavier (Lionel Atwill), not simply for a medical consultation, but because the hard to obtain medical instrument used in the murders is one that is in use at Xavier's research institute. Concerned that any connection will bring negative attention to his institute, he asks for the opportunity to flush out the killer from amongst his research scientists himself. He's given 24 hours to do so, and takes the suspects to a remote mansion where a series of tests are conducted meant to expose the killer, eventually he is revealed, but not before he strikes again.
You'd think that starring Lionel Atwill in a movie about a killer at large would automatically lead the trail to him, but this movie is stocked with disfigured mad scientist types and a creepy butler, all of whom appear to be likely candidates, especially since three of the scientists have connections with cannibalism. There are some nice sets, and some great mad scientist and lab equipment moments, but overall this movie drags along and fills unsatisfying. Fay Wray also stars, as Xavier's daughter, but has little purpose except to be placed in danger in the final act, and to be pestered and mooned over by obnoxious reporter, Lee Tracy.
It's too bad this movie was so bland since it does have its great moments and a cast of suspects worthy of a Dick Tracy comic strip.
When I was a kid comic books featured a lot of ads just like this one above. They came in several varieties, and all were enticing, and to be honest, a few of them were unsettling, which didn't stop them from being enticing.
Like everyone I know who studied these sorts of ads regularly, my parents refused to let me order any of this stuff because they recognized it as cheap crap, though how they were so certain I'm not sure because c'mon look at those ads. How cool would it be to have a ghost at your command to terrify others? Or a giant monster?
Well, it turns out my parents were right. Here's what the actual products turned out to be:
That's right, a two piece plastic poster and a balloon with a plastic sheet.
I don't know, though. They still look pretty cool to me.
As a special bonus to this cautionary tale, here's a link to a short film by one of the Countdown to Halloween's founding fathers, Kirk Demarais of Secret Fun Spot. Here's his award winning film, Flip. Be sure to check out his two books on the items found in all those comic book ads through the links below.