Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween High Notes: Music for the Monstrous Masses

As holidays go, Halloween has a lot of things going for it: distinct and easily identifiable iconography, fun and colorful traditions, and plenty of opportunities to spend time with family and friends. What it does lack, particularly in comparison to Christmas, is some kind of musical tradition. Sure, Halloween has become the de facto season for theatrical showings and fan-casted floor shows of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Evil Dead: The Musical shows signs of following a similar pattern of live performance, but a list of traditional tunes doesn't really exist for this holiday season. Topless Robot recently posted a best/worst list of spooky songs that are fit for the Halloween season; here's my brief list of creepy music that you can listen to (or watch in the case of music videos) as part of your Halloween festivities. (Also, please feel free to include as part of this list a particular Aliens vs. Predator music video from Russia, a video that I wrote about a few months ago.) Read on…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Making Monsters for Good Causes

When you hear the term "monster maker", what comes to mind? When I hear it, I either think of fictitious monster makers (such as Victor Frankenstein and Herbert West) or the real-life monster makers who work in the entertainment industry (such as Ray Harryhausen and Rick Baker). Yet monster makers really do come in all varieties, from garage model kit makers to amateur costume hobbyists. Sometimes, a monster maker can even make a living as a wedding decorations designer (insert Bridezilla joke here).

Meet Georgette Gaynor. She runs her own wedding decorations business in the Virginia Beach, VA area, working with silk flowers, arches and glue guns to create settings of wedded bliss where her customers will tie the knot. Yet in her spare time, Gaynor makes monsters--lots and lots of monsters. Using skills that she originally picked up from her wedding business, Gaynor assembles creative combinations of rubber Halloween masks, spray foam, duct tape, wire, plastic netting and PVC pipe to produce life-sized galleries of ghouls for various charity events. (Providing chills for charity--what a brilliant idea!)
  • In 2007, Gaynor contributed her homemade minions to the Monster Alley Walk, a fundraiser to benefit the Kempsville Middle School Drama Club.
  • This weekend, an army of Gaynor's monsters will strike again for "Nightmare on the Nansemond", a Halloween-themed event in Suffolk, VA to benefit the the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Click here for more details. If you live in the Suffolk area and have some free time this weekend, come to the Nightmare on the Nansemond and show your support.
To learn more about Gaynor and her work, read this 2008 article on the Hampton Road site. Continue reading past the break to see some examples of Gaynor's work (pictures provided courtesy of Ms. Gaynor), including her pack of poker-playing werewolves!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Collectible Christmas Ornaments Fit for Halloween Display

As any good geek worth his/her salt should know, the holiday season is the perfect time to buy and display highly-detailed ornaments of your favorite franchise(s). It's like having your own seasonally-mandated display case of your favorite geek obsessions. Unfortunately, the season in question is Christmas and not Halloween, and the franchises that are most likely to have ornaments made of their characters, vehicles and scenes are the sci-fi and fantasy varieties (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, DC and Marvel superheroes, etc.) thus leaving horror franchises out in the cold.

I think that having ornamental Halloween trees is a great idea, particularly if you own a fake tree. Besides, the shopping seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become so mixed together that having a tree up from October to December wouldn't be too out of place anyway. Yet finding ornaments for a Halloween tree isn't easy, so here's my list of horror-oriented ornaments that were originally marketed for Christmas but are far better suited for Halloween. Read on ...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Halloween Events in Washington DC

One of the best things about living in our nation's capital is that there's never a shortage of things to see and do. Even better than that, though, is that there's never a shortage of things to see and do during major holiday seasons, such as Halloween. Here are two upcoming cinema-centric Halloween events that might be of interest to all horror hounds who happen to be in the DC area:

Silver Spring Zombie Walk: This Saturday at 7:30 pm, there's going to be a zombie walk in downtown Silver Spring, MD. This event is open to all of the walking, shambling, and lurching undead who are interested in participating. The walk will conclude at the AFI Silver Theatre, with a showing of the original Dawn of the Dead--how cool is that for a zombie event? Click here for more details about the upcoming zombie walk and information about Silver Spring zombie walks from previous years. Click here for more information about AFI Silver Theatre's "Halloween on Screen", which includes the annual screening of the silent film classic Nosferatu with live musical accompaniment.

The 5th Annual Washington DC International Horror Film Festival: Starting this week, three movie theatres in the DC area will be showing a diverse selection of horror movie shorts and feature-length films, including an all-day movie marathon on Sunday, October 24 in Fairfax, VA. Click here to see the full schedule.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Look Back at Make-Up Monsters and Creature Costumes

For those of you who like to flaunt your costuming creativity during the Halloween season, this post is for you. From my personal horror archives: Make-Up Monsters and Creature Costumes by Marcia Lynn Cox. These books were published in the mid and late 1970s, and they consist of make-up and costume instructions aimed at kids. (A third book was published, Make-Up Monsters and Creature Costumes, although that book combined just some--but not all--of the ideas and instructions from the first two books.)

What's interesting to note about these books is that Cox came up with these make-up and costume instructions by using cheap, easily available and non-toxic items--flour, cotton balls, corn syrup, and so on--and that most of her ideas in the Make-Up Monsters book are creative (albeit amateur and low-budget) renditions of many of the classic Universal Studio monsters. Of the two books, Make-Up Monsters features the more impressive selection, largely because the costume ingredients aren't limited to cheap-looking stuff such as cardboard and aluminum foil. Then again, with some creative thinking, the costume instructions provided in Creature Costumes could probably be upgraded to a higher level of quality at a minimum cost.

I never got around to trying out any of these ideas for myself. A friend of mine once borrowed the Make-Up Monsters book so he could use the "Dripping Face" make-up instructions as part of his astronaut costume. However, considering that both of us were in elementary school at the time, it's safe to assume that this costume was in no way meant to emulate the title monster from the 1977 B-movie The Incredible Melting Man.

These books are still available at very cheap prices, so be sure to track them down if you're looking for some fresh, affordable Halloween ideas for your kids or yourself. Click below to see some examples of the monsters and creatures featured in both books.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Weekend: Blood Sweat & Fears III

It's the Halloween season--the perfect time to take in some creepy, crazy live entertainment, whether it's in the form of haunted house attracts or stage shows. If you live in the Washington DC area, the Molotov Theatre Group, the local masters of Grand Guignol, is ready and willing to meet your petrifying and perverse performance art needs.

This weekend, Molotov will be performing Blood Sweat & Fears III: The Red Velvet Curtain at the 1409 Playbill Café in Washington DC. Like its two predecessors, Blood Sweat & Fears III is made up of three one-act plays. This year's trilogy includes the following tales:
  • "Private Room Number Six", directed by Kevin Finkelstein: An unscrupulous general tries to have his way with a sweet young thing--who is not what she pretends to be. 
  • "I Want to Go Home", directed by Lucas Maloney: A desperate housewife tries to put the spice back into her marriage, and gets a most unexpected surprise.
  • "Person Unknown", directed by Lucas Maloney: A soldier returns to the woman he's fantasized over. His war injuries lead to horrible consequences for her.
The play selections are original adaptations of scripts from the 1920s London Grand Guignol by DC playwright Shawn Northrip, who collaborated with Molotov in their sold-out Capital Fringe Festival show, The Horrors of Online Dating. Performances will run from October 15, 2010 through November 13, 2010, every Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20, and they can be purchased at the door or through Molotov’s site. Blood Sweat & Fears III: The Red Velvet Curtain will be performed without an intermission and late seating doesn’t happen, so be sure to get to the show early and with an empty bladder.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Glass Snakes, Scorpions and Spiders of Scandinavian Occasion

When I was growing up, some of the toys that were commonly aimed at my age group and gender were rubber snakes, spiders, flies, and various other kinds of reptiles, arachnids and insects. The presumed explanation is that such toys were "icky" and therefore ideal for mischievous little boys who were looking to play some kind of prank on some unsuspecting little girls. (Such toys were also used--and I suppose they still are--as props for amateur haunted house events around Halloween, thus giving this post its logical seasonal tie-in.) Yet as I grew older, I began to realize just how fascinating snakes, spiders and other "icky" creatures really are, and I often am intrigued as to how they are portrayed by artists in various media (other than rubber).

Along these lines is a store I found in Rehoboth Beach, DE called Scandinavian Occasion. Just blocks away from the boardwalk, Scandinavian Occasion has a wide variety of high-quality merchandise, which includes various kinds of jewelry, wrought-iron candle holders, and blown glass items. But of particular interest to me is that among their selection of miniature glass animals, Scandinavian Occasion carries an impressive selection of glass snakes, spiders, scorpions, insects, and other kinds of reptiles.

When I first saw these items a few years ago, I was both surprised and impressed. As glass miniatures go, the "icky" animals are often left out, presumably because they are less marketable than the more cute and cuddly varieties. But Scandinavian Occasion doesn't shy away from the more unusual members of the animal kingdom, and the selection they provide are exquisite examples of creative and colorful glass artwork applied to the distinct forms of arachnids, insects and reptiles. For example, the glass snake I purchased from them (as seen in the picture above) features a green, spine-like spiral that extends throughout the snake's body, thus giving it a somewhat organic look (see below).

So, if you're ever on the east coast and have a strong appreciation of both glass artwork and all things creepy-crawly, check out Scandinavian Occasion at 125 Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Click below for more pictures of glass snakes, scorpions, spiders and insects, provided by Scandinavian Occasion.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Walter Wick Special Exhibit in Baltimore, MD

Last weekend, the Mrs. and I joined a few friends of ours for a tour of a special exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. The exhibit is entitled "Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic", and it will on display until January 2, 2011. As described by the museum's site, the exhibit "feature(s) a selection of Wick’s early photographs, which provided a foundation for the artist’s interest in illusions. It include(s) several of the handcrafted, meticulously detailed installation models accompanied by his large-format color photographs that are the illustrations in his children’s books. Together they ... provide a behind-the-scenes look at the artist’s creative process and a window into the puzzles and illusions for which he is so well known."

It's an excellent exhibit, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in photography, miniatures, optical illusions, and/or children's books. Yet what makes this exhibit worthy of mention on this blog is it details how many of the techniques Wick uses in his work are the same as those used by special effects wizards in the pre-CGI era of filmmaking, essentially revealing how Wick's work is an ongoing celebration of the photographic artisty that's responsible for generations of fantasy, horror and sci-fi film buffs. Furthermore, some of the miniatures that are on display are from two of Wick's books, Can You See What I See? Dream Machine and Can You See What I See? On A Scary Scary Night. The photos in both of these books capture the whimsical worldview of budding fantasy/horror/sci-fi geeks, those who are experiencing the flashy amusement of retro-futuristic toys and the dark allure of haunted houses for the very first time. It's a great way to kick off the Halloween season.

Click below to see pictures that I took of some of Wick's miniatures that are on display.