Thriller

Day 21: The year is 1982. Three great things come into the world, The Wrath of Khan, the owner of Arkham Games, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The following year, the 13-minute video debuts as MTV first world premiere. The video jumps from horror movie, to music video, back to horror, back to music; it’s really quite engaging. The video was directed by John Landis (Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London), make-up by the amazing Rick Baker (7 Academy Awards for Best Make-up), and the outro by classic horror icon Vincent Price.

Thriller has become an iconic piece. Inmates have recreated it, marching bands, and theatre productions. The dance has appeared in television and film, earning a place as one of the greatest videos of all time.

If you haven’t seen it, YouTube has it available in its entirety here https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA

Did you know: In December 2009, it was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, the first ever music video to be selected.

31 Days of Halloween

Pyramid Head

Day 20: In 1999 Silent Hill was released for the Playstation. Harry Mason searches for his missing daughter in the town of Silent Hill, a rural American town blanketed in fog. Psychological horror and a shift to an otherworldly dimension, are a key elements to the games. Pyramid Head is introduced in Silent Hill 2 as the main antagonist, a manifestation of the main character’s wish to be punished.

Pyramid Head also appears in the film from 2006. The film takes elements from the story of the first game, as well as reusing music from the series, to create a creepy experience. With a mother now searching for her daughter in the town, abandoned due to underground coal fires. What begins as an empty town, soon turns horrific when the other world creeps into our’s, bringing with it a host of evil twisted creatures.

Did you know: The strange stumbling movements of the Dark Nurses when they first “come alive” was created by filming them walking backwards, and then running the film in reverse.

31 Days of Halloween

Sam

Day 19: In 2009, a film slipped under the radar, straight to DVD. Trick ‘r Treat was supposed to hit theaters in 2007, but for many different speculated reasons, got buried for two years. One night, five stories; It’s a good, fun movie. Today’s post will focus on Sam, the little trick or treater in the orange pajamas. While being a sort of connection between the five stories, he seems to be a physical manifestation of Halloween itself. Sam is featured in only one story, knocking on the door of a hermit, played by Brian Cox, with unfortunate consequences.

Did you know: Characters from each story are frequently seen in the background of stories they are not involved with. This is to help piece together the chronology of the movie.

31 Days of Halloween

Vampires

Day 18: Discussing today, my other favorite vampires, with Dracula and Strahd done earlier. The essential lore is that a vampire is an immortal being that drinks the blood of the living for sustenance. Other parts of the mythology vary between sources: aversion to garlic and crosses, inability to cross running water, death from stake to the heart or sunlight, sleeping in coffins, no reflection.

Vampire The Masquerade: Genesis 11 “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” In White Wolf’s 1991 roleplaying system, the vampires believe that curse put upon Cain was vampirism and all vampires descended from him. The third generation decided to slay the second, and so Cain in turn cursed them, creating the thirteen unique clans. Vampire is my favorite roleplaying game for it’s mythology/setting, focus on story driven elements, and it’s easy to learn mechanics. I tend to always gravitate to Nosferatu of Ravnos when choosing a character. Vampire was redone in 2004 as Vampire: The Requiem. While similar mechanically, the mythology is quite different and I prefer the original.

Interview With The Vampire: In 1976 Anne Rice publishes her debut novel chronicling the life, and unlife, of Louis, a plantation owner in New Orleans. Louis tells his story to a young reporter; his maker Lestat, his adopted daughter Claudia, saved from the plague, the meeting of ancient Armand, trying to hold on to humanity and losing everything in the process. The novel was adapted to film in 1995 with Brad Pitt as Louis and Tom Cruise as Lestat. I find it one of the better vampire movies out there, not relying on action or the vampire’s body count but telling a story that happens to include vampires. Other than a good soundtrack, I can’t endorse the sequel, Queen of the Damned.

Castlevania: Released by Konami in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the player takes control of Simon Belmont in a traditional platformer. Armed with a whip, you storm Dracula’s castle, fighting all sorts of monsters in your way. Technically, this is using Dracula twice, but I feel that Castlevania has enough of its own lore to set it apart, taking place 200 years before Bram Stoker’s novel.

Did you know: The vampires folklore we are familiar with originates in southern Europe in the 18th century.

vampire2

Dracula

Day 17: Last weekend was full of clowns, this weekend will be vampires. Today will be the most famous of them all, Dracula. Although the modern vampire story would come from the same writing contest that brought us Frankenstein, many think of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel as the beginning. Dracula purchases land in England in order to establish a new home with fresh blood, only to be thwarted by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.

In 1922, the German silent film Nosferatu is released, changing many details including the vampire’s name to avoid copyright. The character’s next big screen performance is Universal’s Dracula in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi will long be considered classic Dracula, with his suave persona, eastern european accent, and hypnotic stare. It is hard not to think of him as Dracula, which unfortunately for remainder of his acting career, many others thought the same.

Many more Dracula’s would come and go, notably Christopher Lee ( Horror of Dracula 1958), and Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992). Dracula’s Filmography (including TV) at IMDB lists 554 titles with the character. Mel Brooks also took a crack at the character in the hilarious Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Did you know: On-screen vampires didn’t have fangs until 1953’s Turkish Drakula İstanbul’da.

31 Days of Halloween

The Phantom of the Opera

Day 16: The Phantom of the Opera exists in two parts, one part horror/love story and the other broadway musical. Originally published in 1909  Gaston Leroux, the novel tells the story of Christine, a young opera singer, and her beloved Raoul. The Phantom kidnaps Christine, hoping that she will love him. He is unmasked, revealing a corpse-like figure. After some time, he lets Christine go, as long as she promising to be loyal to him. The Phantom discovers Christine is still in love with Raoul  and attends a masquerade ball as the Red Death, only to run away with Christine again. The ending, which I won’t spoil, follows.

The 1925 Silent Film starring Lon Chaney is considered the most faithful adaption to the book and the unmasking scene is one of the most famous scenes in horror movie history. The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1998 as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

The Broadway version in 1986 tells a very similar tale, a few changes here and there. The Phantom is not nearly as horrific, with some disfigurement to one side of his face. It is a story of a love that cannot be reciprocated. The Phantom is a stalker, kidnapper, murderer and yet we feel sorry for him. Personally I really enjoy the music, and find it a great addition to the original story.

Did you know: Lon Chaney devised his own make-up which was kept secret right up until the film’s premiere.

31 Days of Halloween

The Headless Horseman

Day 15: Although the Headless Horseman folklore has been around since the middle ages, most associate the character with short story by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Horseman was a Hessian soldier in the Revolutionary war who lost his head to a cannonball, returning at night to find it.

My favorite recollection of the Horseman is Sleepy Hollow from 1999. Are you surprised the Tim Burton and Danny Elfman appear yet again? Although it was Christopher Walken who gave the character his frightening appearance, the majority of the character was performed by Ray Park and Rob Inch. The legend is a bit different in this version of the story, but still creates some great mystery, action, and ambiance.

The Horseman also appears in World of Warcraft during the Hallow’s End Event. “Prepare yourselves, the bells have tolled! Shelter your weak, your young and your old! Each of you shall pay the final sum! Cry for mercy; the reckoning has come!”

Did you know: The 1999 film features three actors who played Sith Lords: Ray Park(Darth Maul), Christopher Lee (Darth Tyrannus), and Ian McDiarmid (Darth Sidious).

31 Days of Halloween

Mind Flayers

Day 14: The Mind Flayer was created in 1975 for Dungeons & Dragons.  Mind Flayers, or later Illithids, are humanoids with an octopus like head and great psychic powers. They thrive in the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms, finding themselves superior to other races, often enslaving them for labor, food (Illithids have an appetite for brains), or reproduction.

The Mind Flayer society produces eggs which spawn a tadpole of sorts. Rather than the tadpole maturing like a frog does, it is inserted into a host through the ear where it grows and takes over the host body completely. Kind of half Alien, have Pod People.

Mind Flayers are quite a scary foe to face as an adventurer, often high leveled, lawful evil, psychic being that is difficult to negotiate with simply because you probably lack anything it wants, except your brain.

Did you know: Creator, Gary Gygax was inspired by cover art for The Burrowers Beneath by Brian Lumley, a Cthulhu Mythos novel.

31 Days of Halloween

The Wolf Man

Day 13: My favorite of the classic Universal monsters, The Wolf Man, was released in 1941, starring Lon Chaney Jr. Lawrence Talbot, having returned home to Wales, enjoys an evening out with performances by a traveling gypsy caravan. A gypsy girl is attacked by a wolf an Lawrence goes to her aid, killing the wolf, but being bit in the fight. As it turns out, the creature was not a mere wolf, but one of the other gypsies, cursed with lycanthropy. Lycanthropy is the supernatural transformation of man in wolf or hybrid. In most folklore, it is a curse, being a involuntary and often extremely painful shift usually brought on by the full moon. The curse can be transferred through bite.

So here is poor Larry Talbot, becoming the wolf man and hunting unsuspecting villagers and nobody will believe him. The one who does believe him is a fantastic character, Meleva played by Maria Ouspenskaya. The movie also give us a great score and Chaney reprises the role in many sequels.

The Wolfman was remade in 2010 starring Benicio Del Toro as the lead. I found this to actually be a rather good movie, capturing much of what made the original so good. It’s unfortunate the ending was kind of goofy and didn’t seem to fit.

“Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

Did you know: The church scenes were shot on the old “Hunchback of Notre Dame” set where Chaney’s father had played Quasimodo in 1923.

31 Days of Halloween

It

Day 12: Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Our clown weekend wraps up with Pennywise, the dancing clown. It is part coming of age tale and part monster tale. Published in 1986, the novel tells the story of a group of misfit kids and their struggle to fight off an evil entity once as children, and then again after they’ve grown to adulthood. The monster, known as It, feeds on fear and often took the form of a Pennywise the Clown in an effort to lure children to their demise. In the novel, the entity shape-shifts many times into the children’s worst fears.

In 1990, a two part miniseries was released with Tim Curry as Pennywise, for which critics praised the role. Part one reveals the events of the children in the “Losers Club” facing their fears and vowing to avenge the deaths of the neighborhood children. Entering the sewers, they confront and defeat the clown, agreeing to return should It come back. Part two details the events of the “Losers Club” as adults, having to return to town to defeat It once again.

Did you know: On the DVD commentary track, the actors note that Tim Curry’s characterization of Pennywise was so creepy and realistic that everyone avoided him during the filming.

31 Days of Halloween