Friday, October 7, 2011

31 Days of Halloween Day 5

(That's the view from my office as I post this and add pictures.Neighbors love me.)
The Troublemakers ventured forth to investigate the local Halloween stores and their offerings on Monday. It’s a thing we’ll end up doing several times over the next month. See, I’ve made the decision to keep things at a Scooby-Doo level of scary this year. Lil’ Troublemaker is old enough to get how awful some of your more grotesque Halloween things are (zombies, Freddy Krueger, The Worst Witch), but not old enough to get that it’s all fake and fun. There’s also the fact that there will be a bunch of kids at his birthday party and I don’t want to freak anybody out. Which is why we’re not inviting his great grandmother (I kid, I kid!).

The Spirit Halloween store decided not to open a location anywhere near us this year, so we had to head out to the Mall of Georgia area to hit one. We passed another place called Halloween City once we got off the interstate and knew we’d be stopping there as well. Sometimes the lesser-known seasonal stores yield better results than the big chains.
The Spirit chain is owned by the same company that owns Spencer Gifts and is the main reason Spencer is no longer the Halloween powerhouse it once was. Remember the days when you couldn’t wait for October so you could go to the mall and see what kind of crazy and violently offensive Halloween merchandise Spencer would get? That was the only place to buy the best licensed stuff – Freddy Krueger gloves, Jason and Michael Meyers’ masks, latex facial applications that never stayed on because they came with some kind of kid-safe non-adhesive liquid rather than spirit gum. Long before Spencer was a glorified head shop it was the place to buy weird, off-kilter items that Lionel Playworld and Richway were too scared and square to stock.
There was another store called Art Explosion that wasn’t as specifically Halloweeny but definitely gave Spencer some competition. This one was a little more upscale – they didn’t carry rubber dog shit – but they’d still put out some wild masks and costumes come October.
Anyway, Spirit has been around for several years now and has thoroughly insinuated itself into our Halloween good times. No season of the witch would be complete without a couple of trips. Sometimes Spirit is an almost magical experience, with a location fully decked out in displays and working demos of zombies, ghouls and animatronic movie monsters. Sometimes Spirit is a fucking dump that looks like a Big Lots with boxes of dead people stacked in the back. If you get the latter you just shrug it off and have a slightly less magical time. If you get the former, though; well that’s awesome. It can seriously make your whole Halloween month about 30% better.
The Mall of Georgia Spirit Halloween store made our October about 33.3% better. It was fucking awesome. And thank goodness I have a decent camera phone and a heapin’ helpin’ of charm and was able to get pictures that were worth posting and didn’t piss off the staff, otherwise this article would suck.
The first thing that impressed me was the fact that the store had a real exterior sign rather than a banner. I can only imagine the higher-ups at Spirit just waiting for sign technology to improve to the point where they could have temporary signs that look permanent. It may not seem like a huge deal, but it really did class the place up. Once inside there was an archway to walk through before stepping into Halloween Wonderland. And Halloween Wonderland was fucking huge
I still can’t believe how big that place was. There were four or five different scenes or dioramas set up throughout the store. They had a cemetery, a carnival, a haunted house, a sort of tunnel thing with zombies at the end and probably one or two more that I’m not thinking of. 
It was really impressive.
Well, it was impressive if you’re not a three year old kid. Lil’ Troublemaker was not liking it. Once we got past the costume section into the yard stuff and animatronics he wanted to get up top (on my shoulders) and by the time we made it to the zombie tunnel thing he was done. So I took him outside so Mrs. Troublemaker could look around and then she relieved me so I could go back in.
The place was impressive, but everything in there was pretty gruesome. Not much fit within my parameters of how icky we were willing to get. So the visit was cool and definitely got us in the Halloween spirit (pun pretty much intended), but we didn’t spend a dime there.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about putting a bunch of sissy smiling scarecrows in the yard and a pink witch on the door; I just don’t want the top half of a zombie crawling across the yard or a talking Pinhead offering to chop off genitals. Not this year, anyway. I think our guideline is as long as it doesn’t look like it should be wet we’re okay. Skeletons are okay. Tombstones are okay. Zombie babies eating their own intestines straight out of their stomachs are not okay.
Next we went to Halloween City. It wasn’t nearly as impressive as Spirit, set-up wise, but the difference in merchandise was fairly noticeable. While they did have their fair share of gruesome – enough to make Lil’ Troublemaker want to wait outside again – they had more of a selection of regular non-dismembered stuff too. Mrs. Troublemaker went in solo at first, but our son’s desire for a Batman costume finally overcame his fear of talking zombies (his big concern is the talking and groaning, not so much the stilted movements). I told him I’d carry him in and he could just lay his head down if anything freaked him out. I’m not an asshole. I’m not making my kid do stuff he doesn’t like or letting him see stuff he shouldn’t.
You won’t even believe this, but I promise you it’s true: I work with a guy who let his five and seven year old kids watch Saw. And thinks nothing of it. What kills me is he’s this really nice guy; one of the only ones I can actually enjoy talking to. But that’s just fucked up. I feel bad when Lil’ Troublemaker sees stupid-looking fake zombies. I can’t imagine letting him watch torture porn.
Anyway, now that I’m done being all judgmental, we made our way to the back to the kids costumes. This place really was much more tame than Spirit. They had a couple of gross-out items up front but this one was mostly costumes and rubber rats. Not much crazier than you’d find in Target. Lil’ Troublemaker got down and looked around at everything. He was maintaining that he wanted to be Batman for Halloween, but he wanted to check out the other costumes just in case. I think runners-up were Anakin Skywalker and Pre Viszla, but we all knew it was going to be Batman. The only problem was which Batman. There are approximately 327 different variations of children’s Batman costumes available and if you’re a big nerd each of them has something fundamentally wrong.
There is a Brave & the Bold-styled one that has a face mask. Just a face mask. No cowl. There is another blue and gray Batman costume with a light-up bat symbol on the chest, but Lil’ Troublemaker knows darn well that Batman does not have a light-up chest. There are also many variations on the Nolan Batsuits, but I don’t feel that those are kid-appropriate and they’re not exactly exciting to look at anyway. And Lil’ Troublemaker’s reaction to them is, “Oh, yeah. That’s Batman.”, not “LOOKIT! BATMAN!”
Note: I finally looked it up and discovered that “grey” and “gray” are interchangeable. “Grey” is the proper English version and “gray” is the American English version. But they both mean the same thing. I had always wondered if there was a minor variation, like one referred to clothing and one referred to rat hair or something.
Spirit had one not-quite-right Batman costume and Halloween City had another. We had to keep looking.
On the way out of the store Mrs. Troublemaker spotted the most awesome sunglasses you’ve ever seen on your life.
They weren’t priced, but we knew we had to get them as party favors for the birthday party. Lil’ Troublemaker spotted some sort of awful thing right around that time so the wife took him outside while I bought the sunglasses and a few other neat-o party favor items.
There’s also a Target out by Mall of Georgia, so we ran over there to see if they might have a better Batman costume. Boy, did they. It’s comic-based and very old-school with darker gray and a grimmer cowl. It also has a cool blue lining in the cape. I thought it was awesome as soon as I saw it and so did Lil’ Troublemaker. The only problem is that the ears have no support and look stupid:
But we’ve got a fix in mind for that.
We picked up a few other things, like these glow-in-the-dark skulls:
And then went over to Toys R Us because I can’t imagine being within five minutes of a Toys R Us and not stopping. That predilection did not work in my favor because I ended up buying the Galactic Heroes AT-ST set that I had been avoiding forever. I think the price is ridiculous for that thing, but our son has been really good during some trying circumstances lately. Also, he managed to convey a great amount of desire for the set without whining. He very rationally named every character in the box as well as the vehicle and calmly explained that he did not have any of them.
I’m weak.
Doubly weak, because I also bought the newest DST Universal Monsters – The Mummy and Dracula. You’ll get either a review or reviews soon. I’m, not sure if I’m going to do them separately or not. I’ve also got Frankenstein and Wolfman from a few months ago that I never got around to.
On the way back home we hit that goldmine of cheap Halloween joy: Dollar Tree. If you love Halloween I challenge you to visit a Dollar Tree this month without spending a few bucks. They always have some kind of cheap, kitschy garbage that you can’t resist and this visit was no exception:
I love those window cling things.
Before I get to the SyFy Weekend Overview I want to mention the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse again. We’re doing it tonight and I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about something. I honestly can’t recommend this strongly enough. If you can make it to the Atlanta area before the end of the month, you must do this. It is amazing.
31 Days of Halloween vs. 31 Days of Halloween!
We’re heading into the weekend and since I won’t be posting again until Monday so I’m going to go ahead and cover what’s on SyFy Saturday and Sunday as well. Strap in, because it’s about to get wacky.
Friday
  • 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Sanctuary – If we didn’t have so much going on I’d probably give this show another shot.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
  • 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Thir13en Ghosts – Okay, I’m genuinely disappointed here. I love this movie, but there are literally thousands of movies SyFy can show this month. Why show one twice? Also, I think 6 PM is a little early to be showing something this brutal, especially considering the kid-oriented WWE Smackdown is following.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4
  • 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM – WWE Smackdown – I’m not going to get into whether or not it’s even appropriate for SyFy to be showing wrestling. It’s part of their schedule and that’s just how it is. But I can mention that Smackdown has been extra crappy lately. And I can also mention that for the very first time ever I deleted last week’s episode without even watching it because I just couldn’t be bothered.
Halloween score – 0
Quality score - 2
  • 10:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Sanctuary
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
  • 11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Paranormal Witness
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – ?
Saturday
  • 12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Sanctuary – According to the schedule, this is the same episode they just played at 11 PM. That’s kind of lame.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2 (-1 for being an instant repeat)
  • 1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Children of the Corn – This is the SyFy version of the Stephen King story, which I tried to watch when it came out two years ago and hated. I’m not a huge fan of the original (or the series at all, for that matter), but this one just stinks on ice.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
  • 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Bram Stoker’s Way of the Vampire – The title alone sounds goofy as shit. The cover does nothing to…
Holy shit look at that fucking bat! Now I want to see this.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – I’m going to guess a bizarro 4
  • 5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Friday the 13th: The Series – I absolutely loved this show when it was on the air and I still think it’s pretty great. The acting is a little goofy, but it’s basically the precursor to Warehouse 13. We actually have the whole first season on DVD, but it was a “gift” from The Albino so I won’t watch it. I sure hope they’re doing a marathon at some point.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

  • 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 0
  • 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM – Scare Tactics – Rather than watch this crappy show, why not enjoy this:
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
  • 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM – Pterodactyl – Not so much. I like dinosaurs and all, but unless this is actually about a were-pterodactyl fighting a Dracula I really don’t see the Halloween connection.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 2
  • 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM – Carny – Not that you’d know it from the title, but this movie is about the Jersey Devil. +1 for cryptozoology. +1 more for Lou Diamond Phillips.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 4
  • 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM – Monster Ark – I watched this one when it premiered and I have to say I was a little disappointed. With a title like “Monster Ark” I was expecting a lot of monsters. We got one. It’s a pretty decent one, but I can’t help but be disappointed by that.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2

  • 3:30 PM – 6:30 PM – The Devil’s Advocate – Seriously? This is barely even a horror movie. And it certainly wasn’t good. I have a feeling there’s another omission here because this movie shouldn’t take three hours.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 2
  • 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM – End of Days – Seriously? This is barely even a horror movie. And it certainly wasn’t good. But I guess it might be a tad more Halloweeny. And it did feature that Guns N Roses song that heralded the arrival of a new album. Nine years later.
Also, probably another schedule omission.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2
  • 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – The Terror Beneath
Huh. I dunno. If it’s more supernatural than disaster it might be okay. But probably not.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 2
  • 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Path of Destruction – Nanotechnology gone wild! Sounds like a poor man’s Michael Crichton.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 2
Sunday
  • 1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – The Terror Beneath
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 2
  • 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Mandrake – It’s a SyFy Original, but I can’t find anything else out about it. I suppose it’s sheer folly to hope it’s about Mandrake the Magician.
Halloween score – Who knows?
Quality score – 2 is usually a safe guess with ol’ SyFy
  • 5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Twilight Zone – I’m certainly not going to talk shit about Twilight Zone or its relevance to Halloween, but SyFy has already established the show as its go-to for New Year’s. So this feels a bit off.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4
  • 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 0
  • 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM – Scare Tactics – Here’s another far superior Tracy Morgan appearance:
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
  • 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM – Paranormal Witness
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3?
  • 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM – See No Evil – Some folks will be in church. Some folks will be watching Kane dismember people on the SyFy channel. It takes all kinds. I really like this movie, by the way. Recently bought it on Blu.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3
  • 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM – Saw II – This one was great. I liked it better than the first. It may surprise you to discover that I’ve never found these movies to be very Halloweeny, though. While I do enjoy the gore, Halloween is more of a supernatural thing to me.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
  • 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM – Saw III – This was the last one I truly liked. To me the first three films are a solid story that concludes nicely here.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

  • 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM – Saw IV – I didn’t like this one much. I’m not sure if it truly isn’t as good or if I’ve just got franchise fatigue.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2
  • 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Hostel: Part II – I am a huge fan of Eli Roth and I thoroughly enjoy his movies. I thought this one was a nice twist on the first; especially the ending. Imagine what a Hollywood pariah Roth would be if this one had come out first without establishing, “Yeah – we tortured dudes first so torturing these girls is okay.” The PC police would have shit their little panties. But, much like Saw, I don’t find the Hostel movies particularly Halloweeny.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
  • 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Chain Letter – From Wikipedia:
The film is about six friends who are stalked by a murderer that uses chains to kill them if they do not pass on the chain letter.
That sounds like the stupidest fucking idea ever. This has to be a joke. And this isn’t even a SyFy Original.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – Possibly a bizarro 3
  • 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – P2 – I never saw this and I kind of want to, especially now that I realize it stars Scarlett. Still, not very Halloweeny.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – I’m going o guess a 3
Monday
  • 1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – The Seamstress – I didn’t realize I had seen this until I read a synopsis. It’s terrible. But more Halloween-oriented than the day of torture porn.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2
  • 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Dead Like Me – I’m assuming this is the movie follow-up to the TV show. Mrs. Troublemaker loves the show, but I can’t get into it.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4 – I think it’s a well done show, but I don’t dig it
  • 5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Twilight Zone – I’m certainly not going to talk shit about Twilight Zone or its relevance to Halloween, but SyFy has already established the show as its go-to for New Year’s. So this feels a bit off.
Still.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4
  • 6:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 0
  • 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Scare Tactics – Saints preserve us, it’s a whole day-long marathon of this drek.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
And that wraps it up. I’ll be back on Monday with… something. I’m not sure what. But it’ll damn sure be better than Scare Tactics.


Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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