Monthly Archives: October 2011

Halloween vs Halloween: original or remake?

Hollywood cinema is running out of ideas. More and more we are seeing remakes and sequels instead of originals. Most of them fail miserably- like War of the Worlds and I am Legend (or, more recently, The Hangover 2)- but some of them are able to pull it off (think Funny Games). While most remakes will never be as good as the original, we have to remember that remaking a movie allows the director to make changes to the plot and characters as they see fit. The remake shouldn’t be identical to the original- after all, if we wanted to watch the exact same movie as the original, we’d just watch the original. It should be as close to it as possible with the notion that some changes are acceptable. Essentially, it becomes its own piece of art, and should be reviewed and criticized as such, with less emphasis to how closely it replicates the original. True, we want something that closely resembles the original, staying true to plot and characterization, but we are allowed to indulge ourselves in the newness of a remake, despite how dramatically it differs from the original.

John Carpenter’s Halloween is a prime example of an original that will always outshine its remake(s). Halloween is a classic that will never die (much like Michael himself). Despite it’s age and lack of quality acting- it may have Jamie Lee Curtis, but let’s be honest, she isn’t very good in it- the original always holds some precedence over the remake, regardless of it’s quality. The 1978 thriller may be dated, but it’s just as terrifying now as it was when it was first released. The eerie silence of Michael’s nature and the effortless stealth he possesses throughout the film make him a horrifyingly silent killer, one who lurks around every dark corner. The modest special effects don’t take away from the horror but rather add to it. The old saying “less is more” holds true for this movie; without the use of gory graphics, the fear remains instilled in the character himself, not necessarily just his actions of murder. The movie doesn’t need it. Most modern horror films rely on blood and gore to carry the fear. Halloween manages to capture true terror in the character of Michael Myers, without the need for elaborate filler.

But, surprisingly, Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake succeeds in adding the gore factor while keeping  the story line (basically) intact. Zombie is notorious for making over-the-top gore flicks laden with overwhelmingly sadistic characters, sickening amounts of blood and heavily x-rated scenes (think House of 1000 Corpses). But he’s able to add his personal touch to the remake without losing the true purpose of the Halloween thriller. True, he takes artistic license and stretches the backstory a bit (okay, a lot), fleshing out the character of Michael Myers more than the original. Some will argue this takes away from the mystery of Michael’s character, but Zombie adds an interesting twist by modifying the character of Laurie Strode. Instead of a random teenage girl Michael decides to stalk and kill-like the original accomplishes- Zombie complicates the plot by making Strode the younger sister to the insane Myers. Though there’s serious speculation on whether Carpenter intended Strode to be Myers’s sister, it was never explicit until the sequels. By being straightforward about this detail, Zombie’s is able to create a new scare, one exclusive to the remake. Zombie’s remake will never compare to Carpenter’s, but at least it’s worth spending two hours watching.

On this most hallowed evening, force yourself to watch (alone, in the dark) one of the most well-known, tricky-treatiest Halloween movies to date: Halloween. The only question remains: which to watch? The original or the remake?



Filed under Entertainment, Halloween, Movies

10 movies to watch with the lights on

I’m one of those Halloween fanatics, one of those people who live to be scared, who’d rather it be October all year

Into the dungeons...

long, who’s dying to live in a real haunted house. But of course, the terrifying events, the Halloween parties, the decorations, the pumpkin-carving, all only come for those precious 31 days in the middle of the fall. The scary movie marathons on TV only last so many days (Syfy actually has a full 31 days of Halloween marathon that I highly recommend).  But to keep the spirit alive all year long, I keep my DVDs stocked with plenty of horror flicks, ranging from the insanely gory to the horrifyingly insane. Before Halloween comes and goes- we have less than a week left- treat yourself to some of the best horror flicks out there.

10. Beetlejuice. It’s not exactly scary, but this Tim Burton classic is one that never fails to entertain. With stars like Michael Keaton (’nuff said), Alec Baldwin (when he was still relevant), Catherine O’Hara (before Home Alone) and Winona Ryder (before she turned klepto), you’re guaranteed some serious tricks and treats. Though the special effects would be deemed “cheesy” by today’s standards, there’s something comforting about the simplicity of the horrific in this Halloween must-see.

9. Donnie Darko. This movie is less scary and more weird, but if you’re easily disturbed by otherworldly occurrences, then this is the movie for you. Bear in mind it is a very strange movie, and can be difficult to follow at times, but if you remove expectations and open your mind to the impossible, you will be delightfully entertained. A younger, more baby-faced Jake Gyllenhaal plays the troubled Donnie, who finds himself plagued by visions of a perverse rabbit throughout the film. I highly recommend this if you enjoy movies that require you to pay attention more intently and think outside the box.

8. Funny Games. Both versions are very similar- as they should be, they were both done by Mike Haneke- but I’ll admit I’m more partial to the 2007 version. It’s more modern, in English (subtitles are a bitch during scary movies) and Naomi Watts does a fantastic job of being every part the distressed mother and wife. It’s a shocking movie, different from what we’re used to with Hollywood scares, but it’s probably more paralyzing than the jumpiest, goriest movie to-date. For me, the best scares are those you get from a horrific reality, and Funny Games is every bit the gruesome truth.

7. The Strangers. Liv Tyler shines in this all-too-realistic thriller about a couple who faces a terrifying bout of  ding-dong-ditch. Similar to Funny Games, The Strangers takes it up a notch by adding fear to the drama and torture. It’s all about the scare in this movie, with unknown antagonists lurking behind closed doors and dark fences. With its dark lighting and troubling camera angles (you’ll find yourself desperate to know what lays just behind a corner wall or a closed pantry), prepare for some lip-biting, fist-clenching terror as you endure the suffering along with the characters. If you’re easily spooked by movies that could happen in real-life (we call them “realistic”), make sure you are not alone when watching this tormenting thriller.

6. Hellraiser. An oldy, but goody. Make sure you watch the original,- Clive Barker did a decent job with all his movies, but the first is the best- with Doug Bradley as the ghastly Pinhead. The special effects are simple, but they do the job in creating a hideous and bloody otherworldly dimension. Some scenes can be quite gruesome and hard to watch, so keep a pillow close by to hide behind when the guts get to be too much.

5. Poltergeist. Who doesn’t remember the movie with the creepy girl stuck in the TV? The image of little Carol Anne staring into the static black and white of the haunting TV is usually the first thing you think of when you hear the title. Sadly, Heather O’Rourke, who played the five-year-old, died at age 12, but her rendition of the precocious tot is one still praised to this day. Like most older movies, the special effects are what they are, but the feeling of fear and haunting stands strong on it’s own- it’s only reinforced with the addition of monsters and corpses. This is one that usually tops most lists, but it’s definitely one worth watching at least once. Or twice…

4. Insidious. It’s been a very long time since Hollywood has produced anything remotely close to the mind-thrillers of the old days. But in 2010, hope was restored that true horror still existed in the realm of cinema. Insidious will scare you in ways you never thought you could be scared again. It will be the opposite of what you’re expecting, and, though some critics complain the ending turns too sci-fi, it truly is a terrifying thriller up to the very end. Keep in mind, it’s unlike the cheap thrills we get from modern-day horror movies, so go into it with an open mind. And consider watching it with a friend, or during daylight hours- I still can’t watch it alone in the dark (hard as I try!).

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ah, my ultimate fear. Chainsaws. Due to a childhood incident that scarred me for life, chainsaws have always been my Everest; I’ve watched the Texas Chainsaw movies many times, and have silently screamed my way through many haunted chainsaw houses, but until I faced my fear just several years ago, this movie was the epitome of terror to my influenced mind. It still rattles me nowadays, and with good reason- everyone loves a movie that portrays real events. The actuality behind it is what increases the intensity. Amidst all the blood and guts and loud chainsaws and scary, twisted faces, the lingering notion that what you’re watching actually happened keeps the fear alive in you every second of the movie.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Most people forget Johnny Depp was one of the teens in this 80s horror flick. But Depp, along with Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss and Jsu Garcia, find themselves terrorized by a child murderer the second they fall asleep. And unlike most villians, whom you can usually escape by hiding or running away, there is no escaping Freddy Krueger. Because, after all, how long can you keep your tired eyes from closing and sending you off into Freddy’s nightmare? One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

1. The Shining. One of the most classic horror films around, Stanley Kubrick forces your mind to the brink of insanity in this famous Stephen King tale. The Shining is what horror should be, what current Hollywood cinema has forgotten. It moves somewhat slow-with a runtime of 146 minutes- but the long, drawn-out scenes are what keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Personally one of my all-time favorites, this movie represents the epitome of what a scary movie should do. It’s less about the gore and special effects and more about playing tricks on your mind. As the first horror movie I ever watched (surprisingly, at the age of 8), The Shining is the reason I’m in love with everything spooky and horrific. It is definitely a must-see that should be on the top of your Halloween movie marathon list.

There are so many more fantastic horror flicks, but this list would never end if I tried to include every one of them. All-in-all, whatever your Halloween traditions are, one scary movie has to make it’s way into your priorities. It’s a Halloween right-of-passage you just have to give into. Again and again and again…


Filed under Entertainment, Halloween, Movies

Poe-try: The Cask of Amontillado

Not exactly one of his famous poems (like The Raven), but The Cask of Amontillado is one of my favorites of Poe’s collection of short stories (others being The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Purloined Letter…). One of the masters of gothic literature, it’s only fitting to share the work of this madman during the most haunted month of the year. Enjoy!


The Cask of Amontillado

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled –but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; –I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him –“My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”


“I have my doubts.”


“And I must satisfy them.”


“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me –”

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

“Come, let us go.”


“To your vaults.”

“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi–”

“I have no engagement; –come.”

“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”

“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

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Filed under Edgar Allan Poe, Entertainment, Halloween, Literature, obsessions

Restoration of Stevenson Creek to resume

CLEARWATER, Fla., Oct. 18 — T.J. Thompson is eager for work to resume.

Thompson has lived on the north bank of Stevenson Creek since 2000 and is hopeful a project to remove muck from the water could help reduce the smell of the polluted water body.

The local water treatment plant responsible for the contamination.

But the contamination hasn’t kept him from taking his boat out on the water, even if the tides sometimes do.

“We have a small window when we can get out,” Thompson said.

Soon though, Thompson and others who live near the creek, could enjoy fishing, boating and watching wildlife. After a prolonged standstill, the Stevenson Creek Aquatic Restoration is scheduled to resume work this month.

The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the contract to remove 105,000 cubic yards of muck and sediment to Paul Howard Construction Company after firing the initial contractor earlier in the year.

“The goal is to dredge the lower reaches of Stevenson Creek,” said Amanda Ellison a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “Some sandy dredged materials will be returned to the creek to create shoreline mangrove areas, and [the] dredged muck will be trucked to an offsite disposal area.”

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Filed under community, destruction, Environment, Pollution, Restoration

How to be German, go crazy and retain (some of) your dignity

October. My favorite month of the year.

It’s the month we get to free our scariest decorations from the darkness of our garages. A time where dressing like a whore is actually encouraged.

It’s a time for corn mazes and pumpkin picking and the infamous Snickers Halloween commercial (of which I can’t get enough of).

And it’s a time for drinking pumpkin spice beer and gorging on German food at Oktoberfest.

There are certain things to remember when attending Oktoberfest. Whether it’s the real deal in Munich, a city-run event or simply a gathering of your closest 100 friends in your backyard, the same tips apply when partaking in the festivities. The more experienced you become, the less likely you are to reject the traditions of this age-old festival. But for those newbies out there who’ve never experienced an Oktoberfest, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

Now she's got the right idea.

Dressing the part is not required. But it’s certainly appreciated. You don’t have to dress up in German garb to be accepted or allowed into the event. No one is going to shun you for showing up in comfortable jeans and and a tee. But the more outrageous your outfit- especially in terms of authenticity- the more attention you’ll receive and the more fun you’ll have (not to mention all the free beers you’ll get). If you don’t already own the typical German outfit- which, unless you work at a German restaurant or bar, or you are the actual St. Pauli Girl, I highly doubt- don’t fret. Most Halloween stores carry plenty of Bavarian, Hansel & Gretel-type costumes that are reasonably priced and easy to throw on. Or, if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can fashion your own outfit from different articles of clothing you already own- just make sure you do your homework. Nothing worse than showing up to a German party wearing something out of The Sound of Music. Either way, dressing up is apart of the culture, and it’s always hilarious to see what you and others will show up wearing.

You must drink at least one beer. Even if you don’t like it. Beer is a major part of German culture, so don’t expect to find anything but beer if you go to a big event. Private gatherings might provide a variety of alcohol, but you still need to drink one beer- particularly a German kind- to earn the “right of passage.” After all, you certainly can’t drink a mixed drink from your stein, and if you attempt it, you will never be asked back again.

Eat food. A lot if it. Even if it looks weird or smells funny, you have to try one of everything. It’s an insult to reject food specific to the culture and country to which you are toasting, and you never know, you may surprise yourself and fall in love with a good piece of bratwurst or a creamy, air-whipped eclair (yes, the Germans have them, too). Don’t worry about eating too much, either. With the Germans (or any other European country), you can never eat too much food. You can always fast for the next month to make yourself feel better (although I’m sure there will be too many leftovers to accomplish that).

Most importantly, though, just remember to have a lot of fun. It doesn’t matter that you have to work the next day, or that your wife’s brother, who you can’t stand, is always hovering five feet away. For one whole day-or two weeks if you go to Germany- nothing else matters except immersing yourself in the culture and the festivities and living to tell the stories after (and there will be a lot of stories).

And when all else fails, just get drunk off beer and try and talk to people in German. It’s very difficult and quite entertaining to everyone around you, and who knows, maybe you’ll pass out and wake up German.

Although you’re more likely to wake up in a pool of your own vomit- or worse, someone else’s.

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Filed under Beer, Entertainment, family fun, Food, German, how-to, Oktoberfest