Saturday, March 20, 2010

Haunt Porn

Here's another awe-inspiring picture of a haunt that represents the level of detail and craftsmanship that I want to strive towards.

The picture comes from a haunter in Columbus, Ohio, who goes by the name Eerie on HalloweenForum. You can see some of his construction pictures on ImageShack as well as in the albums he's posted on the forums. The crazy thing is, the gothic archway to his house was built a second time with a different design, which you can see in his albums. I also like the welcome sign to his haunt.

Added thoughts. I have to thank the great Pumpkinrot for reminding me about Eerie's excellent work. While I had run across his talent last year on the forums, I had forgotten about it until 'rot posted some pictures on his own blog. That necessitated me going back and admiring the talent -- and equally awe-inspiring workshop -- that Eerie has.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Progress Amid Power Outages

Now that the electricity's come back on after being out for more than three days following the savage windstorm that swept through the area last weekend, I'm able to begin anew on completing my various projects for the year.

The fella to the right is what I've been working on here and there as time permits. It will be part of the new addition to my haunt along the side of my house. There will be a series of corpses suspended from poles and crosses amid a variety of tombstones. LED spotlights that I've begun making from PVC will be used to illuminate them in various shades of green and blue.

The spots were begun at the NJ/PA/NY Make & Take group meeting last week (just as the storm was blowing into town). I learned all about LEDs, resistors, and soldering, and -- as usual -- have come up with a lot more plans to use them.

This particular corpse will be hung from a cross with its arms outstretched and its dead eye looking to the heavens. The problem I have with him is that he's got a pretty big wingspan, about five feet across. I built it prior to discovering the Jonty Joint that will give me a little more flexibility in posing corpses, let alone storing them (I have an idea for improving upon the joint, but will wait before posting further  details so I can see if it actually works). Other corpses will be posed with their arms bound over their heads.

So with the storm gone, the power restored, and the cleanup completed I can get back to working on my props. Of course, now we're saddled with gorgeous 70-degree weather and thoughts turn to outdoor activities so I'll have to make sure to set aside time for Halloween.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alice in Wonderland Halloween Costumes

In my other life when I'm not making groundbreakers, reapers, and tombstones, I write investment articles for The Motley Fool and one of the sectors I cover is the toy industry. What's neat about this is that when I'm discussing Hasbro (HAS), for example, I'm able to talk about revenues and earnings or free cash flow and returns on equity, but in the same breath I'm also mentioning Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head.

A few years ago I hit the big toy show in New York City and was able to tour the facilities of JAKKS Pacific (JAKK), the maker of one of the biggest toy hits of the past two years: EyeClops night vision goggles. Those things were way cool!

Well I just got an email from them this afternoon announcing they're coming out with Halloween costumes this year based on the Tim Burton "Alice in Wonderland" movie. While I'm not so surprised about this -- I figured the characters would easily lend themselves to costumes -- it was nice to see the industry, or JAKKS rather, thinking about Halloween so early in the year. So I figured I'd share with you what those costumes look like as well.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review: The Crazies

You're in Iowa, not Mexico, but you still don't want to drink the water. After a plane carrying a new biological weapon called Trixie crashes in the Iowa bayous (yeah, I didn't realize Iowa had such swamps either), the residents of Ogden Marsh start acting downright, well, crazy.

Poor Rory, his house sits first in line to receive the drinking water that meanders from the swamps and he ends up showing up at a Little League game carrying a shotgun. Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to shoot him when Rory pulls the shotgun on him, but that's only just the beginning of The Crazies.

After Bill burns down his house after locking his wife an young son in a hall closet, Dutton; his wife, the town doctor (Radha Mitchell); and Deputy Clark (Joe Anderson, in a bit of very good supporting acting) have a heckuva time trying to survive a town of murderous zombies and a government intent on containing the spread of the contamination.

I'd never seen the original 1973 George Romero movie of the same name, but I understand it's something of a cult classic. It wasn't necessary though, since director Breck Eisner did a capable job of setting a mood and creating enough suspense (and a few jumpy scares). To a certain extent The Crazies didn't tread much new ground here, but it was entertaining enough and the acting was actually very good that I didn't find myself wondering at any point when it was going to be over.

There was enough gore to slake my thirst for it -- the school principal plunging the pitchfork into the chests of several patients tied down on gurneys was perhaps the most graphic part -- yet it was handled well and worked within the confines of the movie's "reality."

The ending was by no means happy, but it leaves open the possibility for a sequel. And from what I understand, one is being planned, particularly in light of the strong box office the movie enjoyed on its opening weekend and the good reviews it has gotten.

When you sit back and think about the movie, it's as I said, not particularly new ground being dug up. What makes it a good movie memorable is the acting. Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson turn in excellent performances, completely believable, particularly as you wonder whether Deputy Clark is infected. Since there's a 48-hour incubation period and Clark's actions at times seem erratic, though perfectly understandable given the circumstances, the crescendo builds throughout.

Surprisingly, these are characters you end up caring about, which apparently is a very difficult thing to achieve in horror films these days. All too often the characters are cardboard archetypes and you know almost exactly the order everyone will be killed, and why. Not so with The Crazies. These are distinct personalities with depth that you want to survive, but know in the end not everyone will.

As a result, I give the movie 4 tombstones out of 5.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Present at the Creation

Being there at the birth of genius is a rare event. Watching a masterpiece unfold is a special occasion that more often than not is hidden from view from us mere mortals. And maybe rightly so. Like the magician that won't reveal his secrets for fear that once the illusion is brought to light he will be diminished in the process, few artists allow the public to view their work until it is created.

After all, how many times have we built a prop, not even close to being a masterpiece, and have received skeptical looks from family members? Yet, I admire watching an artist like Bob Ross -- using little more than a palette knife -- turn smudges, smears, and cuts into a pretty convincing landscape.

Alternatively, reading books about the creating of a literary masterpiece is just as enlightening. Horror master Stephen King gave us a peek behind the curtain of how he creates his bestsellers in his book "On Writing." (okay, I'll admit, I haven't liked a King book in years, but his early works were compelling). For anyone that thinks they have a novel inside them, this is a must-have addition to your library.

Or the compilation of the notes of J.R.R. Tolkien by his son Christopher that allows us to see "The Lord of the Rings" come to life is a special treat. I find myself absorbed almost as much by the process as by the actual product.

Okay, so what's my point? Haunters, Halloween enthusiasts, and those with simply a love of seeing art created are getting that rare opportunity to see how a master creates his work. The genius of the incredibly talented Pumpkinrot is being slowly revealed as he has been going back to his "haunt theory" roots and is creating a new piece based on it. However, he's also giving us mere mortals an unprecedented look behind the scenes of how he creates his artwork.

The Skull Witch (she started as the Gray Witch) is not so much a step-by-step tutorial, but rather a progression of a project that even at the outset was already a masterpiece. Now as it develops it takes on more depth and detail. It's impossible not to fall in love with this.

I'm looking forward to learning at the knees of this true master craftsman and artist. I recommend others follow along as well.

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