Friday, January 30, 2015

Transmissions from Wizard World Comic Con

On March 29th, my wife, my younger brother and I hopped in my car and headed up to Louisville to attend Wizard World, our first ever comic convention. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew James Marsters and Kristine Sutherland (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would be there, and that was enough for us.
What follows is what happened once we reached the hallowed grounds of the Kentucky International Convention Center. Most of these words are true.

We got there and immediately hard a hard time figuring out where we should go. “It’s in this convention center, right? Why are these doors locked? I see people in there. That girl is dressed like Huntress, so I know we’re in the right place. Those doors locked, too? How do we get in this place? HUNTRESS! HUNTRESS! I know she can hear me. She looked over this way. Why isn’t she letting us in?”

Eventually we found an unlocked door, and wound our way through a set of dark corridors. After walking through what appeared to be an airplane hangar, we got our wristbands and made our way to the floor.

The first thing we saw was a grown man dressed up as Robin, complete with tight green panties. We all nodded and agreed that it seemed like a decent indicator of what we would find there. He would not be the last Robin we would see that day.

Before heading into the fray, my wife took a look at the map. “It looks like the celebrities are set up in the back. Let’s swing by there and see what it looks like.” We decided to head up a side alley, so as to miss the mass of people in the middle. It was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. We weren’t packed in shoulder-to-shoulder. We could move relatively freely for most of the day. That was a pleasant surprise. It was hot, but that was to be expected. Just as well. I love sweating in large groups of people.

Pictured: Sweat
Pictured: Sweat
We made our way back to the signing booths. Most of The Walking Dead people weren’t there yet, but pretty much everyone else was. Jason Momoa’s line was long. Marsters’ line was fairly long, but not too bad. Kristine Sutherland had a few people in her line. (We loved that Marsters and Sutherland were right next to each other. During their downtime, I assume they talked about various slayer-related difficulties they encountered. “I hated when she came back and had a zombie party at the house.” “I hated when she beat me up.”)

Voorhees is always lurking.
Voorhees is always lurking.
We saw a man walking out of Marsters’ line looking at his camera, and we immediately accosted him. “How was he? Was he cool? Did you get a picture with him? Can we see it? How much extra for the picture? Did you have to get his autograph to get a picture with him? Oh man, that’s a cool picture. He’s doing his Spike face and everything. Thanks! Off with you.”

A few Deadpools walked by. At least, I thought they were all Deadpools. As it turns out, it was two Deadpools and a Spider Man in a hoodie. I jumped up and down and asked for a picture with them.

We major
We major
We walked past Robert Hays’ (Airplane) booth, and found him sitting with his assistant. No one was in his line. They were talking and laughing with each other, but I could tell he was dead inside. I’ve seen This is Spinal Tap. I know how sad it is for no one to be in your autograph line. I looked around for Artie Fufkin, Polymer Records, but saw no sign of him.
“Should we go up and say hi?”
“It’s $20 for his autograph, and probably that much for his picture. I think you have to pay just to go in his line. Besides, what would you say to him?”
“Dunno. ‘I like that scene in Airplane 2 when you’re painting a picture of flowers, but then the camera pulls back and you see a naked woman sitting there.’ Something like that.”
“That’s not bad. Is that worth $20?”
“Nah. Let him rot.”

We saw a Silent Hill nurse and Elektra walk by, talking about God-knows-what. I desperately wanted to get my picture taken with Silent Hill nurse, but I didn’t want to hurt Elektra’s feelings by telling her to bug-off, so I let them walk on by.

I’d say roughly 40% of the people there were dressed like Dr. Who or a TARDIS. Whovians, as far as the eye could see. And pretty much all the men looked alike. As far as I knew, each of them had been an incarnation of the Doctor at some point. (There have been a thousand Doctors, right? I’m not making that up?)
I looked at a woman with a TARDIS dress and said, “Cindy-Lou Whovian?” I cackled loudly, because I’m the worst.
She looked at me blankly, so I cleared my throat and said, “I said, Cindy-Lou WHOvian.”
Here’s something I learned: Whovians are not to be trifled with. They suffer no fools. And, apparently, all the women pack their purses full of bricks.
When I came to, the woman was gone, but I would always have a broken nose to remember her by.

The entrance to Whoville?
The entrance to Whoville?
I saw something that said Back to the Future, and immediately started shoving Whovians out of my way to get there, screaming, “Out of my way, nerds!” (I don’t learn lessons easily.)
It was the DeLorean (or, rather, it was a DeLorean). “I put together a model of you,” I whispered as I reached out to trace its aerodynamic lines. “NO TOUCHING,” came a yell. I scampered away like one of Sweet’s minions and never looked back. Comic conventions are scary.

As fate would have it, that’s where I was supposed to be. I found myself at a table full of weapons. Glorious weapons. I turned to my brother; his mouth was wide open. “Are those Batman throwing knives?” I asked. All he could do was nod. I looked further up the table. Wolverine claws. Honest-to-God Wolverine claws.
When I was a child, I dressed up as Wolverine for Halloween. I took black gardening gloves and used electrical tape to attach white plastic knives. I assume every male has done the same thing at some point in their lives. Needless to say (though I will say it anyway), the prospect of buying Wolverine claws was too good to pass up.
Sure, I hemmed and hawed for a while. “I don’t know. They’re $35 a piece. That’s a lot of halibut.” We tried them out and they looked awesome.
“We’ll knock off $5 if you buy the set,” the man behind the table said, sensing our excitement.
“$65 to realize a lifelong dream? Seems a bit high.”
I originally thought we should wait. “I don’t want to lug around two metal claws all day. They could get heavy. Let’s wait until we’re ready to leave.”
My brother immediately countered with, “What if they’re sold out by then?”
I panicked. I couldn’t live with myself if I left the convention without Wolverine claws. So I bought the set. I couldn’t give the man my money fast enough. I’m pretty sure I was giggling as I handed it over.
Best decision I’ve ever made.

We turned from the table and spotted The Avengers, all walking in the door at the same time. It was glorious. My favorite part was seeing some of the individuals later in the day. They were never all together as The Avengers again. It’s like they didn’t like each other at all, but they just had to make a grand entrance together. I respect that.

After that, we took off for the James Marsters panel. It was delightful. He sat up there for an hour, answering every insane question asked of him with a smile and a funny story. “How did it feel to kiss that Torchwood guy? What did you think about the ending of Angel? How come your hair didn’t fall out from bleaching it all the time? No, really, how did it feel to kiss that Torchwood guy?” He cheered when a grown man told him that he had, “warm fuzzy dreams about Spike,” after watching Buffy episodes. He sang a song that he wrote for a Western. “Was that from High Plains Invaders? I feel like that was from High Plains Invaders.” I could not stop talking about High Plains Invaders.
In a particularly sweet moment, a girl holding a video camera stepped up to the microphone and talked about how her and her mother were never particularly close, but they used to bond over their love of Spike. Now her mother was really sick, and it was her birthday, and would he mind singing “Happy Birthday” to her? Without skipping a beat, he looked directly into the camera, slipped into Spike voice, wished her a happy birthday, sang the entire song, then blew her a kiss. I’ve never seen a girl so happy in my entire life. It nearly melted my cold, cold heart.

We left the room on a Marsters high. “That guy was awesome, wasn’t he? Super awesome. I love him dearly. Let’s kidnap him and bring him home with us. He should be our friend. He’d love it. I have chloroform in the trunk. He won’t mind.” Ultimately, we decided against it, because we’re not monsters, there were a ton of witnesses, and the chloroform was a two-block walk back to the car in the rain.

So it was back to the floor with us. We only took one pass before hitting the Marsters panel, so we decided to take a walk among all the booths. There were tons of great artists selling their work. Others drawing pictures on demand. T-shirts. Key chains. Bumper stickers. Bikinis. Bathrobes. Statues. Backpacks. Recognizable movie characters made from nuts and bolts. A life-size E.T. If you can think of it, they probably had it.

Silently judging. Always judging.
Silently judging. Always judging.
We looked at a lot of stuff, and even considered buying some of it. A lot of it was expensive, but that’s to be expected. I assume you could buy a lot of the stuff we saw online, but buying it there just seemed more fun. Also, there was no guarantee that the product we found online would be exactly like the one in front of us. I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy a set of knockoff Wolverine claws, or a scratchy terrycloth Batman bathrobe instead of the awesomely plush one we felt up at the booth. There was a constant struggle between Frugal Adult Dusty and Giddy Elementary School Dusty. Somehow, Frugal Adult Dusty won out more often than not. That guy is a total buzzkill.

After walking through the booths, we thought we’d head back to the autograph tables and catch a glimpse of some celebrities. I creeped on The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson for a while, who ended up giving me a sidelong glance and slowly reached down for his boot knife. I moved on before he could plant it directly between my eyes from 100 paces. Scott Wilson is ruthless.

Had I tarried any longer, I'd be dead.
Had I tarried any longer, I’d be dead.
We craned our necks to see James Marsters, but his table was packed and his line was long. Ditto Jason Momoa (although we did catch Momoa on a small stage for a short interview and got pretty close, which was great. He’s a handsome man). The Whovians were lined up against the wall, waiting for their chance to point their Sonic Screwdrivers at Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. I saw a group of 5 Whovians, all wearing the exact same outfit and actually sharing the same scarf. It was wrapped around all of them at the same time, and they moved in unison. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Was there a Dr. Who episode that covered that? If not, they probably wouldn’t have understood what I was trying to say. “What’s a body snatcher? Is that like a Dalek?”

We moved on to Kristine Sutherland. There were a few people in her line, but not many.
“She looks so sweet. Doesn’t she look sweet? I just want to go up and give her a hug. How much are autographs for her?”
“$25, I believe.”
“What about pictures?”
“About the same amount, but I think you can only take a picture with one person at a time. And the sign says, ‘Autographs’ for this timeframe, so I think you have to pay for an autograph to get a picture.”
We all agreed that it seemed high, but we still wanted to lurk and stare for a while. So we stood outside of her booth, talking to each other and sneaking glances at her. Since her line was sparse, and the aisle we were in wasn’t highly populated, I’m sure she noticed the three of us standing there for 15 minutes.
Then, an idea.
“What if we get her to wear the Wolverine claws? Do you think she would do that?”
“I don’t know. That’s a great idea, though. I’d pay good money for that. That picture would be awesome. Let’s ask her.”
So we walk up, my younger brother taking the lead.
“We all love Buffy.” We nod vigorously. She’s smiling. This is going well. Or perhaps she’s scared of what the three people who have been staring at her for a solid 15 minutes would do once they approached her, and thought a smile would disarm us. “Can we get a picture of you with the three of us?”
She was still smiling. “Of course!”
“Really? That’s great. How much?”
“Ten dollars.”
“Ten dollars?! A BARGAIN! An extra question: would you be willing to wear Wolverine claws?” My brother removed the claws from the bag and showed them to her.
Her smile never faded. What a pro. “Wolverine claws? Sure.”
And so we watched Ms. Summers grip Wolverine claws, smile sweetly, and pose with us for the best picture in the history of time.

Happiest moment of our lives.
Happiest moment of our lives.
We walked away giddy, and we couldn’t stop staring at the picture. “Let me see it!” We couldn’t stop talking about it. “Can you believe it? Look at how sweet she’s smiling! This picture is amazing. I’VE NEVER FELT MORE ALIVE!”

I felt so good that I threw a recently purchased Tribble into the teeming mass of Whovians.
“What is this?”
“A Tribble. You know. From Dr. Who.”
“That’s from Star Trek.”
“Same difference.”
Those Whovians can glare. I could hear them murmuring among each other and looking in my direction. I could’ve sworn I heard one of them utter the phrase “a reckoning,” but it was probably just my imagination.

We were getting tired, but we weren’t ready to leave. We decided to take one more pass through the throng of people in the middle of the floor, then find a chair and do some people watching.

Of all the fun we had, I think the people watching was one of the major highlights of the day. Here’s a short list of people we saw/interacted with:

Captain Jack Sparrow. Only one of them, surprisingly, and he was always in character. Or maybe he was always drunk. Hard to tell, really.

A shirtless dude in spandex. I have no idea who he was supposed to be, but I admired his confidence.

A gaggle of Harley Quinns. It seemed like every time I saw one, she was posing for a picture. People love Harley Quinn.

Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. Apparently he couldn’t see through the mask, and needed a friend to guide him around the floor. That killed me.

Leatherface, complete with extra-length chainsaw.

Photographer was running for her life.
Photographer was running for her life.
Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers walking around together. “What’s your favorite stalking tactic? Did you see that time I stuck a knife in a guy so hard he stuck to the door behind him?”

A family consisting of Bender, Lara Croft and Nathan Drake.

A group of Browncoats.

A Lego Man whose arms were so heavy his hands were literally shaking as he stood in one spot, having pictures taken of him. “Why did he make his arms so heavy? That looks like hell. That poor guy.”

And, finally, my favorites: The Glamorsteins, dressed as rockabilly Frankenstein’s monster and his lovely bride.
“Hey, can I get a picture with you guys?”
“Sure. You want us to attack you?”
Immediately they fell upon me, sensing my weakness. They took me by my feet and shook all the loose change out of my pockets. I’m certain they would have given me a swirly, but they had a lot more photo ops to get to. So they unceremoniously dumped me on my head, shouted “Poindexter,” over their shoulders, and were off. I loved them dearly. It may have just been in my concussed head, but I could have sworn I heard Link Wray’s “Rumble” playing as they strolled away.

Moments later, I was bloodied and bashed.
Moments later, I was bloodied and bashed.
We decided to call it a day. We walked out of the convention center and hit up BBC Brewery down the street. Great food. Great beer. Terrific atmosphere. If you’re ever in Louisville, I highly recommend it.
We talked about our favorite moments of the day, and went through all of our pictures. We thought about pulling out our Wolverine claws, but figured that would be frowned upon.
I looked to my left and saw Silk Spectre II. There’s something weird about seeing someone dressed as a comic book character just sitting down among regular people, munching on fries.

As we left the brewery, we heard an angry shout. “There they are!” I looked to see a group of Whovians, pointing their Sonic Screwdrivers at us, bowties glistening in the rain. The one in the front had the flaming Tribble on a spike. They inched forward. We turned and ran to the car, peeling out before they could finish us off.
Before long, my brother was asleep in the back seat wearing his Batman robe, clutching his Wolverine claws.

We all figured we would have a good time, but we didn’t expect to have as much fun as we did.
Our first convention was a good one, and we were already looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ghostbusters Reboot

As I'm sure you're aware by now, the Ghostbusters reboot was announced recently.  The details are sparse, but here is what we know:
1. It will be a reboot, not a sequel.
2. It will be directed by Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, The Heat).
3. The Ghostbusters will be female (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones).

That's about it.  Sure, there are little rumors circulating (I heard something about them not wearing proton packs, but now I can't find out where that bit of news came from), but those are the major details.

By now, I assume all of you have seen the blowback.  I won't provide any links, because I'd prefer not to give them any more page views than they already have.
So I thought I'd provide my thoughts on the matter.

Let's start with my thoughts on remakes/reboots.
I have no issue with the idea of remakes and reboots.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Some are totally unnecessary.  Evil Dead. Dawn of the Dead. Night of the Living Dead. The Thing. The Amityville Horror. The Crazies. The Town That Dreaded Sundown.  Maniac. All remakes, all terrific.  Sure, you're bound to run into a Black Christmas or Psycho or April Fool's Day, but it's a bit of a reach to immediately hate a remake just because it's a remake.  It's an unjustified hatred, and I'll never fully understand it.
Here is what I like out of a remake: for it to be different, or to improve upon the original in some way. The Crazies took Romero's story and looked at it from the angle of the townspeople instead of the military.  Night of the Living Dead took a timid Barbra and turned her into a leader.  Maniac took the grime of the original, threw a Drive-esque sheen on it and showed us the film through the eyes of the killer.
The best remakes make you look at the film as a separate entity from the original, not hold it up against the original and judge it.  Remakes are more than capable of standing on their own merit, and that's what the best ones do.

Ghostbusters has a chance to do that.  I firmly believe the original Ghostbusters is perfect.  It's every bit as funny now as it was when it was released.  I'm not looking for this movie to improve on the original: I'm looking for it to be different.  I don't want a recreation: I want a reimagination.  Feig has said that he wants it to be "really scary".  Even if you love the first one, scary is not the first word that comes to mind (except for that cab driver), so that's a start (even though the cast suggests it will absolutely focus more on the comedy than the horror).

I'm looking forward to seeing what these four very funny people will do with these roles.  I hope they take these and make them their own.  I don't want to see someone trying their best to be Bill Murray's Peter Venkman.  Take the idea of Ghostbusters and run with it.  Make it your own.

As for the people declaring things like, "This is ruining my childhood," I'll say this: don't go see it.  If you've already written it off as crap before you've seen it, nothing on the screen is going to change your mind.  Don't support it if you don't want to.  That's your decision.
Even if you feel that way, you can't even use the argument of, "The fact that this movie exists means that a better movie won't see the light of day," anymore.  With the rise of the VOD market, great movies are popping up all the time.  The Babadook was my favorite movie of the year (I know I'm not alone in that), and that did not get a wide theatrical release.  If you don't like the popular choice, there are more alternatives than ever to choose from.  You may have to dig a bit, but there are opinions everywhere.  You can find someone you trust and look to them for suggestions.  And these movies are at your fingertips.  You could go from never having heard of The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake to sitting down to watch it in less than 30 seconds.  Theatrical releases don't have to rule the day anymore.  Find something you love, support it and tell others.
Here's something I can guarantee you, though: this movie will not ruin anyone's childhood.  Even if this version is terrible, the original Ghostbusters will not be forever tainted.  It will still be there, every bit as amazing as it has always been.

For me?  I'm excited about this.  I want to see what direction they go with it.  I think this could be really good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Transmissions from the International Cryptozoology Museum

We crossed the border into Maine at 1:00 AM while “Five to One” screamed from the speakers.  Jim Morrison howled “no one here gets out alive.”  Not the thing you want to hear when you’re driving into an unknown state on very little sleep.  A few miles in, I saw a sign that read, “Caution: Watch For Moose in Roadway.”  So my demise had been preordained.  Well played, Lizard King.  Well played, indeed.

The next sign warned of butterfly screams
We found a Motel 6 and slept the sleep of the dead.  The bed was small and a little hard for my liking, but, after being on the road for roughly 19 hours, any bed looked good.

My wife and I would be in Portland, Maine for a week.  Before we left, I had made a list of things I wanted to do while I was there.  On the top of that list was the International Cryptozoology Museum; the world’s only such museum.

Cryptozoology is the study of animals whose existence has not yet been proven (translated literally to “study of hidden animals”).  The animals themselves are classified as cryptids.  Some of the more famous cryptids include Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, Chupacabra and The Jersey Devil. 

The museum was started by noted Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman.  The majority of the artifacts on display are from his personal collection.

On my first full day there, I loaded the address in my phone and headed out.  I parked and walked a couple blocks to the museum.  I walked past comic book stores and record stores and book stores, and made a note to visit each of them before I left town.

Before too long, I found myself standing at the mouth of an alley marked Avon Street.  I looked to the end and saw a woman walking a dog.  Both appeared to be staring directly at me.  I heard a distant howl and turned my head to look.  When I looked back to the alley, the woman and her dog had been replaced with a cloud of mist.  I saw the sign for the museum about halfway down the alley. The mist was starting to creep towards me.  I bolted towards the sign and slipped in the door just as two wispy tendrils reached for my legs.  I slammed the door and breathed a sigh of relief.  "You're going to have to be quicker than that," I whispered.

I took a step inside and looked around.  The whole of the museum was two large rooms.  The curator - a sweet woman in a polka dot dress - was sitting at a small table to my immediate right.  She took my money ($7), gave me a map and a brief overview of the museum.  I thanked her and began to walk around.  There were only a couple other people in the museum, and all of them seemed very interested in the artifacts on display.  (I later discovered that the lovely curator was none other than Jenny Coleman, Loren's wife.)

The first case I came across was a collection of figurines of animals once considered cryptids, but now accepted as animals.  “This section really gives credence to cryptozoology as a science,” the curator told me.  I looked at the case and nodded my head.  Inside the case were such animals as the komodo dragon, platypus, giant panda, mountain gorilla, coelacanth and okapi. 

I was going to look at the case for a little while longer – perhaps write down all the names of the animals it contained – but I couldn’t.  I looked to my right and saw Bigfoot, standing against the wall.  I jumped up and down and giggled a little.  “BigfootBigfootBigfootBigfooooooooot,” I squealed.  I glanced around and saw an elderly gentleman looking at me and herding his grandchild to the other room.  I refuse to apologize for my actions.  The day I see a ten foot tall Bigfoot and don’t react with glee is the day I don’t want to live in this world anymore.

I wanted to get my picture taken with him, but the curator was busy at the time.  "I'll just snap one of those selfies the kids like so much," I said to myself.  As I was getting ready to take it, I swear I saw Bigfoot's arm move towards me a little.  I snapped the picture in a panic and whirled around to look.  No movement, but his arm did seem to be in a slightly different position.  I looked at the curator. 

"I think his arm just moved."
She laughed nervously.  "His arm?  No.  That's crazy.  You're crazy.  His arm.  That's funny."
"I'm pretty sure I saw..."
"So you think this large Bigfoot is alive and moves around the museum at night, making himself sandwiches in the kitchen and sitting in the chair watching the Patterson-Gimlin footage in between his random Netflix binges?"
"I...uh...I never said any of that."
She laughed nervously again.  "Oh yeah.  Me neither."  She picked up a non-ringing phone.  "What's that?  It's urgent?"  She put her hand over the receiver.  "Sorry, I need to take this." 
I shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the rest of the museum, occasionally glancing at Bigfoot.  I'm sure there are worse ways to die than being mauled by Bigfoot, but I wasn't ready to die just yet.  Because I am so...very...pretty.

If you're in a hurry, you could get through the entire museum in 30 minutes or less.  But if you take your time - as I did - you can easily spend a couple hours.  I spent my time meandering around the museum, looking at exhibits and reading plaques.  It was extremely informative and a lot of fun.  Here's a list of some of my favorite things:

Baby Bigfoot, named Esau after the Biblical figure.  What an adorable/terrifying little creature. Remembering that you're not supposed to stand between a Bigfoot and its progeny, I quickly backed away.

Uses pine cones as pacifiers, because he's hardcore
 An exhibit dedicated to Bigfoot, featuring the Patterson-Gimlin footage running on a loop.

The head of a Loch Ness Roe Deer.  Roe deer are often seen swimming in the Loch Ness area.  From a distance, these swimming figures can easily be mistaken for ol' Nessie.

An exhibit for The Dover Demon, which was seen in Delaware in 1977.

A Jackalope.  Who doesn't love jackalopes?

The picture behind him is a self-portrait. Jackalopes are notoriously artistic.
A Fur-Bearing Trout.  I loved this one.  The story behind the Fur-Bearing Trout is one of my favorites.  One theory is that these fish grew fur to deal with extremely cold temperatures.  Another theory (for those reported to have been seen in Arkansas) is that someone accidentally spilled some jugs of hair tonic into the water, thus giving the trout fur.  It's basically the "Simpson and Delilah" episode of The Simpsons, sans Karl.  Someone tell those fish that baldness is hereditary.

My mother told me never to kiss a fool
The legendary Fee Jee (or Fiji) Mermaid.  I stood in front of the case for a solid five minutes, screaming, "Keep singing!"  Nothing happened.  The conch shell I brought must not have been magical enough.  Mermaids be picky.

Look at my cage. Isn't it neat?
An exhibit for The Montauk Monster.  It was Loren Coleman who determined that the beast was just a raccoon.

An exhibit for The Jersey Devil, including a plaque that was attached to the Jersey Devil House, where he is said to have been born to Mother Leeds in 1735 in Pine Barrens, NJ.  No word as to whether The Jersey Devil had anything to do with the mysterious disappearance of Valery.

Packets of ketchup and relish were nowhere to be found.
A replica of the Minnesota Iceman, sleeping peacefully in his glass case.  The fake ice around the glass was a really nice touch.

A miniature recreation of the scene where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot.  I spent a ton of time looking at this and pretending I was inside.  Inside the case, I mocked the way Bigfoot walked and was promptly torn limb-from-limb while Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin laughed.  My head is a place not fit for man or beast.

In my version, all the sand is blood.
Pamola, a thunder god with the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle.  Legend has it that he inhabits Mt. Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine (roughly four hours north of Portland).

A statue of Bandit, thought to be the first victim of The Mothman.  "Good dog, good dog," I said between sobs as I patted his head.  It wasn't Bandit's fault he didn't have easy access to Chap Stick.

There's a section dedicated to cryptids in popular culture.  Stripe from Gremlins stared down at me from above.  The Bumble from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer smiled dimly from his perch on the shelf.  "Must have been before Hermey got his pliers in there," I laughed.  A low growl came from his direction.  I let out a scream and moved on.

A map of Maine with pins marking cryptid sightings in Maine.  This was right next to a board with detailed descriptions of Bigfoot sightings in Maine.  I spent a lot of time reading every entry on that board.

There is a lot more on display than I have listed here.  And, although I try to keep up with these discoveries, there were a lot of things that I had never heard of before. 

On my way out, I stopped by the t-shirt rack.  There were some terrific shirts, but, sadly, none in my size were in stock.  Bigfoot gave me a knowing wink. 

Before leaving, I looked at a stack of books for sale and picked up a copy of Coleman's latest, "Monsters of Massachusetts".  I talked to the curator for a bit and told her how much I loved it.  Eventually, I got my picture with Bigfoot.  I now knew what he knew, and he saw me as a friend.  "The next time you watch Netflix, make sure you catch Luther," I told him.  He gave me a small nod.

I walked out into the street to find the mist had dissipated.  I didn't think it would be waiting for me, but I had no way of knowing that for sure.  I took one last look at the sign and headed out towards Congress Street.  There I would run into a machete-wielding Jason Voorhees and a disembodied head from They Live at Coast City Comics, but that's a tale for another time.

You can find the International Cryptozoology Museum at 11 Avon Street, Portland, ME 04101.  I can't recommend visiting them highly enough.  I loved my time there.  Big up to Jenny Coleman for being so awesome. 

You can visit their website and find them on Facebook.  You can also follow Loren Coleman on Twitter.

Here is the map I picked up while I was there.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Best of 2014

You’ve handled my worst, so you’re now getting my best.
Before I get to the list, here are some that just barely missed the cut (or maybe they didn’t, but I wanted to talk about them.)

Honestly, the only reason this one didn’t make the list is because I’m not sure if it qualifies as horror.  It has been a bit overhyped, and I don’t think it’s as good as all the breathless overanalyzing tends to make it sound.  But it’s a solid movie, and I had a lot of fun watching it.  The cast is terrific, the story – riddled with logistical holes as it is – is a lot of fun, and they do a great job with the video game type plot of moving car-to-car, finding a new obstacle in each one.  Try to ignore the hype and watch this for what it is: a fun and unique sci-fi movie.
My original review.

Pacific Rim has ruined me a little, because all I could think was, “Why not just build giant robots and punch Godzilla in the face with their rocket-propelled fists?”  But I got over that before I went into the movie.  I just wanted something fun.  Instead, all I got was a movie following the uncharismatic kid from Kick-Ass as he travels the world as the only bomb expert left, somehow staying in Godzilla’s direct path the whole time.  I also saw two great performers – Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen – get completely washed out of the movie (an early exit and relegated to crying duty, respectively).  There were some good scenes and the last half hour made me walk out excited, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping.
My original review.

Cheap Thrills
The hype train was all geared up for this one.  I lowered my expectations before I went in.  I’m glad I did, because, even with those lowered expectations, I didn’t enjoy it that much.  Sky high expectations would have led to me hating it.  The cast is terrific (Ethan Embry, David Koechner, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) and there were some good dark comedy moments, but the story was extremely predictable, made even worse by the feeling that they were trying to deliver a huge emotional gut punch at the end.  (I could see the end coming from a mile away.)  There were also a few scenes that really drove the drama forward by actions that made no sense (I realize it’s a weird statement to make about a movie like this, given all the out-of-character things that happened, but I stand by that statement and am more than happy to discuss it).  It wasn’t a bad movie.  I thought it was decent.  But the overhype really hurt it.  If you don’t expect anything mind-blowing, you should have a good time with this.

Life After Beth
I didn’t expect much out of this.  Just a fun zombie movie with a good cast.  That’s exactly what I got.  It looked at the zombie genre from a slightly different angle, and I enjoyed it.
My original review.

I, Frankenstein
I know, I know.  Keep in mind that I’m a fan of the Underworld series, the first 3 Resident Evilmovies and the first 2 Mummy movies.  I’m a sucker for a fun action/horror movie is my point.  This movie is way more complicated than it has any reason to be, but it was a lot of fun to watch.
Enough of this nonsense.  To the top 10!

10. Under the Skin
All I knew going into this movie was, “Scarlett Johansson artsy Species,” which is really just word soup.  But that’s pretty much what this was.  There’s not a lot of dialogue, and there’s a lot of Scarlett driving around Scotland in a white van, talking to strangers.  There’s seduction and nudity, but none of it is alluring.  This movie definitely isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for every mood, but I really liked this a lot.  It has a hypnotic quality to it.  Once it clicked for me, I was glued to the screen.
My original review.

9. The Sacrament
Those of you who know me know that I have never liked Ti West.  I’ve never liked a single movie of his.  In fact, my favorite Ti West moment is when he gets shot in the head with an arrow inYou’re Next.  But this was something different.  The first 30 minutes were pretty slow, and I started to tune out a little.  I knew where the story was going, anyway: it’s basically a retelling of the events of Jonestown.  But then it started to pick up a bit.  Even though I knew where it was going, it was still able to draw me in.  The paranoia and insanity increased incrementally.  By the time it got to the Kool Aid (or, more accurately, Flavor Aid) scene, I was all-in.  There are some images in this film that I’ll never be able to get out of my brain.  There were some extremely chilling moments.  I didn’t love the whole thing, and I had some logistical issues like, “How did they get the footage off that specific camera?”, but that’s just being nit-picky.  I liked this a lot more than I thought I was going to.
My original review.

8. Sacrament
Not to be confused with the last movie.  This one was directed by Shawn Ewert, and it follows a group of friends as they take a trip to Texas and find themselves in a town surrounded by religious fanatics and the sweet, sweet smell of meat.  This could have easily turned into a predictable slasher, but the religious angle helped to add another layer to the film, as did the fact that these characters felt like actual people.  Ewert made me care about the characters and what happened to them.  There were a couple scenes I wasn’t crazy about, but, again, that’s just being nit-picky.
This is also notable for being one of the final performances of the great Marilyn Burns.  She doesn’t have a huge role, but she’s fantastic when she’s on the screen.

7. Tusk
I just watched this last week.  I’m still trying to make up my mind on it, so it has a chance to climb up the ladder or fall down, depending on where I settle.  For now, #7 seems about right.  I thought I had a decent idea of what this movie would be: crazy old man turns mustachioed Justin Long into a walrus.  I figured it would be really gory.  Something like Human Centipede orHostel or something.  But it really wasn’t.  They didn’t show much of the transformation at all.  That’s good, because just looking at the walrus suit was disturbing enough.  There were a number of scenes in here that made me laugh entirely too hard.  It was a really well done dark comedy/horror.  I loved it.  I could have done without Johnny Depp’s character, and the podcast segment at the end reminded me of how much I dislike Kevin Smith, but those are small complaints.  I thought I would hate this movie, and I was completely blown away by how much I loved it.

6. Oculus
I kind of lumped this into “mirror horror” (which I believe only includes Mirrors and Mirrors 2), so I wasn’t expecting much.  I came away loving this movie.  There were some great performances here (Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff were the standouts, but everyone was terrific.  Even the children were great, and I’m normally not a big fan of child actors), the story was good, and there were some really creepy moments.  I love how the film played with the perception of reality.  This is a great movie to put on when you’re by yourself in a dark house.
My original review.

5. The Canal
A great, claustrophobic movie about a man who discovers his wife has been murdered.  The use of old murder footage was really creepy.  This combined elements of The Amityville Horror andSinister, but still had its own style to it.  I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, and I think I was better off for it.  Just watch this movie.
My original review.

4. WolfCop
Some glorious maniac submitted a review for this, and I don’t know if I can describe it any better than he/she did.  Take Hobo With a Shotgun and, instead of the hobo (sorry Rutger Hauer) and throw an alcoholic werewolf cop into the mix.  Bam.  WolfCop.

3. Horns
I read the book and, while I liked it, I didn’t love it like I thought I would.  Still, I was very much looking forward to this movie.  After Daniel Radcliffe’s work on The Woman in Black, I was excited to see what he would do here.  He was fantastic, and the movie was dynamite.  They nailed the dark-comedy-turns-just-plain-dark mood of the book.  A number of moments had me laughing really hard.  Beyond the humor, the story was handled great.  I loved that, behind all the insanity, was a simple love story/murder mystery.  There were times I was so involved in the story that I almost forgot Ig had horns on his head.  The cast was great, and the story was handled wonderfully.  It was everything I hoped it would be.
My original review.

2. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
My love for the first Dead Snow is well-known, so it should come as no surprise that the sequel ranked so high on my list.  With the success of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola was given a lot more money to work with than he did with Dead Snow.  And he put that money to good use.  Everything was bigger.  More zombies.  More blood.  More intestines.  More insanity.  This movie is a ton of fun.
My original review.

1. The Babadook
How could it be anything else in this spot?  It’s rare that a movie exceeds its considerable hype (for me, anyway), but this movie managed to do that.  The first 30 minutes or so were a bit dicey (screeching children have a way of doing that), but I totally understand why they had to do that.  Then it settled in, and I couldn’t look away.  I was completely drawn in by the story.  By the imagery.  By the relationship between mother and son.  By everything.  It’s a fantastically creepy movie.  Find a dark, quiet night, open a door you can see from your viewing area, and put this on.  Don’t look at your phone.  Don’t carry on long conversations.  Just sit down and drink this in.  You won’t be disappointed.
My original review.  (I may or may not talk about the Pinky & The Brain Christmas Special.)