International Clown Week

Apparently, this is a thing.  From August 1st to August 7th, clowns world wide celebrate, promote, and inform.  This year’s celebration kicked off in Showmen’s Rest in Woodlawn Cemetery, located in Forest Park, Illinois. This particular Showmen’s Rest is actually a mass grave for Hagenbeck-Wallace circus employees killed in the Hammond circus train wreck in 1918.  Because many of the bodies were unidentifiable, their graves are marked with their stage names, such as “Smiley” and “Baldy.”  Five elephant statues marks the Showmen’s Rest. Kinda weird, eerie, and moving all at once, right?

hagenbeckwallacecircus

Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Sideshow

showmans-rest-clown-cemetery

Showmen’s Rest marker

You can find more information about International Clown Week here, and browse through their pages on coulrophobia and fear of clowns, as well as other extensive topics such as clown college.

In the spirit of coulrophobia and international clown celebrations, I leave you with this international horror movie trailer for Indonesian horror flick “Badoet.”

The entire world shares similar feelings on clowns, it seems.

Jaws on the Water Event Report

jaws

On June 27th I braved the murky, “shark” infested waters of the Texas Ski Ranch for Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow’s screening of Jaws, first reported here. After the quick sellout, Rolling Roadshow added more screenings throughout July, though I believe those screenings have also been sold out as well.  And that’s no surprise, because this experience proved to be one of the more unique, rare adventures you’d be crazy not to grab hold when you get the opportunity.

Upon arrival at the Texas Ski Ranch, all of the business is handled up front.  Two waivers are required for this event, one from the Texas Ski Ranch and one from the Alamo Drafthouse.  You’re given a glow stick to wear in the water so the lifeguards can spot you, and your arms are covered in wristbands signalling admission, that you’re of legal age to drink, and optional drink tab wristbands.  Once you’ve signed your life away, just cross your fingers you don’t fall prey to any “sharks” and step outside into the fun.

Though the screening began at sundown, shortly after 9pm, there was still plenty of entertainment to tide attendees over.  Giant beer pong and bean bag toss set up in the grass, drink stations, a stage with a DJ and his two dancing sharks that often mingled with the crowd.

Jaws djDancing sharks

The very impressive portable screen sat upon an island, where Rolling Roadshow crew were hard at work prepping for the screening.  The small island also appeared to be home to a trio of goats.  Huh.  Natural lawn care?  Surrounding the island was the man-made lake in which attendees would descend in their inner tubes, but leading up to the screening it was filled with wakeboarders exhibiting their skills.

jaws screen

Once the queue opened for the inner tubes, the water was cleared of wakeboarders and a large shark fin cut through the surface closer toward the island. Once the shark fin reached the other side of the lake, attendees were free to enter the water if they dared. Those too afraid were able to watch from the safety of the beach.

Once Jaws began, a large cluster of floating viewers gathered toward the front and center of the screen.  I imagine this may have made if difficult for the scuba divers to grab at us, as I only saw one surface once when the crowd dispersed.  So the “sharks” were a bit quiet this night.  It was more unnerving seeing the lightening and storms in the distance, and I’d worried they wouldn’t travel close enough to interfere with the event.  Luckily it didn’t.

Watching Jaws on the water was far more peaceful than you’d think.  The crowd full of content movie lovers, enraptured with the classic film, just floating along quietly on a calm lake.  Everyone there was not just there for the experience, but for their love of Jaws, everyone cheering wildly at all the classic lines.

An exciting event such as this should always end with a bang, right?  And the Rolling Roadshow delivered.  The explosion of the scuba tank in the film coincided with fireworks, adding a special touch to the already very interactive screening.

One important lesson learned: I’m a tiny person not fit for one-size-fits-all giant rubber inner tubes.  Next time I’ll bring my own. Though I’m quite eager to experience more of what Rolling Roadshow has to offer, so perhaps I’ll stay out of the water for a bit.

Texas! Experience Jaws on the Water

Jaws on the water

If you live in or near Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas or anywhere in between then you have no excuse to miss out on the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow Event on June 27.  For those unfamiliar, the Rolling Roadshow takes the screenings out of the theater and, well, on the road.  If you’re in Austin, where the Alamo Drafthouse franchise began, this meant having access to some of the most insane settings for a screening.

One of the most popular Rolling Roadshow events occurred in 2002, where Jaws screened on Lake Travis and viewers watched while floating in inner tubes.  If that wasn’t cool enough, scuba divers bumped into the tubes and pulled on the limbs of unsuspecting attendees during key moments during the film.  Leave it to the Alamo Drafthouse to submerse the audience in a whole new level.  Did I mention the screening began after dark?

This summer, they’re bringing this event back! Tickets went on sale today at noon, so snatch them up while you can here. More information can be found here, and a more comprehensive article detailing the history of the Roadshow can be found here.

Tickets will go fast, so don’t miss the opportunity for an amazing movie experience.  And if this sounds too terrifying, you can sit on the safety of the beach…but where’s the fun in that?

Houston! Join the WolfCop Wolf Pack!

 

Do you have plans Thursday, April 8th?  No? Good.  Then you should come join me for WolfCop on the big screen.  It’ll be a howl (ha!). This is exactly the type of movie you want to see with a crowd, so please rsvp and help me make that happen. So please, click below, and I’ll see you April 8th!

 Join me at this @Tugginc screening of Wolf Cop!.

Houston Halloween Events

It’s finally October!  My favorite month of the year.  I’ve been scouring the internet looking for festive ideas and thought I’d share some of the local events I’ve had my eye on.

Houston Halloween Festival- October 19th

HORRORFEST

The annual zombie walk for charity has now been upgraded to a full on Halloween festival held partly in Minute Maid Park.  The event features musical acts, pumpkin patch, haunted maze, makeup effects artists, vendors, horror film industry celebrities, and a zombie walk.  Tickets and more information can be found here.

Evil Dead the Musical- October 17th through November 1st

Evil dead the musical

You may remember my previous write up last year, when I visited San Antonio’s production of the bloody musical.  This year the production is making its way to Houston (Pasadena more specifically), via Stage Door Inc. Tickets are only $15, with the option of purchasing a zombie survival kit for an additional $5.  The kit contains items meant to protect clothing against the inevitable blood splattering from this very messy, very fun production.  Productions of this show are popping up across the country, so check here to find cities near you.

Dismember the Alamo- October 25th

DismemberTheAlamo_Poster-2

My favorite theater is putting on a four film mystery horror marathon.  The line up won’t be revealed until just prior to showtime, but with the Alamo Drafthouse rest assured that it will be worth it.  As if a costume contest and the Drafthouse’s trademark pre-show isn’t enough to entice you, perhaps seeing scream queen Barbara Crampton live in attendance will entice you.  Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, You’re Next) isn’t just showing up as a guest, but is also assisting with the programming.  Dismember the Alamo isn’t just a Houston exclusive event- look for it at your local Alamo Drafthouse. Each venue will have their own special guest. Tickets for the Houston event can be purchased here , and information on other locations hosting Dismember the Alamo can be found here.

Being that it’s only October 2nd, I’ll share more discoveries as I find them.  What are you most looking forward to this Halloween season?

The Paris Catacombs

I crossed a major bucket list item off of my list this past week- visiting the famous Catacombs in Paris. Just what exactly is the Catacombs? It’s a very large underground ossuary that stretches for miles below Paris, deeper than the sewer and Metro tunnels, and houses six million Parisians. Only a stretch of 2 km is open for visitation to the public as so many miles are deemed unsafe for exploration.

In 1780, the largest cemetery in Paris, Saints Innocents, became engorged with the dead. To make room for more burials, bodies were exhumed and stacked within the cemetery walls. With mounds two meters high, the overflow became a huge health concern for the adjacent neighborhood, with good reason. This wasn’t the only cemetery in Paris with an overflow problem, but as the largest it was the primary focus.

Abandoned mining projects in rich limestone turned out to be the answer and in 1785, the Council of State issued a decree requiring the removal of the human remains from Saints Innocents. The bones from all city cemeteries would be stored in the limestone quarries, and this transfer of human remains continued until 1860.

Catacomb tunnels

Only 200 people are allowed in the Catacombs at a time, so plan to get there as early as possible to minimize wait times (which can be up to 3 hours).  Open daily from 10-5, last admission is 4pm.  Entrance is a tiny green shed across the street from the Denfert- Rochereau Metro and RER line access.  There are no toilets, it’s about 57F underground, and you take about 130 steep steps straight down a very narrow spiral staircase upon entrance.  The above pic is your initial view as you make your way further underground, so if you’re claustrophobic this tour is not for you.  The ceilings are very low and the pathways are narrow.

Eventually you come to the Port-Mahon corridor, which features sculptures of the Port-Mahon fortress sculpted by a quarryman who had fought alongside Louis XV, and the “Quarryman’s foothbath,” or “bain de pieds des carriers.”  This was a well of groundwater used by the quarry workers to mix cement during the construction of the Catacombs.

Port-Mahon fortress Port-Mahon

Quarryman's footbath well Quarryman's footbath

Then, you reach two pillars marking the entrance to the ossuary with a sign that reads, “Stop! This is the empire of death!”  From this point on, you’re surrounded by the bones of six million Parisians.

Bones Heart

As no flash photography is allowed, some of my pics ended up a bit too dark.  It’s difficult to tell, but in the second photo above, the skulls were arranged in a heart.  To say it’s a surreal experience is a bit of an understatement.  The bones are stacked so elegantly, and the sheer amount of remains is overwhelming.  It’s one thing to read that there are six million bodies, but to see them is a totally different experience.  Sections of remains are labeled with the date of cemetery transfer as well as the name of the cemetery.  Artfully arranged columns of bones and an empty sarcophagus were instilled specifically to mask structural support, though you’d never know just by looking.

Sarcophagus Catacombs

The end of the ossuary is marked by high arches and wet limestone.

You end your tour by climbing up another narrow, steep wet-stoned spiral staircase that leads straight into a side street.  The same, unaltered steps from when the Catacombs was first constructed with a very rusted, thin handrail on one side.   A bit scary.

Paris, and its Catacombs, was such an amazing experience, and I’m so lucky to have the memory.

Clown Motel?

Clown Motel

Between Reno and Las Vegas lays the small town of Tonopah, Nevada. In the 2010 census the population was 2,478. The discovery of silver in the early 1900 lead to the founding this small mining town. Being in the middle of a desert, you can imagine the list of things to do runs on the small end.

Um..no thanks. I pass.

Um..no thanks. I pass.

But maybe you’re a mining history fanatic? Or maybe you’d just like to test your bravery? Want to face your coulrophobia head on? If you answered yes to any of these, then make sure you book a stay at Tonopah’s Clown Motel. A motel smack dab in the middle of the desert, decked head to toe in clowns. As if that’s not enough nightmare fuel, the motel’s direct next door neighbor is a century old cemetery.

Clown Motel cemeterToponah Cemetery

I’d love to add this to my bucket list, but I have to be honest- deserts scare me. Maybe I’ve watched too many horror movies, but the isolation just gives me the willies.

Are you brave enough to visit?

Interactive Fear

I’m not sure if it’s due to the success of the recent string of zombie themed 5Ks, but there have been a string of recent interactive horror themed events that have been popping up lately.  The events have expanded beyond running and even tie in to movie promotion now.  Here are a few of the events that have caught my eye:

1) The Purge: Breakout 

Purge Breakout

A clever way to promote the upcoming film, The Purge: Anarchy, set for release in July.  Under the scenario of having been kidnapped right before the purge is set to begin, teams of six have 30 minutes to look for clues and solve puzzles in order to break out of the room before the clock runs out.  Tickets are on sale in major cities throughout the U.S.  Which doesn’t include mine, or I’d probably snatch up a ticket.  And I suppose that says something about my competitive nature (or the effective marketing), because I didn’t even like the Purge.

 

2) The Great Horror Campout

great-horror-campout

If you’re more the outdoorsy type this event is right up your alley.  Twelve hours of overnight choose-your-own adventure style camping.  You can participate in the “hell hunt,” which is a scavenger hunt complete with scare actors that are ALLOWED TO TOUCH YOU.  Based on their website and other recaps of the event I’ve researched, this means they can tie you up or toss you in the trunk of the vehicle while you’re searching for coveted items on the scavenger list.  There are tents for sleeping, but based on your level of purchase, the scare actors apparently pop up throughout the night to keep your awake and terrified.  Maybe that sounds too extreme?  You can opt out of the hunt and roast marshmallows while watching horror movies instead.  Ticket prices come with dinner and a continental breakfast in the morning.  This event is also selling tickets throughout the U.S., and they’re not cheap.

 

3) Zombie Themed Cruise

zombie cruise

With the cities and woods covered, I guess there’s no place left for a zombie but the ocean?  With so many themed cruises available I suppose this was inevitable.  It looks like the mecca of zombie events, though.  Seven days of zombie activities, from zombie workouts in preparation of the apocalypse to a zombie prom.  This event is complete with special guests from all aspects of zombie fandom.  Easily the most expensive event on this list, but it is a seven-day cruise.

 

Would you participate in any of these?  If you already have, how was your experience?

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2014

This past weekend I attended my first horror convention, and suffice it to say that I’m now hooked.  A full weekend submersed in all things horror seemed like a blast going in, but I had no idea.  Screenings, panels, vendors selling all sorts of horror related items, and access to so many horror icons all persuaded me that this was an event I needed to attend.  But what I didn’t know about Texas Frightmare Weekend, what made this event truly awesome, was getting to see first hand just how amazing people are in the horror community.

Texas Frightmare, it turns out, is a social event.  Long line to meet your favorite horror celebrity?  You’ll hardly notice, because your line neighbors will strike up a conversation with you and share their horror experiences.  Do you look confused because you’re not sure which line you’re supposed to be in?  Before you have to ask, someone will smile and show you the ropes.  More than an event to connect fans with their favorite icons, it’s an event to connect fans with each other.  It sounds sappy, but never have I been prouder to be a horror fan.

Before you even step foot into one of the event’s rooms, you’ll notice an array of fans showing off their very well put together costumes.

How cute is he??

How cute is he??

cosplay

So many faves in one spot

 

Anyone in costume were typically surrounded by a thick crowd, so I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked.  I did notice a creepy clown theme, so beware those who have a clown phobia.

Being a huge cinephile, I was stoked to meet the celebrities and attend their panels.  I absolutely love learning about the behind the scenes experiences and what goes into the making of my favorite movies.  It’s neat to see actors gather on stage together when they probably haven’t seen each other in years.  The Terminator panel included Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Jennette Goldstein, Earl Boen, and Peter Kent.  Seven people to discuss three Terminator films, all crammed into an hour.  Other panels featured a sole guest, like Tobin Bell or Scott Wilson.  There were enough scheduled to cover just about all interests.

I believe there were over 40 celebrity guests in attendance, so meeting some of my favorites was a definite highlight of the trip.  You get brief one-on-one time to engage them in conversation, sometimes longer as some of them had no line at all when I passed by their table.  Lou Taylor Pucci, for example, spent a good while answering questions as I grilled him about his role in the 2013 Evil Dead remake.  For example, there were only two takes, period, to nail the arm scene in the film’s climax.  Really makes me marvel at the scene even more knowing the pressure they were under.  Or, that Lou spent a lot of time between takes jumping rope to not only maintain energy levels but to try to keep things fresh.  He didn’t want his expression of fear to become stagnant, so that was his way of trying to keep things varied.  He also was very hesitant to even audition for the film in the first place, because the original is so sacred to him.  So when he was called in to audition he intentionally gave his worst audition.  Also, the long hair and beard was something he had to convince the director and producer to keep.  That was his way of paying a sort of homage to the original.  He was so enthused to meet and speak with fans that he lost his voice by Saturday.

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Other tidbits I picked up over the weekend:

  • Sharni Vinson’s role in You’re Next was a cake walk compared to prep for her role in Step Up 3d, which required weights, capoeira classes, and a variety of other training classes.
  • Doug Bradley’s feelings on the term reboot, “Bullshit.”  And his message to those wanting to remake Hellraiser, “Fuck off.” (Just so you know, he’s also one of the biggest sweethearts I’d met at Texas Frightmare.  He felt guilty about misspelling my name and chased me down to compensate for it in a huge way.)
  • Barbie Wilde, female Cenobite, is now a writer for Fangoria magazine.  Getting covered in plaster in preparation for Hellraiser 2 was nerve-wracking for her.
  • Robert Patrick studied a variety of animals to achieve his character’s persona in Terminator 2, including a praying mantis.
  • Kristanna Loken wanted to fans to associate her terminator as female, so she tried hard to maintain a sense of femininity in the role despite being an inhuman character.
  • Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn both thought they were signing on to do a sci-fi flop when doing the original Terminator.
  • Chris Marquette has recurring nightmares about Chucky the killer doll.
  • Kyle Labine is not so good at beat boxing.
Settling in for the Terminator panel

Settling in for the Terminator panel

I’m bummed it’s over, but now that I have a feel for how things work I can plan better for next year.  Because I will be going back.

My Evening with Bigfoot

Bigfoot

Yield for Bigfoot

So, if you’re in the Houston area you may have seen the news reports about Bigfoot tracker Rick Dyer bringing his prize catch for display: the body of Bigfoot that he caught in 2012 by nailing Wal-Mart ribs to a tree outside of San Antonio, Texas.  Yup. If you’ve heard his name before, perhaps it was because of his 2008 hoax, where his claims of catching Bigfoot proved to be only a $400 dollar gorilla suit stuffed with cow guts.  This hoax, Dyer says, lit a fire under him in pursuit of redemption which lead him to “get the real deal.”

Rick Dyer is now touring his Bigfoot, and the tour through Houston began on Sunday at Trader’s Village.  His exhibit drew hundreds.  Sunday’s exhibit was followed by two sold out showings at Houston’s two Alamo Drafthouse locations: Mason Road on Monday night and Vintage Park on Tuesday night.  Attending the Vintage Park event, it opened with an intro to Rick Dyer’s Bigfoot group and grainy footage of what appears to be Bigfoot eating ribs off of a tree, filmed through a small window inside a tent.  In a voice over, Rick Dyer expresses paralyzing fear in that moment and guilt over having later killed it.  Alamo then showed the two episode arc “The Secret of Bigfoot” of Six Million Dollar Man” with a 30 minute Rick Dyer Q&A intermission, followed by access to the Bigfoot corpse viewing.

The Q&A session is where the event took a drastic turn from cheeky entertainment to a hostile environment within minutes.  It became both shocking and humorous the more questions were thrown at Rick Dyer.  The more the audience demanded truth the more arrogant Rick Dyer became.  He proudly admitted to enjoy lying to people and dodged answering most of the questions.  “What college performed the autopsy?” “What form of government is interested in taking away your Bigfoot?”  “Where is the DNA, you liar?” (A personal favorite question, asked by an angry 9 year old girl)  All met with some variation of, “I’m unable to disclose that information.”  What details Rick Dyer did provide, however, always contradicted some tidbit of the story he’d told previously.  The mood went from jovial, to confused, and ended in fury.  Someone asked about his arrest for an ebay car sale fraud that Rick Dyer seemed to struggle with answering as well.  Overall the questions revealed a lot about Rick Dyer’s character, or lack thereof, which only fueled the audience members’ disgust.  When questions focused on the money Dyer is making from the Bigfoot body, he began bragging about his new Porsche and all of the money he’s out to make.

The attendees seemed an even blend of believers, people who were on the fence, and those non-believers out for a good night of entertainment.   The group seated next to me fell into the latter category, but by the end of the Q&A session actually stood up to tell Rick Dyer, “You need your butt kicked.”  The audience cheered.  Some of the attendees, dejected and disappointed, stormed out. Time ran out for the Q&A, but so many hands were still raised that they were invited to continue in the theater lobby, where the Bigfoot body viewing took place.  Nearly everyone jumped out of their seats to follow Dyer, leaving an almost empty theater to finish the Six Million Dollar Man showing.

Exiting the theater, the line to view Bigfoot and speak with Dyer stretched toward the back of the theater and moved at a crawl.  People were calling loved ones on their cells to vent their frustration, and a father was overheard telling his young children, “He’s amoral, but he’s a genius.”

Leading up to the events, there was some controversy and the programming director was bombarded by the Bigfoot community, pleading with him to cancel.  Rick Dyer is not well loved in that community.  I’m in the skeptic camp, and I was unfamiliar with Rick Dyer previously, so it seemed overkill to harass a programming director for putting on an event meant to be silly and fun.  While I still disagree with their methods, it’s easy to understand their ire having witnessed the brazen sleaze that is Rick Dyer.

He’s unapologetic about his desire for fame and money, and managed to suck the fun out of the event.  From what I’ve read, the event the night before at Mason Park went vastly different; much more calm I’m sure.  So I assume our pissed off group had a large hand in how the evening played out.

Though the event turned out different from my expectations, I still had fun.  I do not want Rick Dyer to have any more of my money (and recommend that you avoid giving him yours as well, if the chance arises), but as always had an absolute blast at the Alamo Drafthouse.