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FEARNET.com News and Reviews

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    Greyston Holt unleashes the beast in Bitten. Based on the novels by Canadian author Kelley Armstrong, the TV series finds sole existing female werewolf Elena Michaels (Laura Vandervoort) shunning her lycanthrope ways to lead a quiet, carefree life. That plan gets derailed when Elena’s pack calls her back to contend with an escalating threat. 

    Bitten casts Holt as pack member Clayton Danvers, a brooding enforcer-type who shares a special connection to Elena. Over the phone from Vancouver, the Canadian actor spoke to me about Clayton, what separates Bitten from the genre crowd and facing Jacob in See No Evil 2

    Bitten is based on the novels by Kelley Armstrong. What spoke to you about the material?

    There was a certain rawness to my character Clayton, this primal instinct and drive that he has. It’s very interesting. A more animalistic side of being human. That was fun to play with.

    The series sounds more mature than other takes on werewolves. Can you set up the premise?

    We’ve definitely chatted about it being Soprano-esque. It’s the idea of a super-tight, strong, loyal pack that will do anything to save one of its own. That’s apparent in our first episode when Elena is trying to live a normal life in Toronto. She knows we’re in trouble and she comes back to help us despite everything she wants, but she does. 

    Why is there tension between Clayton and Elena?

    I bit her. We were in love back when I was teaching university. I had to bite her to save her life. Now she’s the only known female werewolf.

    Elena returns because of a new danger. What can threaten a werewolf?

    That would be the Mutts. They are rising up and trying to take us on and create a Mutt empire. Being the only female werewolf, Elena can breed other werewolves. That’s a huge thing. She’s a very sought-after commodity.

    How did you go about capturing the essence of a werewolf?

    I didn’t really study other werewolf movies. When I found out I was going to screen test for Bitten, I went out into the forest here in Vancouver, just north of the city, went on a hiking trail and just ran around the forest naked. I took all my clothes off, ran around for an hour and howled and yelled. It was an interesting experience, but I think it helped.

    Did you have to practice all the grunting and growling, or at least the movements of an animal?

    I really don’t do much of that in the show. We have some changes into the werewolves and we’re going through the pain. It’s all VFX. I actually didn’t have to film a change in the first season. They insinuate I change, but you don’t actually see me change. I think Laura did and some other people.

    Are the transformations triggered by the full moon?

    No, what brings on the change for us is any kind of heightened sense like sexual desire, or if your safety is threatened or if you are angry. That makes it interesting because a lot of times it will happen when you don’t necessarily want it to.

    Paranormal and mystical TV series are abundant this year. How is Bitten pushing the envelope? 

    The show has something for everyone. For women looking for a strong female lead, there’s that in Laura. For men, there’s this very manly pack mentality and manly atmosphere. There’s violence and fighting. There’s also the romance aspect between me and Elena. There’s wicked fight scenes. A lot of gore. It’s all good.

    You also recently wrapped See No Evil 2. Were you a fan of the original and wanted to be involved in the sequel?

    What attracted me to the project was the opportunity to work with the Soska sisters. They are rad. I’ve met them before. I saw American Mary, which was a really cool film. I was just psyched to work with them. They have a unique style of directing. It’s kind of organized chaos between the two of them, but it was a ton of fun. 

    Can you introduce us to your character and the set of circumstances he finds himself in?

    I am the brother to Danielle Harris’ character. I’m her older, protective brother. We end up having this birthday party for her at her work, which is the county morgue. Jacob’s body is brought in. We think he’s dead, but he’s not, and calamity ensues.

    What’s so menacing and memorable about Jacob?

    I didn’t see the first film, but working with him on this one, he didn’t speak at all. It’s creepy. He’s just kind of there and he has a big body. I’m a big guy, but I felt like a dwarf. He just has a presence that is very creepy, especially once Kane gets the mask on.

    There was little doubt Jacob was dead at the end of the previous film. Is he more supernatural in nature now?

    No, no. he’s just a big, insanely strong man. I don’t think we touch on the supernatural aspect.

    How brutal are the kills?

    They are super-creative. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never died on camera. My characters have died, but I haven’t had the opportunity to die on screen. My scene is epic. It’s very bloody, and let’s just say, maybe a fountain of blood.

    Is dying half the fun in these types of projects?

    Oh yeah. It’s a ton of fun. The main gag, how I die, is a one-shot deal. There’s a pressure with that. You have to nail it. None of us know what it’s like to die, but it’s fun to take a stab at it, pardon my pun.

    Casting and production seemed to come together fairly quickly. How grueling was the shooting schedule?

    It was pretty tight. I was more of a supporting lead, but I know Danielle was in there every day, all day. It’s what we do.

    Lastly, we have to ask. What would a grudge match between Clayton and Jacob look like?

    Oh, Clayton would kick his ass. Are you kidding? Wolf against massive man? I think I’d beat him up in just my human form. Jacob doesn’t have any fighting skills. Clayton has some fine-tuned, martial artist skills. He has werewolf strength. Jacob is just a big oaf.


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    On China's Mt. Huashan, there is a passage that is probably the scariest pathway ever constructed by human beings. It begins as an incredibly steep climb called “The Heavenly Stairs”... and turns increasingly frightening as you progress onward and upward.
     
    Teahouse5
     
    A photo journal entitled Teahouse at the Southern Peak documents a traveler's journey up the mountain, which becomes gradually more precarious until they encounter this narrow row of planks, held up by chains and metal stakes driven into the mountainside...
     
    Teahouse3
     
    ...and finally just a series of toe-holes carved into the rock.
     
    Teahouse2
     
    So what exactly lies at the peak – over seven thousand feet up– that makes so many visitors risk death to reach it? This:
     
    Teahouse1
     
    One of five such temples on Mt. Huashan's five peaks, this temple and teahouse was built by Taoist monks so that the structures, when viewed from on high, would form the shape of a five-petal flower.
     
    Visit Teahouse at the Southern Peak for more beautiful (and terrifying) images.

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    UK artist Daryl Hobson has undertaken the impressive task of zombifying all 151 of the original Pokemon, and as of January 3rd has hit the halfway point: 75 down, 76 to go!

    Hobson’s artwork balances the cartoony nature of the original source material with a good-sized dollop of putrescence and decay.  It seems as if the pocket monsters have no short supply of boils, lesions, and rot, and some of them (poor Blastoise!) are especially nasty.  You can check some of the repulsive roster below, or go to the artist’s website for individual entries.


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    In this feature, we’ve thus far shined the spotlight on the coolest toys from the majority of the big horror franchises, including Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Child’s Play and The Evil Dead.  According to my calculations, that leaves only one left to tackle...

    Freddy Krueger has been an absolute merchandising powerhouse since he came onto the scene in 1984, very few years passing by in the subsequent decades without the release of new Elm Street toys and goodies.  NECA, Mezco, Sideshow Collectibles and McFarlane have all churned out several different Freddy figures over the years, making it incredibly difficult to pick and choose a mere ten.

    That being said, I feel pretty confident that the list I currently hold in my hands represents the absolute best of the best, so without further delay, let’s take a look at the ten Elm Street toys every fan of the franchise needs in their collection!

    Matchbox Talking Freddy

    We begin with the first Freddy Krueger toy that I ever owned, and which I still own and cherish to this day.  In 1989, the same year The Dream Child was released, die-cast car company Matchbox put out this talking Freddy doll, which blurted out several sayings at the pull of a string.  Shortly thereafter, the company pulled the dolls from shelves amidst parental complaints – the character is a child molester, after all – with only 40,000 of them being shipped out before the protests began.  Around the time New Nightmare came out, a limited run of the same dolls – presumably leftovers from Matchbox – were released into Spencer Gifts, with new sayings and the pull string replaced with a push button activation.  Mint in box, the original Matchbox dolls sell for at least $100, but they can be found much cheaper if the boxes are damaged or missing altogether.

    Sideshow Premium Format Freddy

    Toys sure have come a long way since I was a kid, as this 2012 release from Sideshow Collectibles serves as a perfect example of.  Sideshow has put out several 12” Freddy figures over the years, based on franchise installments such as Dream Warriors and Freddy vs. Jason, and at the tail end of 2012 they gave the burnt up dream demon their prestigious Premium Format treatment.  Actually, it’s the second Premium Format Freddy they’ve released, and it’s hand downs the superior of the two.  Measuring 18” tall, with real metal blades, and limited to 1,250 pieces, this incredible statue originally sold for $350 and now sells for nearly double that.

    Mezco Freddy Krueger

    Shortly after NECA released a couple New Nightmare figures in 2005, Mezco spent a few years playing around on Elm Street, and their first order of business was putting Freddy into the inaugural series of their popular Cinema of Fear line.  Thinking outside the box and bringing something a little different to the table, Mezco decided to ditch the iconic striped sweater and instead throw Freddy in a tux, depicting him as he was in the hilarious “Where’s the f’ing bourbon?” scene from Dream Warriors– complete with the severed head of Kristen’s mom and even Freddy’s skeleton.  The toy was released in 2007, and it was followed up by figures that saw Krueger dressed in a waiter’s outfit and surgical scrubs, based respectively on The Dream Child and Dream Master– both of which I’d also recommend, since they bring a little diversity to the Freddy toy collection.  Cinema of Fear Series 1 Freddy can typically be purchased for around $30-40.

    Mezco Nancy Thompson

    In 2008’s Cinema of Fear Series 2, Mezco released another Freddy figure and also gave some love to his main adversary, which is the first of only two toys ever released that depict Nancy Thompson – the other being Mezco’s Screen Grabs figure, which recreated the scene where Freddy bursts through the wall, above a sleeping Nancy.  This figure recreates another highly iconic encounter between Freddy and Nancy, a display piece that immortalizes the original film’s bathtub scene in plastic.  Nowadays, these can be found for upwards of $80, selling for a bit less outside of the packaging.

    Mezco Debbie Stevens

    Mezco got even more creative in the fourth and final series of the Cinema of Fear line, at long last giving us a full action figure of one of Freddy’s victims.  Alongside the aforementioned Freddy in surgical scrubs, this awesome figure of Dream Master’s Debbie “Roach Girl” Stevens was released in 2009, depicting her horrifically gruesome demise in the film.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t sell too well and can be purchased nowadays for even less than it originally sold for.  Nevertheless, it is in my opinion a standout gem in the world of Elm Street collectibles, and I can only hope that another toy company someday decides to give us more toys of characters other than just Freddy.

    NECA Freddy Krueger

    NECA once again returned to Elm Street in early 2011, with the first series of a line based on the franchise that still continues to this day.  Surprisingly, very few Freddy toys over the years have actually depicted Freddy as he was seen in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, where his sleeves were solid red rather than striped, and this Series 1 release is without question the definitive original Elm Street toy.  Packaged with an alternate head and outstretched arms, this is one of my favorite Freddy figures ever made, as it totally nails the more gritty and frightening look of Freddy from the original - before he became more cartoony looking.  Out of print, you can expect to pay around $60 to get your hands on one of these.

    NECA Freddy Krueger

    Series 2 of NECA’s Elm Street line was also released in 2011, comprised of figures based on Dream Warriors and Dream Master.  It was the Dream Master figure that was the standout of the two, immortalizing the final moments of the film, where various souls rip and tear their way out of Freddy’s body.  A truly awesome figure, and one of the most unique we’ve seen over the years.  These still sell for around the same price they sold for back in 2011, typically going for no more than $20.

    Comic Con 2012 Freddy Krueger

    At the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, NECA repurposed parts from past Freddy figures to form this awesome new toy, which was exclusive to the event.  Though they easily could’ve gotten away with merely painting the repurposed figure black and white, the company went one step further by adding in Freddy’s skateboard and a sliced up two-dimensional standee of Mark Gray, of course based on one of the more memorable kill scenes in Dream Child.  $60 is about what it’ll take to win one of these on eBay.

    NECA Springwood Slasher

    We’ve seen a few figures over the years of a pre-burn Freddy, but none of them nailed the likeness of Robert Englund more than this one from NECA, which was released last year as part of the fourth series of their Elm Street line.  The head sculpt is absolutely dead-on accurate, and it’s quite frankly the only ‘Fred Krueger’ figure you need to own.  These are still in production, so they’ll only run you around $20.

    NECA NES Freddy Krueger

    We talked about NECA’s video game-inspired figures more than a few times here on FEARnet last year, which began with a Comic Con release of Jason and was followed up with this figure of ‘8-bit Freddy.’  While the purple and baby blue Jason is no doubt the more exciting of the two, I nevertheless can’t imagine any Freddy toy collection without this highly unique figure in it.  It’s the kind of toy that you’ve just gotta own, and though they were limited to only one production run, you can still find these for around $30.

    Which of these Elm Street toys are your favorites, and did I leave off any that you feel are must-owns?  Comment below and let us know!


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    These perfume bottles may just be concept art, but something tells me if they were real, they would sell out in minutes. Japanese artist Ruby Spark designed these perfume bottles to resemble some of Disney's most notorious villains. Some of my favorites:

    Check out more designs at AggressiveComix.com


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    Chucky doll

    Every once in a while, PropDomain unloads some pieces from their vast collection of screen-used horror and sci-fi props with an auction, allowing us fans to get our hands on everything from severed limbs to screen-worn costumes.  Their latest prop auction just went live this week, and you've got until tomorrow (Saturday) to get in on the action.

    A wealth of incredible props are included in PropDomain's 16th horror/sci-fi auction, including rubber appliances from Slither and Splinter, a miniature castle built for and used in Elvira's Haunted Hills, a Chucky doll from Child's Play 2 and even Herman Munster's chest appliance from the failed NBC show Mockingbird Lane - which totally deserved to get at least one full season.

    Alien Resurrection

    These are just the tip of the iceberg of all the awesome offerings in the auction, which also includes props from Bride and Seed of Chucky, Alien: Resurrection and Blade.  Head over to iCollector to check everything out and place your bids.  Absentee bidding is currently open, with the live auction taking place tomorrow at 11:00am PST.


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    conjoined whales

    Whales are pretty damn scary, and the thought of one of them with two heads, and two mouths, is quite frankly enough to keep me out of the water for the rest of my life.  But while it's a horrifying thought, this story coming out Mexico this week is actually a whole lot more sad than it is frightening.

    conjoined whales

    As we spotted over on the website Mirror, a group of scientists discovered the body of the two-headed whale on Mexico's Laguna Ojo de Liebre, which is actually a set of conjoined twins.  Due to the small size of the corpse, which measures about half the size of a normal newborn gray whale, scientists believe the siamese twins were miscarried, and they have no way of knowing if their mother survived the birth.

    This is an incredibly rare find, as conjoined gray whales have never before been documented.  Some have suggested that Fukushima radiation is to blame for the anomaly, though these suggestions are unsubstantiated.

    Don't get any ideas, Syfy...


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    Story of Ricky

    Thanks to museums and the internet, beautiful pieces of art are preserved for an eternity, to be enjoyed by future generations.  But what about the art on our bodies that we pay so much for, and that artists put so much of their time and effort into?  Shouldn't that art also be preserved, rather than rot away after we die?  A macabre and slightly disturbing thought, for sure, but one tattoo artist has indeed made it his mission to preserve the tattoos of the dead.

    Peter van der Helm runs a parlor in Amsterdam called Walls and Skin, and he's become the very first tattoo artist to offer up the unique service to his clients.  For a few hundred euros, customers can leave their inked skin to van der Helm, a debt that will be collected once they pass away.  A Dutch pathologist will then remove the tattoo(s), freeze or soak them in formaldehyde, and then send them off to a laboratory, wherein a 12-week procedure essentially turns the tattooed flap of skin into a rubbery display piece.

    Van der Helm says that over 30 of his regular customers have already signed up for the post-death procedure, including a man who had his mother's portrait inked on his back, after she died.  "Everyone spends their lives in search of immortality and this is a simple way to get a piece of it," says the creative shop owner.

    Check out the news report below, and then let us know what you make of this by dropping a comment underneath.  Sick?  Cool?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!


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    LOTD_1
    Photo: Stefan Heilemann
     
    Dutch metal unit Legion of the Damned was formed nearly a decade ago by members of legendary Euro-thrash band Occult, releasing their excellent debut album Malevolent Rapture in 2006 to high praise from critics and fans alike. Their material remained consistently dark and horror-centric over the years, both in theme and musical style, reaching a menacing peak with the pitch-black Descent Into Chaos in 2011. Still, despite numerous personnel changes (including the tragic suicide of former bassist Twan Fleuren) and shifts in tone and production quality, it seems they may match that sinister success this year with the release of Ravenous Plague, which just hit North America via Napalm Records.
     
    LOTD_Ravenous
     
    The band has wisely re-teamed with Malevolent Rapture producer Andy Classen (who packs a mighty metal resume) and enlisted the cinematic talents of composer Jo Blankenburg, whose music has graced trailers and TV spots for the X-Men and Harry Potter film franchises. The result adds even darker textures to the album's basic, straight-ahead fusion of thrash and slightly-blackened death metal styles. Blankenburg's contribution is front-and-center for the appropriately-titled intro "The Apocalyptic Surge," but quickly steps aside to make way for the speed-picking hurricanes that are "Howling for Armageddon” and "Black Baron," showcasing the blistering technique of guitarist Twan van Geel (who loosens up his attack a bit here, enhancing the grimy tone), the snapping snares of Erik Fleuren and the sneering mid-range voice of Maurice Swinkels. Bassist Harold Gielen turns in strong work as well, though a tad low in the mix for my liking. 
     
    As with most of Legion's output, the riff is absolute king, although some melodic elements occasionally come to play amid the carnage, and atmospheric touches of doom enhance excellent tracks like the "Doom Priest," featuring a haunting down-tempo intro, and accompanied by this appropriately gothic horror clip.
     
     
    Pensive moments are few and far between, however, as the band dials up plenty more dark energy through the blackened chords of "Ravenous Abominations" and diabolical group-chanting refrain of “Summon All Hate.” The trio of closing cuts "Bury Me in a Nameless Grave," "Armalite Assassin" and "Strike of the Apocalypse" are a bit too similar to one another to distinguish themselves too much (unless you just think of them as a single lumbering track, which kinda works for me), but the gritty "Mountain Wolves Under a Crescent Moon” is a definite standout, as well as a thematic cousin to “Werewolf Corpse” from Malovelent Rapture.
     
     
    Ravenous Plague benefits from the same rough-edged, grimy feel that made Legion of the Damned's debut disc a winner, and the band manages to build a wide, imposing sonic landscape without sounding too over-produced. It certainly won't score them any bonus points for expanding their creative horizons, but that's not what this band is about. If you're looking for mean, heavy and energetically evil Euro-thrash, you'll definitely want to add this one to your collection.

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    There are myriad reasons why some horror films don’t make a connection with moviegoers and in turn fail to live up to expectations set by the studios that financed them. Sometimes it’s because a movie simply isn’t good, but often a film’s lack of box office success can be attributed to circumstances beyond the filmmakers’ control: factors like lack of appropriate promotion, bad marketing, poorly-timed release dates and unduly harsh critical reception can work against an otherwise good film's success. There are countless well-made movies that do not succeed for one reason or another, and we think it’s a damn shame that the majority of movie fans wind up missing out on quality films.

    Because we love an underdog story and love to advocate for the little guy, we ran a piece in November that celebrated five of our favorite underrated horror films; as it proved popular, we are back with a second installment. Check out part one here.

    Below, we're showing our appreciation for four more of our favorite under-appreciated horror titles. 

    Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

    This brilliant slasher film takes a very Meta approach to filmmaking; it’s sharp wit and self-awareness predated films like Cabin in the Woods and Detention by several years. Before the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is highly inventive, has several great cameos from genre film personalities, and although, at first glance, it seems like a run-of-the-mill slasher, it is anything but run-of-the-mill. The film’s theatrical release was a bit of a joke; it was released in one Hasidic neighborhood in New York to guarantee a review from some of the top critics in the New York area – namely to secure blurbs for the film’s DVD release. Had Behind the Mask been given a proper theatrical run and the associated promotion that goes along with, it would likely have a much larger fan base outside of the horror community. 

    Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

    Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a classic Bob Clark film that predates the release of Black Christmas. Strangely, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things has never been given its due as the well-made horror film that it is. I suspect that Bob Clark making the film under the name Benjamin Clark prior to the advent of the Internet may have contributed to the films obscurity - as it didn’t provide for name recognition. But today, there is no good reason why the film does not have a larger fan base. Regardless of the reason the film has not really developed a substantial following, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a lot of fun and a must see for nearly any fan of zombie films or macabre enthusiasts. 

    Pieces

    One of the most enticing films ever to feature a chainsaw, Pieces is a genre film classic. It has an ending that is so farcical and surreal that it still drops my jaw upon multiple repeat viewings. The film has a giallo-esque quality about it that keeps the viewer on their toes until the big reveal that lets the viewer know who the chainsaw-wielding maniac really is. The film is a bit cheesy in nature but that works perfectly with its grindhouse aesthetic. There are a few possible explanations as to why Pieces doesn’t have a larger following: it has been in and out of print several times in recent years and all of the film’s DVD releases have been by way of smaller distributors, which has quite possibly kept Pieces from garnering greater recognition with genre fans and mainstream audiences alike.  

    Humongous

    Humongous is a bizarre but fun horror film from the early 80s that has flown under the radar with a very small following. It follows a fairly formulaic pattern common to slasher films of its time but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes. There are a few things that may have led to this film being largely unappreciated: Humongous was released at a time when slasher pictures were a dime a dozen; it was not granted a U.S. DVD release until recently; and the film was shot using very poor lighting which resulted in a transfer that made the picture very difficult to see. Upon receiving a rerelease via Scorpion Releasing’s Katarina’s Nightmare Theatre, the film appears to have been digitally enhanced to brighten the picture and provide for a better viewing experience. Any slasher fan that hasn’t seen it should check it out. 


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    Both McFarlane and Funko have been doing an incredible job with their very different takes on Walking Dead toys, and neither company is showing any signs of slowing down.  This week saw the reveal of upcoming offerings from both companies, which we're here to take a look at today!

    McFarlane Walking Dead

    While McFarlane is already on the fifth series of their line of toys based on the Walking Dead TV show, they've thus far only released two series' of their comic book line, and concept images of Series 3 were glimpsed for the first time this week.  The series is comprised of a new figure of Rick and the very first figures of comic book Andrea and Dwight, as well as a particularly cool looking 'Punk Rock Zombie.'  Each of the figures can be pre-ordered for $14.99 apiece over on Big Bad Toy Store, with a reduced price if you want the whole set.

    Funko Walking Dead

    Funko takes a more cartoony approach to The Walking Dead, and this year will see the release of their second series of 'Mystery Mini' vinyl figurines.  The 2.5" figures come housed in blind boxes, so you never know who you're buying until you get home and open the box.  Series 2 includes several brand new additions, characters like Michonne, The Governor and Rick being given the mini vinyl treatment for the first time.

    Looking to be another great year for Walking Dead collectibles, and this is only the beginning!


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    In the last couple of weeks I have been (digitally) exploring the ruins of the Miracle Strip Amusement Park and the only two Disney Parks to ever be completely abandoned. Finding one creepy, abandoned amusement park just seems to lead me to more and more. Today we are going to explore South Korea's Okpo Land. Not only is it creepy and abandoned, it has a seedy and bloody history.

    I don't know when Okpo Land opened on the outskirts of Okpo-Dong, South Korea, but it closed in 1999 and was likely less than 20 years old. The park was small, with only a dozen or so attractions, but it was the only game in town so it was profitable. In the 1990s, things got bloody. A young girl was killed on a duck-themed ride. Her family was not given financial compensation, an explanation, or even an apology, and the park remained open. In 1999, the same duck ride killed another young girl when the ride derailed and she was thrown to the ground. Apparently the owner took the second death as a sign - not to make reparations, but the get the hell out of town. Overnight, the park was closed and the owner walked away, leaving the park exactly as it was, duck ride still derailed. 

    The site was finally razed in 2011 so that hotels could be built on that land. 

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    okpo land

    Source: Bitrebels, Livejournal

     


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    The world of Stephen King publishing, which is always a weird and exciting place, has recently gotten even stranger.  Starting next month, Stephen King’s popular 2009 novel, Under the Dome, will finally be released in mass-market paperback.  Actually, make that paperbacks, plural – the book is divided in half; part one comes on February 25th, and part 2 arrives March 25th.  Questions arise: why now?  Why did it take so long?  And is this just a cynical cash grab to capitalize on the overwhelming success of the miniseries?  All fair questions, but the answers might be a little more surprising and complex than you’d think.

    Publishing as a whole is different than it was even ten years ago.  While the business of print publishing hasn’t fallen into fiery ruins as some predicted when King’s “Riding the Bullet” was the first eBook bestseller, digital titles have absolutely impacted sales of traditional books.  The bookstore chain Borders has gone out of business, in part because they underestimated the pull of digital reading.  The New York Times have added both an eBook bestsellers list and a combined eBook/print list.  Stephen King has taken to publishing some work – “Ur,” “Mile 81,” “A Face In the Crowd” – exclusively digitally.  

    Perhaps most interesting is the impact eBooks have had on mass-market paperbacks, those small, inexpensive pocket-sized books that used to populate the front-of-store displays in mall and airport bookstores.  Their sales, in the past far healthier than that of hardcovers, are on the decline.  It looks like eBooks are a big part of that decline.  The traditional model for a bestselling writer like King has always followed a standard pattern: a new hardcover is released, usually in the midst of a major selling season, and about a year later, a mass market paperback reprint arrives (except in special cases like Christine, the paperback edition of which came out a mere six months after the hardcover).  Now, for far less than the price of a typical hardcover, you can instantaneously download the new Stephen King novel… and not have to wait a year to get the bargain.  

    Contemporary print publishing has responded in interesting ways.  In an effort to retain the readers who appear to be mass-market paperbacks’ primary audience – Baby Boomers – some publishers have introduced a taller-sized mass-market paperback (seven and a half inches high, rather than the traditional six and three-quarters inches).  The new dimensions of these mass-market books allow for larger print and more white space in between lines of text, a direct response to older readers’ often worsening eyesight.  (The new price point for these taller mass markets, close to $10, is likely not incidental.)  Pocket Books, Stephen King’s paperback publisher (and, interestingly, the publisher who introduced the mass-market format in 1939) first released Cell in this new size in 2006, and have published every Stephen King mass-market book in this fashion since.

    If the new size of mass-markets exists to hold on to King’s (and other bestselling writers’) existing audience, then the advent of the trade paperback in King’s reprint bibliography is intent on building a new audience.  Ever since King left Viking in 1998, his new publisher, Scribner, has worked toward a broader audience and away from the perception of King as “horrormeister,” a designation that has both helped and harmed his reputation.  Presenting bright and colorful book covers, King’s name in a more subdued font than the one on earlier books, and blurbs by authors like Nicholas Sparks and Amy Tan rather than Jack Ketchum and Dean Koontz, helped Scribner make King approachable to audiences turned off by horror.  King won the National Book Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003, building on his reputation as a literary writer.  It only made sense that Scribner would begin to publish King’s paperbacks in the trade format.  Long the format for literary fiction, the trade paperback – made with better paper, heavier covers, and a size closer to that of the hardcover than their mass-market cousins – lends an aura of prestige. They even got their own New York Times bestseller list in 2007, “[giving] more emphasis to the literary novels and short-story collections reviewed so often in our pages (and sometimes published only in softcover).”  Perhaps anticipating trends, Scribner reprinted King’s 2000 instructional guide/memoir On Writing as a trade, underscoring the literary merits of that book and setting the stage for later books. 

    One of the other exciting advantages of trade paperbacks is in their swiftness to hit the market.  While mass-market books would generally take a year to come out in paperback, most trades follow the Christine model: about six months after the hardcover.  On Writing was released in hardcover in October of 2000, and was out in trade the following June.  While many of King’s subsequent books followed traditional printing, Under the Dome was published in November of 2009 and came out in trade in May 2010.  11/22/63 followed suit, arriving in hardcover in November of 2010 and in trade July 2011.  The Wind Through the Keyhole performed similarly, but that has always been the case with Dark Tower novels; in the early days, trade was the only way regular readers could get their hands on those books, due to their subject matter and the limited nature of their hardcover counterparts. 

    Though The Wind Through the Keyhole was eventually released as a mass-market paperback (by way of a conventional schedule, about a year after the hardcover), there has been no discussion of the same for 11/22/63 (nor for the slender Blockade Billy).  The same has been true for Under the Dome… until now.  In the past, when a new movie or TV show based on a King novel would arrive, King’s paperback publishers would issue a new movie tie-in cover – that’s how books like Hearts in Atlantis and Dreamcatcher finally made it to the #1 spot on the New York Times paperback bestseller list.  Now, publishers seem to have been waiting for a mass-market success to produce a mass-market book.  

    After the runaway success of the first season of Under the Dome adaptation, these new paperbacks seem engineered toward drumming up excitement toward season 2, as well as for the novel itself.  These releases are aimed at the larger television audience who likely wouldn’t buy the hardcover or even the similarly-sized trade.  While previous mega-long bestsellers like It and The Stand fit easily in regular mass-market editions, the split and staggered release of the Under the Dome mass-markets makes sense for today’s market.  With the new “easier to read” edict for the 7.5” paperbacks, these books are also easier to hold– at nearly 1,300 combined pages, a single paperback might actually turn off potential new readers.  Setting the release dates of the two paperbacks a month apart also keeps these new readers in mind, especially those who enjoy the serialized storytelling of the show and might be eager to replicate the experience.  New American Library did the same with Desperation and The Regulators in 1997: though the books – which tell different stories with the same characters – came out on the same day in hardcover, in paperback, Desperation came out a month earlier than its altered twin.

    Will this release make the publishers – and Stephen King – money?  Sure.  And that’s fine.  There are often complaints when King releases work strictly online, or strictly in limited-edition formats.  More access equals more readers, and those people who don’t like digital reading and who have been waiting for the paperback are now in luck.  For the first time, Under the Dome will be available in every existing format for any reader who wants one, and because the story is a good one, that’s a very good thing indeed.  

     ---

    Kevin Quigley is an author whose website, CharnelHouseSK.com, is one of the leading online sources for Stephen King news, reviews, and information. He has written several books on Stephen King for Cemetery Dance Publications, including a book on comics and Stephen King, Drawn Into Darkness, as well as Chart of Darkness, Stephen King Limited, 13, and co-wrote the recently released Stephen King Illustrated Movie Trivia Book. His first novel, I’m On Fire, is forthcoming. Find his books at cemeterydance.com


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    New comic book Wednesday has come and gone. The dust at your local comic shop has settled. An eerie silence descends as you finish reading your last superhero book of the week. Now it's time for something a little more sinister. Welcome to Bagged and Boarded: comic reviews of the sick, spooky, twisted and terrifying!

    The Walking Dead No. 119

    Rick and his crew led a major assault on the villainous Negan. After dealing such a direct blow (with the help of hordes of zombies), our heroes retreated back to their camp. But it wasn't all a success as Ezekiel lost many of his people in an ancillary attack. Now the fear is that Negan and his posse will have extra help getting out of harm's way and could come back soon for revenge.

    Bag it or board it up? This is a really nice issue of 'Dead.' The artwork in it is so damned gloomy you can tell from the first panel that things are not on the up and up. There are some key emotional moments that push this issue past criticisms of it being a "filler" or "cool-down" issue after a big event. If anything, this is one of the more emotionally fraught issues to come along in a while. And when trouble rolls into town the feeling of dread that hangs in the air is almost cinematic.

    Kiss Me, Satan! No. 5 of 5

    This insane, pulpy series comes to an end with this final issue. Up to now, we've hung out with Barnabas, an agent of heaven who deals in shotguns and is protected from magic. He met up with some witches in New Orleans who are trying to save the baby of a Werewolf mob boss from being murdered. Along the way they've met a cool necromancer, some demons, plenty of werewolves, and an asshole wizard. It's been an insane ride, and this issue brings it all to a neat little close as the final showdown unfolds.

    Bag it or board it up? Even though this is the series finale, you really don't have to go back and read all the previous comics. You should, because they're crazy and awesome, but you don't have to. You'll get what's going on, more or less, and this is such an action-packed comic that you won't want to put it down. I'm sad to see this series ending. I really hope it gets picked up for more issues; this is a world I'd love to continue exploring.

    B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth No. 115

    Now we're getting to the meat and potatoes of this 'Hell on Earth' run of comics. All this time everyone's been wondering what happened to New York. Since giant monsters crawled out of a crack in the earth the city's gone dark. Sure, a lot of the world's gone dark, but New York is different. No word in or out, no people in or out, no reports on any activity at all. So now two different strike forces make their way into the city from two different drop-off's (New Jersey and Brooklyn), and it's time to see what's going on in the big apple.

    Bag it or board it up? This issue really hit me where it hurts. Though I'm not a native, I'm a transplant to the New York area and currently reside in Brooklyn, not too far from where some of the events in this issue take place. To see my adopted hometown torn to shreds( something took a big bite out of the Williamsburg Bridge) and full of dead people was jarring, and an emotional experience. But even without that emotional response… hot damn this is a good issue. Jump in now or miss out on the whole New York arc.

    Afterlife With Archie No. 3

    Death has come to Riverdale and it's up to Archie and the gang to set it right… or, at least, survive the night. In this celebration of all things anachronistic, Archie and his buddies are beset with hordes of zombies. The creatures now roam the streets and set ruin to the town, and Veronica has taken everyone to her palatial mansion home to stay safe. But strong-willed Archie can't just sit around while his parents may be in trouble. So of course the plucky red head has to go investigate.

    Bag it or board it up? I said it last issue and I'll say it again: No comic is dealing with darker themes than this Archie comic. And if they are… they're not doing it with as much class as this comic. There are plenty of funny moments, and lots of gags, but the core of this comic is an honest portrayal of fear and helplessness. We see characters break down and cry under the pressure, we see characters profess deep-seated fears to one another. It's all amazing to read. Don't write this comic off as a novelty, it's the most careful twisting of a franchise I've ever read.


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    Spooky is sometimes just a matter of perspective – as you'll see when this sculpted chandelier is switched on, casting long shadows of twisted, thorny tree branches on every wall.

    Chandelier1

    Based on the drawings of naturalist Ernst Haeckel, “Forms in Nature” by artists Thyra Hilden & Pio Diaz can transform just about any room into a darkly inviting enchanted forest. But some of us – especially youngsters with rampant imaginations – might fear what shadowy presence might be lurking behind those magical trees at night.

    Chandelier2

    A close-up look at the piece itself reveals a more fluid, fractal shape, which may also call to mind the swirling, formless demon from the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill... again, not something everyone would want to close their eyes to.

    Chandelier3

    You can see more images of this enchanting creation at the art & design site Demilked and the artists' official blog, and be sure to check out the video below...

     


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    We're less than a week away from the limited edition Blu-Ray and DVD release of 'Montauk Chronicles,' the new documentary project from filmmaker Chris Garetano ('Horror Business') and now a 5-minute preview (the first of three scenes) from the movie has made it's way on-line. 'Montauk Chronicles' examines the stories and legends that surround the alleged Montauk Project: A government program that kidnapped young teens for a wide range of sinister and phantasmagoric experiments. Garetano's unique approach combines interviews with people who claimed to have worked on the Montauk project along with narrative re-creations of some of the nightmare inducing experiements discussed in the doc. Savvy genre fans should take note - you'll spot Paul W. Ehlers in this 5 minute clip; he's the fellow that played Madman Marz in the early 80's "slasher" cult classic 'Madman.' 

    Other interviewees include Dr. Barry Taff ('The Entity'), rock musicians Art of Dying, Lee Spiegel ('Weird News,' Huffington Post), and psychic Qumran Taj. Pre-orders are now available for the Blu-Ray and DVD over on the official 'Montauk Chronicles' website. It street dates this Tuesday, January 14th! Watch the 5-minute preview below, along with the trailer and be sure to keep tabs on the 'Montauk Chronicles' Facebook page for all the latest, including word on the upcoming release of the soundtrack on vinyl!




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    Over the past several years, Montréal-based photographer François Brunelle has taken hundreds of haunting images depicting pairs of real-life lookalikes who are not identical twins... in fact, they're not even related.

    Doppel1

    For his ambitious project Je Ne Suis Pas Un Sosie ("I'm Not a Lookalike") the artist is gathering black & white portraits of around 200 pairs of doubles he's taken all around the world, which he will ultimately compile in a book and international tour.

    Brunelle1

    Most of Brunelle's subjects had never met their doppelgangers prior to the photo sessions... and those first meetings must have been pretty unnerving.

    Doppel2

    The images are not digitally altered, and no special makeup or styling is used to enhance the models' uncanny similarities.

    Doppel5

    Find out more about the project at Brunelle's official site.


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    Working mostly alone, Japanese artist and animator YAMIKEN devoted four years of his life to an incredibly creepy, visually stunning stop-motion apocalyptic tale entitled Junk Head 1.

    JunkHead2

    The half-hour film is set in a dark future, where humans have become virtually immortal but lose the ability to reproduce. To replenish their workforce they create a race of clones, who finally rebel and are driven underground. Centuries later, when the humans discover the clones are reproducing, they decide to investigate...

    JunkHead1

    Combining the surreal biomechanical themes of H.R. Giger with the dark humor of Tim Burton (a pretty tough concept to wrap your head around), the film somehow manages to be both whimsical and disturbing at the same time.

    JunkHead4

    As its numerical title suggests, Junk Head 1 is the first in a planned series by YAMIKEN, who is currently seeking funding for the next installment. You can find out more at the series' official site, but first check out the full English-subtitled version here!

     


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    draculaDracula Episode 108
    “Come to Die”
    Written By: Harley Peyton
    Directed By: Brian Kelly
    Original Airdate: 10 January 2014

    In This Episode…

    Jayne and Browning are convinced there is another elder vampire hanging around London. She targets a hooker who admits that it was Dracula who summoned her there. Jayne tries to get the location of his nest. The hooker opts to shoot herself in the head with Jayne’s gun, rather than give up her master. Jayne takes this information to the Order, who doesn’t believe her: Dracula is just a myth, a tale to scare children. Jayne relates the history of “Dracula” to them (and to us): Vlad Tepes served on the council of the Order of the Dragon. He was excommunicated, but the sentence of death was considered inadequate, so they turned to the occult. Dracula, the first vampire, was created - not sired - by the Order of the Dragon. Browning insists that Jayne present proof that it is Dracula who walks among them. Jayne finds a couple more vamps, tortures them by forcing holy water down their throats. One talks: he doesn’t know where Dracula is, but knows that he can walk in the sun, which shocks Jayne.

    Jonathan is going through a crisis of conscience. He feels horribly guilty about what he did to Shaw, but doesn’t see a way to fix it. His friend gives him a gun because he thinks he is in danger. Jonathan’s next stop is the hospital, where Mina is working in Van Helsing’s lab. Her father had just been there, asking her about her relationship with “the American.” He is not judgmental, even after Mina admits that Grayson has a “magnetic effect” on her. But she “loves Jonathan, he is like family to me,” which is the weirdest description of a fiancee I have ever heard. Anyway, Jonathan comes in after Mr. Murray has left, so Mina is already feeling a bit guilty when Jonathan brings up Grayson. But his issue with Grayson is what he manipulated Jonathan into doing to destroy Shaw. “He is the closest thing to evil I have ever seen.” Mina asks why he remains in his employ, and Jonathan simply says he “has his reasons.” So he won’t quit, but he warns Mina to stay away, lest she get infected by his evil.

    Grayson and Renfield are discussing how to get his resonator out of police custody. Grayson wants to use violence; Renfield wants to try bribery. Grayson agrees, and Mina shows up suddenly. Grayson quickly dons his American persona and Mina gets straight to the point: Jonathan is terrified of him. He doesn’t terrify her, but “I don’t know you as well.” Grayson admits that sometimes he has to be ruthless, but only as much so as those he goes up against. I’m not sure what Mina was hoping to hear, but it wasn’t that. “We will not be used up by you.”

    During this time, Lucy is going over wedding swatches with Jonathan, who is distracted because he is late for work. Lucy admits she doesn’t care about the swatches and admits she can’t get him out of her head. He sits beside her and she puts her hand on his, which startles Jonathan. He insists that this will pass, it must pass, for Mina’s sake. Lucy agrees never to speak of it again with one condition: they seal it with a kiss. He relents and leans in, intending for a kiss on the cheek, but Lucy forces a lip lock. He pulls away, and Lucy plants the next seed of doubt in his mind, mentioning all those times Mina went to Carfax Manor - it was to see Jonathan, wasn’t it? Of course it wasn’t, and Jonathan goes straight to Mina, again at the hospital, and accuses her of looking for excuses to spend time with Grayson, especially her recent trip to Carfax Manor. She defends herself by saying she was looking for the truth, which only upsets Jonathan further, that she didn’t trust him. This is basically the Victorian way of accusing someone of having an affair. Mina is mystified and hurt, but insists nothing is going on between her and Grayson. Jonathan doesn’t believe her and storms out.

    Mina finally gets ready to leave work, taking a vial of blood that Van Helsing had hidden away in a secret cubby in the wall. As she leaves she hears the creak of footsteps, and is suddenly set upon by Davenport’s man Hackett, and two other goons. She tries valiantly to fight back, but she is no match for the three men, and they throw her down a flight of stairs. When she wakes (and by “wakes” I mean opens her eyes, but barely) she is tied to the table in the center of the operating theater with Hackett threatening her with a vial of sulfuric acid. Before he can start drizzling it over her face, Grayson shows up and goes apeshit on them. He rips Hackett’s acid arm off his body; he slashes the throat of another man; he breaks the neck of the third. Then he returns to one-armed joe and drags him into another room for what we can only assume is a horrifically violent dismemberment, judging by the screams and the wet sounds of flesh ripping. Mina is trying to pay attention but her injuries are too severe, and she passes out. The next day, Jayne and Browning find the three thugs impaled on an iron gate. “Evidence enough for you?” 

    Morning comes, and Mina is in the hospital, Jonathan sitting vigil over her. Grayson comes in and directs all questions to Mr. Murray. Mina wakes, and Grayson emits a sigh of relief. He instantly starts asking her about who did this to her. Jonathan is irked by the fact that Grayson seems to be taking control of the situation. When Mina mentions the man with the birthmark, it clicks for Jonathan and he runs out, proclaiming he needs to go to the police. Grayson follows, finally acknowledging him and telling Jonathan that the police won’t take him seriously because he is a “nobody.” Jonathan decides he will confront Davenport himself.

    Jonathan lets himself into Davenport’s house and confronts the man in his living room. He thinks that this was retaliation against the Shaw incident, and Jonathan is furious that he would bring Mina into this mess. Davenport plays dumb and suggests that Grayson sent him here, that he put ideas in Jonathan’s head. “Can’t you see what he is up to? Either way he wins. You kill me, you go to jail. I kill you, he still gets her.” Davenport wants to prove that Grayson adores Mina by showing him the painting, something that Jonathan does not want to see. He suggests that Grayson only hired Jonathan so he could get closer to Mina. Jonathan is enraged by this accusation and shoots Davenport dead. Then he sees the painting and it sets his mind reeling. He goes straight to Lucy’s house and, without a word, kisses her passionately. The two end up in bed together.

    Grayson is alone with Mina. While she sleeps, he pines for her. “You make me want more than I can possibly have.” That Mina is a good sleeper - she doesn’t stir. Back at home, and Grayson stares blankly into the fireplace. Renfield announces that Davenport is dead and hands him the file. Grayson doesn’t even look at it, just tosses it in the fire. His mind is on Mina/Ilona. “Harker worked out exactly as you planned,” Renfield says.

    Dig It or Bury It?

    Dracula has just gotten better and better. I am almost afraid to enjoy it too much because I don’t know that it will return for another season. I think that the show really benefits from playing down the business angle. It is there and still important, but Victorian business practices are not exactly dynamic television. Now the business stuff is there, but way in the background, and we can focus on lust and greed and… oh yeah: VAMPIRES. 

    I am a little bit troubled by the notion of Grayson being behind the plot that ultimately led to Jonathan killing Davenport. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him, but I am having a hard time tracking back Grayson’s involvement. I feel as though the theft of his painting was genuine, so he had to come in with Hackett. Maybe the men that he tells Davenport about has nothing to do with Mina’s kidnap; it was just a ruse to confuse the audience, and Grayson made an off-screen deal with Hackett.

    Plus - and I don’t know why - but it always tickles me when a movie monster rips the arm off a victim. Always. 

    Prophecies?

    “War” begins - I guess between Dracula and the Order?


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    As we've been discovering over the past year, spiders seem to be getting smarter and more organized every day... it's only a matter of time before they start building weapons... wait, they've already done it?
     
    Slingshot2
    Image: Jeff Cremer/Peru Nature
     
    It would seem so, as indicated in a rare video from rainforest expedition site Peru Nature, depicting a tiny spider native to the Peruvian rainforest (most likely of species Naatlo splendida) rigging its web like a medieval catapult.
     
    Slingshot1
    Image: Jeff Cremer/Peru Nature
     
    As you'll see in the clip below, the miniature artillery specialist just pulls back on the web and lets fly, firing the web at its prey and basically beating Spider-Man at his own game.
     

     


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