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    Theme parks are awesome. Theme parks dressed up for Halloween are friggin' outstanding. This time of year, Knott's Berry Farm becomes Knott's Scary Farm, and has a parked jammed full of tricks and treats.

    The biggest event of this season stands to be "Trapped: The New Experiment." Going into its second year, "Trapped" is Knott's reservation-only maze that promises a bigger and more intense experience filled with puzzles that you must solve in order to escape.

    The most important parts of any haunted theme park are the mazes. With 10 mazes this year, we will get old favorites like "Trick or Treat," "Pinocchio Unstrunt," and "Uncle Willy's Slaughterhouse." New for 2013 are "Black Magic," in which you tour one of Houdini's demonic seances; "Forevermore," which imagines the twisted worlds of Edgar Allan Poe; "The Gunslinger's Grave," a ghost town inhabited by real ghosts; and "Mirror Mirror," where mentioning the "skeleton key" can open up secret rooms and extra scare zones.

    One of the shows I remember most from my youth is "The Hanging," a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the year's current events. It used to be hosted by Bill & Ted, but they are not exactly scary, and I imagine most of the visitors are too young to be familiar with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, so this year, the theme will be gothic fairytale. Other shows this year include "gypsy dancers," a comedic magician, drummers, a "live possession," and an all-new Elvira show.

    And finally, the "Atmosfears," scare zones where monsters walk freely in themed areas including carnival freaks, a ghost town, Dios de la Muertos, gypsies, and vampire steampunk.

    Knott's Haunt runs from September 26th through November 2nd.

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    American Horror Story: Coven has added its 87th cast member (or something like that). Newcomer Alexander Dreymon has landed a "major recurring role" as the new neighbor who moves in next to Jessica Lange's witch academy. He joins a long, long list of stars that includes Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Patti Lupone, Leslie Jordan and Gabourey Sidibe.

    The have also launched the new poster art for the season. (Why'd it have to be snakes?)

    american horror story: coven

    American Horror Story: Coven is set in New Orleans and revolves around witches. Jessica Lange plays the "supreme witch" Fiona; Kathy Bates plays historical socialite and serial murderer Madame LaLaurie; Angela Bassett plays voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. The season is said to cover 300 years of witchcraft history, and modern witches who are fighting against extinction. The season premieres October 9th on FX.

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    Face Off Episode 504
    “Subterranean Terror”
    Original Airdate: 3 September 2013

    In This Episode...

    The contestants must create their own subterranean creature. They are sent beneath an abandoned power station, where six “rooms” have different clues and themes. Each contestant must choose a room to interpret. Art director and creature designer Jordu Schell is the guest judge this week.

    The Creations

    Roy had some major problems. He planned a gigantic octopus / worm creature that would have his model crawling on all fours. Unfortunately, he poured the wrong type of foam into his massive mold, and had to scrap the whole thing. He had a face sculpt that was still useable, and built slap-dash tentacle arms to go with. The judges knew it was bad; Roy knew it was bad. They all kind of accepted it and moved on.

    Scott... well, I’m not really sure what he was going for. Neither did the judges. Ve found his sculpt too messy, and Jordu thought the bright spots on the head looked like Fruity Pebbles. Neville thought there was a cool concept under there, but it was killed by a terrible paint job.

    Adolfo’s concept was that his guy was on death row, but the electric chair gave him power instead of killing him. Besides the fact that he painted his makeups bright, bright orange (it looked like a pumpkin), his sculpt was “rudimentary” (Glenn) and “looked like a cheap Halloween mask” (all the judges).

    Frank imagined a creature who had lost its eyes through evolution, and instead had a massive amount of teeth that expanded well beyond the gum line. I think this was my favorite makeup tonight. It was Jordu’s favorite as well. Glenn was pleased with “tons of intelligent decisions;” Ve loved the fingernails and claws; Neville thought it had great airbrush work.

    Miranda’s mole rat was wonderfully creepy. Neville thought the skin wrinkling was spectacular. It was natural and organic. Ve loved the subtle paint job.

    Laura also had a mole rat of sorts, but a little more emphasis on the “rat” part. Glenn loved every aspect of this, especially the oversized forehead which made the face seem smaller and squishier. Ve thought it was unique and cool-looking, but she thought it was a little pink for a creature that had never seen daylight.

    Other creations this week:


    Miranda won this week, the second week in a row. Adolfo was sent home because, as Glenn said, they “couldn’t get past the mask-factor.”

    Dig It or Bury It?

    I wasn’t particularly taken with this challenge, but the results were great. It didn’t help much that there were a lot of mole rats in the mix, and quite frankly, the vast majority of the contestants had very pedestrian makeups. The top looks were pretty great though.

    I wasn’t surprised that Roy got to stay. His entry was clearly a disaster, but the judges gave him “points” for his catastrophe - and his previous work. I think this will be the last year they do veterans vs. newbies because I think the veterans have an unfair advantage. Regardless of what the judges claim, you know they remember the vets from previous seasons and it colors their perception of them as artists.


    Hippie alert! Next week is a mother nature goddess challenge. 

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    Earlier this summer, when we revealed Waxwork Records' plan to release a vinyl edition of John Harrison's score to George Romero's classic Day of the Dead, we also hinted that there would be a special screening of the film to mark the occasion in the near future. Well, it's time to mark your calendars, because that day is now upon us!
    In a joint venture between Waxwork Records, La-La Land Records and Creature Features, the Day of the Dead soundtrack launch party will take place at the historic Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, on September 30th at 7pm. The event will include a theatrical screening of Romero's 1985 zombie epic, with the director and composer in attendance... along with actor Sherman Howard, who played the film's zombie hero, “Bub.” All three will be present for a live discussion and Q&A moderated by film music writer Jeff Bond (who penned the liner notes for the vinyl release), followed by a soundtrack signing session. Copies of the album will be sold at the Egyptian, and you can get them signed on the spot.
    Admission to the event is free (first come, first served), and you can get your tickets at La-La Land Records now.

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    As a passionate fan of Trent Reznor's music for nearly a quarter-century, I knew this review would be quite an undertaking, but now the time has come to step up and swing. My initial thrill came early this year, when Nine Inch Nails' founder announced that his legendary band would not only be returning to the stage in 2013 after a four-year hiatus (and five years away from the studio), but had already been at work on the new album Hesitation Marks, so the excitement and anticipation was understandably high. The title, which refers to the tenuous flesh wounds made by someone contemplating suicide, suggested we were about to visit another very dark corner of Reznor's psyche – an idea reinforced by the return of mixed media artist Russell Mills, who created the cover for the band's darkest, most emotionally devastating album The Downward Spiral.
    But then came that inevitable nagging feeling that perhaps the sun may have already set on NIN's reign as an explosive electro-rock powerhouse – especially following the sublime, ambient and daydreamy tone that had begun to dominate Reznor's work since the release of Ghosts in 2008 and became something of a signature sound through his Golden Globe-winning score (with fellow NIN member Atticus Ross) for David Fincher's The Social Network in 2010 – the same year he launched the projectHow To Destroy Angels (with wife Mariqueen Maandig, Ross and visual artist Rob Sheridan). Don't get me wrong; it was brilliant new music, and Ghosts contains some of my favorite NIN instrumental works ever. But would the band who shattered skulls and melted hearts with emotionally raw songs like “Wish,” “Closer” and “Hurt” be able to catch that lightning in a bottle again? Well, this is the week I was going to find out.
    The first new single “Came Back Haunted” was a positive sign, recalling the simple but powerful electronic foundations Reznor introduced with NIN's debut album Pretty Hate Machine, and it looked like he'd found that spark again. Better still, Trent teamed up with legendary director David Lynch for a baffling and creepy video, which allowed Lynch to revisit some artistic concepts he hadn't really explored in motion since Eraserhead in 1977.
    The follow-up single “Copy of A” was another winner, flipping from a bouncy dance rhythm into more aggressive electro-riffs, bringing urgency to an otherwise  warm and soothing beat. Suddenly things took a confusing left turn with the release of  "Everything,” which incorporated oddly upbeat pop-rock elements that, while definitely a bold new direction, baffled the hell out of long-time fans... yours truly included. Oddly enough, after a couple of listens, the track did end up growing on me, and it does retain many distinct NIN signatures that give it a decided edge over most radio-friendly singles – something they pulled off very well in the mid-'90s, when their tracks got major mainstream airplay (even if some of the lyrics got bleeped).
    Once I'd had digested those first small and fairly tasty portions, it finally came time for the main course... and well, damn. Trent managed to surprise me again, even after all these years. Hesitation Marks is filled with intimate, personal material, and as NIN albums before it, casts a blazing light on Reznor's own life experiences, for better or worse. While it seems like the current phase has been a lot more pleasant for Trent then his journeys into the abyss depicted in classics like The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, there's still some raw, soul-bearing at work on this record. Elements of the past seem to trickle down through the opening of the album, with the pulsing noise intro "The Eater of Dreams" reminiscent of the prologue “Pinion” from Broken. There's even an echo of “Hurt” in the intimate piano ballad "Find My Way," but despite its clear message of anguish, there's a tiny thread of optimism working its way through; it's also a beautifully arranged piece, slowly building harmonic layers toward the chorus, then tearing those steps back down again. 
    The straight pop-rock island of “Everything” gives way to the more hypnotic domain of the second half, with those familiar buzz-saw guitar riffs traded for thick, ambient washes and drifting chords. The beats are the dominant element here – standouts include the sensual, bump-and-grind throb of “All Time Low,” which features a funky riff by King Crimson's Adrian Belew (who made similar contributions to Ghosts) and ascends into an airy, cosmic coda; the blips and snap-kick beat of "Satellite" follow a similar pattern, but take a much darker turn. A much-needed infusion of energy comes with the higher tempo of "Running," which blends vocals and synths to create an alien-like presence.
    The album peaks with the two tracks that follow: the lush, cinematic "I Would for You," which elegantly segues into the high-tension metallic beats of "In Two,” featuring an amazing chorus layering Reznor's strongest vocals (including a pristine falsetto) and the classic NIN “slow-burn” breakdown, followed by a soaring payoff. The closing tracks "While I'm Still Here" & ”Black Noise” form a more pensive conclusion, with minimal drone-and-click instrumentation (until a saxophone comes in for a surprise visit in the second half), but the first is lyrically strong, conveying a sense of doom while still clinging to that tiny thread of hope we first heard in “Find My Way”... Trent's final whisper of “I'm still here” is ultimately consumed by a whirlwind of feedback that finally crumbles to pieces.
    Those of you looking for the next Downward Spiral won't find it here, but Hesitation Marks is still a worthy entry in a distinctive and unique body of work, which manages to tap into the primitive forces that first brought the NIN beast to lurching, twitching life, while bringing aboard a more hypnotic vibe that is not nearly as violent, but still emotionally jarring... and while it's every inch (no pun intended) a Nine Inch Nails record, it's also accessible, even well outside of the industrial rock realm. Maybe that's the only real way Reznor and company could remain relevant, especially given his fear of recycling himself into meaninglessness – a concern he expresses lyrically in “Copy of A.” If he's really worried about that fate, he shouldn't be yet... and neither should you.
    Even my concerns about the band signing to a mega-label (Columbia) were soothed a bit when I found out Reznor is continuing the tradition of offering his music in just about every audio format available. There are multiple variants of Hesitation Marks out there, each with distinctive artwork from Russell Mills: they include a deluxe CD edition featuring a creepy, organ-backed remix of "Find My Way," a massive, cosmic interpretation of "All Time Low" by prog-rock legend Todd Rundgren (the opening vocals will blow your mind) that surpasses the original version, and the “Howler” mix of "While I'm Still Here" featuring Throbbing Gristle co-founder and industrial music icon Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. The Japanese edition features a remix of “Everything,” and the vinyl version of the standard release is mastered especially for that format. 
    There are even multiple digital versions: the “standard” master, with the audio compressed to push loudness levels as high as possible, and the “audiophile” master which is available for free when you buy a digital copy directly from the band's web store. The audiophile version has a much wider dynamic range, allowing subtle changes in tone and texture that you can't hear on the compressed version. It's my preferred choice, as the so-called “loudness war” annoys the hell out of me, and so I salute frequent NIN collaborator Alan Moulder and mixing engineer Tom Baker for their excellent work on this mix. The iTunes digital edition is also bundled with a 42-minute interview with Reznor, which is a must-have for serious fans.
    At the end of this month, Nine Inch Nails will embark on their "Tension 2013" tour, their first full-scale North American tour since 2009, and you can get the most current list of dates and venues at their official site... but first, check out this behind-the-scenes footage showing the crew testing the new stage design and multimedia presentation (always a hallmark of a NIN show), and the band in rehearsals.

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    Somebody call Roger Cormanpronto– it looks like they've caught the actual Supergator. Or is this Dinocroc? We're not really sure, but this alligator is definitely monster-sized, and it's easily as big as the title beast in the 1980 film Alligator, or the killer crocodiles in Lake Placid and Black Water.
    As reported by Reuters, this group of Mississippi hunters scored a new record on the very first weekend of the state's ten-day alligator hunting season when they bagged this enormous specimen, measuring thirteen feet long and weighing 727 pounds.
    Gator hunting is obviously quite dangerous (especially if you're the gator), but the sport is becoming more popular in Mississippi, where hunting permits are assigned by lottery only, and hunters are required to take special safety courses.
    Believe it or not, this gator is not the largest ever found... a fourteen-footer was caught in Florida last year, and some have been reported to weigh nearly half a ton.

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    Summer’s End is a Halloween story, but it’s less about the trappings of the holiday and more about the ancient beliefs surrounding Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest in which Halloween’s roots reside. So, if you’re expecting something that celebrates plastic pumpkins, drugstore costumes and candy corn, this is not your Halloween story. But if you’re in the mood to peek into the darkness behind the revelry, then step right up.
    Author Lisa Morton seamlessly casts herself in her new novella as a respected horror author and Halloween expert – no stretch for Morton, who can lay legitimate claim to both titles – who is contacted by Irish archaeologist Conor ó Cuinn about an ancient manuscript he possesses. The man is nearly rabid in his belief that the manuscript contains information that upends virtually everything we know and believe about the season of Samhain… about the Catholic church… about the existence of magic… and about reality itself.
    These are bold claims, and Morton is highly skeptical. But professional curiosity draws her in, and her initial reading of the material suggests that ó Cuinn could be right... and the strange things that begin to happen to her afterwards prove it.
    Morton is clearly having a ball portraying herself as the person standing between the light of the world and the waiting darkness. However, she doesn’t paint it in such broad strokes; instead, she leaves plenty of room for her character to ponder whether it’s the best thing to stand in the way of the darkness, or help it come through. It’s not like the world is perfect, she muses, and this might be our one chance to hit the reset button.
    That’s as detailed as I’m going to get about the plot. As for execution, I’d say Morton has succeeded in pulling off this curious mix of historical fact and frightening fiction. The novella includes a handful of footnotes referencing Morton’s other fiction, and others that expand on the names, places and beliefs that figure into this particular story. She’s judicious enough in her use of these that it doesn’t disrupt the flow or turn the book into a dry academic paper; instead, it’s the perfect amount of seasoning for the text.
    Morton’s love and knowledge of Halloween shines through each and every page, as does her ability to craft tight, suspenseful scenes. You could easily gulp this down in one sitting, but I urge you not to. Take your time, follow those footnotes, and really soak up the atmosphere. 
    JournalStone is releasing Summer’s End in October, and it will be a great addition to your Halloween reading list. 
    Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand

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    The role of women in horror films has always been a hot topic for debate. Some argue that horror films marginalize women and paint them as hypersexual beings with no depth. The opposing argument asserts that the existence of a "Final Girl" in most horror films is a testament to female empowerment, and that horror films celebrate women and their role in the cinematic universe. There is merit to both sides of the argument, but we're more interested in spotlighting some standout female characters in genre film who have positively portrayed women, showcased them as being just as tough (or more so) than their male counterparts, and challenged some of the stereotypes attached to women in film. Here are ten of our favorites:
    Alice in Resident Evil
    Alice is a pioneer for ass-kicking ladies. She's one of a select few female heroines in an action franchise – albeit an action, horror, and sci-fi mash-up. Milla Jovovich is relentless in the role; she hits the ground running in the first entry in the RE film franchise and has been fighting for survival in a zombie-infested reality ever since. Alice can take on the Umbrella Corporation and save Raccoon City from total destruction without even breaking a sweat.
    Erin in You're Next
    Once Erin picks up an axe and starts dealing justice, all bets are off. It’s a shame that the female empowerment angle of You’re Next wasn’t part of the pricey advertising campaign that Lionsgate rolled out for the film weeks before its release. Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop recently pointed out in an insightful editorial that the film might have fared better than its disappointing $7 million opening weekend take, had it set itself apart from countless other home-invasion thrillers by marketing the female lead as a powerhouse and force to be reckoned with.
    Mary in American Mary
    Mary Mason is a great testament to Katharine Isabelle’s ability to win over an audience: she has taken a character with no apparent redeeming traits and endeared audiences to her nonetheless. American Mary is a cinematic triumph, and makes a strong feminist statement without getting bogged down or causing the viewer to drift. The character has quickly become something of a cult icon, garnering praise for the film's portrayal of Mary as a strong, capable, resourceful, and intelligent woman.
    Ripley in the Alien Series
    Ripley is a very early example of a female character who is just as capable, even more in fact, than her male counterparts. Sigourney Weaver became a screen icon as a result of her standout performance in the Alien franchise: she's cool under pressure, tough as nails, and refuses to back down to anyone or anything that stands in her way. Ripley subsequently inspired countless characters in horror and sci-fi films following the 1979 release of Alien.
    Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street
    Wes Craven’s daughter was reportedly the one who coaxed him to cast Heather Langenkamp in the role of Nancy Thompson, and we're certainly glad that he listened. Langenkamp plays Nancy as a survivor, and brought a bit of herself to the role; she brought even more when she played a semi-fictionalized version of herself in Craven's 1994 meta-sequel New Nightmare.
    Selene in Underworld
    Though I am not personally a diehard fan of the Underworld franchise, I have an infinite amount of respect for the character of Selene and Kate Beckinsale’s unflinching portrayal of her. Selene does battle with the lycans and kicks an unprecedented amount of ass while doing so. She's another great example of a female character that has carried a successful film series.
    Mandy in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
    We knew that Mandy was a survivor, but we don’t learn just how far she can go until the the film's controversial final twist. That twist worked for us, and we thought Amber Heard was the perfect choice for the role of Mandy. Heard plays her as tough but vulnerable, and the end result plays out very well. The film waited seven years for a US release, but Mandy Lane will finally receive a limited theatrical and On Demand run beginning September 6th.
    Ginger in Ginger Snaps
    Ginger was a breakout role for Katharine Isabelle, and the primary reason she was tapped by the Twisted Twins to play the titular role in American Mary. Ginger is young girl coming into womanhood... and simultaneously realizing that she's a werewolf. The film uses her lycanthropic transformation as a metaphor for puberty, and does so without condescending to its audience. Isabelle does a bang-up job of bringing Ginger to life in a way that makes audiences connect with the character, and paints her as a force to be reckoned with.
    Juno in The Descent
    Really, all of the women from Neil Marshall’s 2005 film belong on this list; the entire cast sends a message of female empowerment, and that is to be commended. But when forced to single out one performance, the standout for us is Natalie Mendoza (Moulin Rouge) as Juno, the ringleader to a group of adventurous young women cavers. Mendoza portrays Juno with a rough exterior, but with good intentions and a lot of heart. (She also makes a surprise reappearance in the sequel.)
    Carrie White is one of the most legendary names in both literature and cinema. After being pushed to the very brink of insanity, Carrie snaps back with a vengeance, unleashing all of her telekinetic rage on her high school classmates... and the results are devastating. Carrie can be seen as a cautionary tale against bullying, with Carrie is the hero... or antihero, depending upon how you look at it. The upcoming remake is said to be more faithful to Steven King's 1974 novel, and audiences can make up their own minds about this new interpretation on October 18th, when the film hits theaters.
    Very Honorable Mentions go to Jennifer Hills from I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Cherry Darling from Planet Terror.

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    I am not often left speechless, but this decorative hair comb, made to resemble dentures, has left me a little "WTF?" It is made to order, so I assume that this is not made from teeth that have actually been inside someone's head... I sure as hell hope not. I want one just to see what kind of looks I will get and questions I will be asked. I'm sure most of the comments will ask if I fought off a zombie (the teeth would be more rotten and  facing in to my head) or if it is a trophy from a recent kill. I like to imagine it as the few remaining pieces left of a parasitic twin.

    $35 at

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    The 13th Annual Screamfest kicks off in Los Angeles on October 8th and the group has just announced the first wave of films.

    Beneath (US) – Directed by Ben Ketai. A crew of coal miners becomes trapped 600 feet below ground after a disastrous collapse. As the air grows more toxic and time runs out, they slowly descend into madness and begin to turn on one another. Inspired by true events. - World Premiere

    The Hunted (US) –Directed by Josh Stewart.  Chasing their dream of landing their own hunting show, Jake (Stewart) and Stevie (Blevins) head to the dense, secluded mountains of West Virginia. Equipped with only their bow and camera, they have just three days to kill a monster buck big enough to grab the attention of the Outdoor Channel...and they've found him. But the sun has set, and they realize they’re not alone. The pair decides it’s time to call it quits and leave the woods and their dreams behind. With the setting sun, their realization may have come too late as they are finding out escaping may not be so easy. Being a professional hunter, Jake has the skills and survival instincts necessary to make it out, but will that be enough? Has the sun set on their lives as well? Have the hunters become The Hunted? World Premiere

    Schism (US) –  Directed by Adam Gierasch starring Callum Blue.   Dylan White has a normal, boring life. Then horrifying visions start to interrupt his waking moments, and he must face the fact that he literally doesn't know who he is. Following clues that take him to the dark underbelly, Dylan soon finds both his life and soul in danger. Featuring a masterful performance by Callum Blue, SCHISM is a trip to the dark side, noir-style: bad men, bad dames, bad sex and bad intentions.  World Premiere

    308  (Indonesia) –Directed by Jose Poernomo.  Desperate for a job, Naya lucked out as her best friend offers her a job as a housekeeper at a 5 star hotel by the beach. But the hotel has one strange rule… Rule #1: Never ever open room number 308 under any circumstance. Based on the true legend of Nyi Roro Kidul, the spirit of the Queen of the South Sea that supposedly lives in room 308 in Samudra Hotel. US Premiere

    Haunter  (Canada) – Directed by Vincenzo Natali starring Abigail Breslin. The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate. LA Premiere

    Cannon Fodder  (Israel) –.Directed by Eitan Gafny.   Doron, a security operative, who takes on one last mission: to capture, number 3 in the terrorist organization of Hezbollah, in Lebanon. With an elite force, Doron enters Lebanon to complete his last mission. Very soon he discovers that reality is not so simple, and that a new and unknown enemy is to be dealt with - and Hezbollah are the last thing on his mind. Doron has to deal with a ticking clock in the form of extensive I.D.F attack and a bloodthirsty enemy, Now that their enemy has changed its face, it's up to him and his unit to wage a new war, a different war, to find an antidote, get back across the border, before the middle east conflict is changed forever.  LA Premiere

    For more details and ticket info, head over to

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    First-person shooters have always been a challenge on touchscreen-based devices.  The lack of physical controls means that games are usually reliant on virtual joysticks, which harm the experience in two different ways: the game’s playfield is often obscured by the player’s thumbs (especially dire with my bratwurst-like digits) and the lack of any real tension from a physical stick make precision shots a daunting affair.  Mobage’s The Drowning aims to rectify both of these issues by completely eschewing the virtual-stick control scheme (although gluttons for punishment can enable it) by redesigning the interface from the ground up for touchscreens, making their attempt at zombie-horror a more palatable affair.

    There are your usual zombie apocalypse tropes on display here, although there’s a twist of eco-consciousness in the cliché corpse cocktail.  Strange black oil has turned millions into murderous, monochromatic monsters that want nothing more than to batter your body into a bloody bouillabaisse, and it’s up to you to make sure that you stay a survivor.

    This is achieved in a series of small, arena-style environments, where you either Attack or Defend.  Both are almost completely the same, but with minor differences to justify two different buttons in the menu.  Attack mode has you running down a timer, blasting black-and-white beasts back to the oil from which they sprung, whereas Defend has you doing the same…but in a more controlled scenario where you protect chokepoints from their animalistic assault.

    The controls really are a revelation, making this fairly mundane concept into something that’s worth revisiting again and again.  Tapping on the screen will send your character to the spot in your field of vision that you’ve pointed out, while tapping two fingers on the screen will fire your weapon to the spot located between your depressed digits.  The only real onscreen button is a 180 degree spin button located at the bottom of the screen, helping speed up the process of looking around the environment with a swipe.  It’s genuinely strange the first few times you try it, as it’s so different from any control scheme featured in an FPS before—iOS based or otherwise—but once you fall into its intuitive groove, it makes you wish that more games featured this remarkably strong interface.

    Once you run down the timer, you’re given a load of loot based on your performance.  New weapons and items can be crafted from the scavenged items, so repeated playthroughs of the game’s arenas becomes a necessity…unless you want to pony up some real scratch for extra items via the dreaded in-app purchases.

    Yep, The Drowning is free, and as a result it constantly harangues you to buy flares and other items to increase item drops.  While one can theoretically complete the game spending no more money than the kWh to charge their iPad, it’s a slow process of repeated replays that preys upon players’ lack of patience.  I understand why this business model is used nowadays (some MMOs that have switched from traditional subscription models to “free-to-play” have reported an increase in revenue), there are times when it becomes a bit tacky.

    But if you can get past the persistent panhandling, The Drowning is probably the best FPS that mobile gaming has to offer.  Its graphics are gorgeous, its controls are revolutionary, and it’s quite a bit of brainless fun in the short bursts that it’s designed for.

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    With the App Store being absolutely flush with zombie games—much like the rest of the industry—it’s incredibly refreshing to see some other monsters, in this case vampires, getting their time in the supernatural spotlight with Bloodmasque.  Set in 19th century Paris, Bloodmasque tells the all-too-familiar (but no less satisfying) tale of a half-vampire hunter who joins up with a French rebellion to undermine and overthrow a vampire dynasty that keeps the City of Lights under its spell.  The game sticks firmly to its guns in its audiovisual direction, with the game’s Parisian landscape seeming almost like an interactive Les Mis, complete with jaunty string-and-accordion soundtrack.

    On the surface, Bloodmasque feels much like Infinity Blade or any number of other swipe-to-attack combat games.  Tapping your foes will unleash a flurry of attacks, and swiping the screen allows you to dodge around them.  Eventually, after chipping away at their health enough, they blow out of their waistcoats to reveal their more ghoulish countenances so you can continue the process, until you finally get to drive a stake through their heart in a ridiculous, oh-so-Japanese display of impalement.  It works well, even if the touch-based combat is quickly becoming cliché in the wake of Infinity Blade.

    Where Bloodmasque sets itself apart in the single most ridiculous way possible is the ability to take a trio of pictures of yourself using your iDevice’s handy-dandy camera to be mapped to your character’s in-game face.  I don’t post screenshots in my reviews very often, but it needed to be done so I could show you the glory of this:

    Sorry ladies, but I’m spoken for, and possibly quite drunk when I took that picture.

    The technology is still a little flakey (I, for the life of me, could not get my schnoz to line up with the geometry of the character model) but there’s some completely ridiculous fun to be had in trying out the ability to texture-map your puss onto your in-game avatar.

    The other interesting addition comes from the game’s unique take on multiplayer.  Instead of being actively pulled into battles with other players, your avatar and its stats are put up for grabs on a roster, allowing other players to use you in battle, earning you valuable blood and bonuses even when you’re not playing the game.

    If there are any complaints to be made about Bloodmasque, the game’s dubious use of in-app purchases is rather grumble-inducing.  Like many games on the App Store nowadays, there is the carrot-on-a-string tactic of offering in-game currency in exchange for real-world dough.  This makes perfect sense in a free-to-play game, but it seems a bit swindly in a game with the (relatively) premium price of $6.99.  Also, there is a certain degree of sameness between many of the game’s vampiric enemies, especially when they shed their human facades for one of a small handful of more monstrous forms.  However, there is no requirement for players to pony up the extra dough, and the game’s bite-sized bouts of bloody battle mean that, unless you’re playing a marathon session, the repeated character models aren’t a real sticker of an issue.  What’s left behind is a deliciously melodramatic slice of European gothic horror that takes itself seriously enough for deeper consideration, but is irreverent enough to fit its bathroom-break structure. 

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    Canadian designer Judson Beaumont makes fantastical furniture. He is best known for his cabinets, especially his curvy, warped, and comic book-style cabinets. But what strikes me most about Beaumont's work is how much of it looks like it belongs in a Tim Burton movie.

    The collection I dig the most is Squiddy. "Wee black monster tables" look like they have tentacles or are covered in monster fur.

    They get even cooler when you light them from the underside, and you are besieged with an army of alien invaders.

    In addition, Beaumont has a signature piece called the Little Black Dresser. Playing off the "little black dress" that all girls have in their closets (or their dressers), this chest of drawers looks like a dress on a hanger. Beaumont took it one step further for Halloween, and dressed up one of his Little Black Dressers as Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

    Check out more of Judson Beaumont's whimsical furniture at

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    With such historic high-profile album releases hitting the streets this week (Ministry is saying goodbye; Nine Inch Nails is reborn), I was afraid I might overlook some particularly creepy musical discoveries from lesser-known acts that came my way recently. To remedy that situation, we're going deep and dark today with the latest album from German underground metal unit The Ruins of Beverast – whose sinister output is for definitely for extreme horror music lovers only. Blending elements of blackened melodic doom metal with gothic, dark ambient soundscapes, Beverast discards more familiar metal songwriting structures (even those of Scandinavian-style black metal) in favor of a more abstract and highly ritualized sonic environment. Listening to the band's fourth full-length studio album Blood Vaults: The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer, unsettling sensations coursed through my nerves, hinting that I might be listening to something a little bit... dangerous.
    The Ruins of Beverast is primarily the work of artist Alexander von Meilenwald (former drummer for black metal band Nagelfar), who handles nearly all the instruments and vocals on Blood Vaults. Adding to the cloak of mystery surrounding his work, von Meilenwald declined to perform in front of an audience for the first decade of the band's existence, finally making an exception this April at Holland's Roadburn Festival – creating the same kind of arcane mystique surrounding famed dark ambient artist/producer Brian “Lustmord” Williams, whose first live performance in 25 years took place at the Church of Satan's High Mass on 6/6/06. 
    Coincidentally, a ceremonial structure is also present in Blood Vaults, which is staged in three parts like a religious liturgy, complete with Latin incantations. The lyrics indicate we're bearing witness to an elaborate and horrific inquisition and exorcism, and that's no accident: the “Heinrich Kramer” of the title is actually one of the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Witch Hammer”), a book used throughout Europe in the 15th century by members of the Inquisition as a how-to manual for the brutal torture and and execution of innocent people suspected of witchcraft. Kramer's contributions were particuarly vile; even the notoriously cruel officials of the Inquisition considered his tactics too extreme, so that should give you some idea of the horrific places this album is going to explore.
    Part One establishes a foreboding atmosphere with the chilling spoken prologue “Apologia,” which takes its text from the Malleus Maleficarum itself, before launching us into an epic slab of blackened doom metal in the colossal nine-minute track “Daemon,” fleshed out with a blend of black and death metal vocals, chanting choirs, soaring church organ and a bass/kick combo that will pulverize your flesh. The tempo backs off slightly for the doom monolith “Malefica,” which establishes a solid melody line with clean guitar picking, then layers up distortion upon the same theme, breaking occasionally for swirls of organ and thick, blanketing chords. The frequency drops dramatically for the ground-shaking blackened tones of “Ornaments On Malice,” a thick, dense mass of stacked chords and squealing feedback broken by a single clean lead guitar line that opens the gates for a down-tempo funeral dirge, complete with Latin incantations, adding up to the doomiest track on the album.
    Given von Meilenwald's drumming experience with Nagelfar, he doesn't really give his rhythmic skills much room to shine until Part Two when we reach “Spires, The Wailing City,” which begins only with a picked guitar line and haunting tremolo voice effects, but peaks with a thunderous, up-tempo drum break and a colossal closing riff. A rustic clean guitar lead alternates with a stalking mid-tempo death metal crawl in another epic-length track, “A Failed Exorcism,” which brings in a clean, harmonic vocal chant at the midpoint, before descending into down-tempo doom, revealing a heavy Celtic Frost influence throughout. After the liturgical chanting and overlapping word-salad of “Trial,” more straightforward black metal elements take their place for the final act, compete with clouds of mid-range tremolo riffs, demonic wails and thunderous double-kick blastbeats in “Ordeal,” summoning horrific images of the tormented flesh of the inquisitor's victim – who ironically seems to prove the tormentors correct, as a single female voice recites “Inflamed by my Daemon/No ordeal shall I fear.” The lid is ceremoniously slid onto the casket in the final track “Monument,” which seals us in a cloud of somber chords and deathly chants, as a mournful choir fades into the darkness.
    If you're only an occasional visitor to the domain of blackened doom metal, Beverast will likely be too disturbing and chaotic for your taste (to slightly paraphrase Pinhead from Hellraiser,“This isn't for your ears”), but if you're ready for a headlong sonic plunge into a nightmare, one torn from history's blood-soaked pages, it doesn't get much more intense than Blood Vaults. The album makes its North American debut tomorrow from Ván Records (including a wicked blue vinyl edition in a two-disc gatefold), but in the meantime you can get a nice thick slice of doom and terror in the form of the nine-minute epic “Daemon,” presented here in its entirety...

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    Summer's not quite over yet... it can't be, because we still have more horror movie pops to go!
    Still, this is kind of a bittersweet moment for us (no pun intended), because it marks the final gallery of ice cream concepts from Freddy in Space's John Squires and artist Frank Browning.
    We won't say for certain whether the ice cream man will return next summer, but for now the guys are putting the plan on indefinite hiatus: “You can only come up with so many horror movie themed ice cream ideas before your brain melts and you're ready to move on to something else,” John said.
    So without further ado, gobble up this final collection, which features some of the duo's most outrageous summer treats of all!

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    You may think you have encyclopedic knowledge of The Walking Dead, and maybe some pretty good theories about what's going down in Season 4 next month... hell, you might even have your own post-apocalypse game plan, thanks to your dog-eared copy of The Zombie Survival Guide and regular trips to the local army surplus. But are you a fully certified zombie expert? You can be, thanks to a new course being offered at University of California at Irvine entitled Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead.
    According to their website, the eight-week course will examine themes of survival, science and social structure as illustrated in the TV series, and will explore the following topics in detail:
    • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: is survival just about being alive?
    • Social order and structures: from the farm and the prison to Woodbury
    • Social identity, roles, and stereotyping: as shown through leaders like Rick and the Governor
    • The role of public health in society: from the CDC to local community organizations
    • The spread of infectious disease and population modeling: swarm!
    • The role of energy and momentum in damage control: how can you best protect yourself?
    • Nutrition in a post-apocalyptic world: are squirrels really good for you?
    • Managing stress in disaster situations: what’s the long-term effect of always sleeping with one eye open?
    In addition to lectures, articles and excerpts from the show, the course will also include exclusive interviews with the series cast and crew, as well as experts from many fields of study. Students will learn about how infectious diseases are spread and contained, social and behavioral responses to crisis situations, the role of public health organizations, and more. Of course, there will be tests, so pay attention and do your homework... which of course means watching The Walking Dead, so it's all good.
    The course runs from October 14th to December 20th (open to ages 18 and up). Enroll here for free!

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    “The End of the Whole Mess” by Stephen King
    Available in the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes, this disturbing piece of literature does not deal with the supernatural or crazed maniacs. No demonic monsters, serial killers or the like cause the horror that makes this story so chilling. Rather it is human error (and perhaps even arrogance) and that's what makes this story hit home. Like much of Stephen King's work, it has been adapted for the screen. I first read this as a teenager, and its frightening conclusion has stayed with me ever since.
    “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce
    It's a good guess that just about everybody has read this story at least once in school, or has heard about it, or has seen one of the numerous films adapted from or inspired by it. Written in the late 1800s, Bierce captures that sense of relief that one can feel escaping a dangerous situation, or rooting for a sympathetic or even unsympathetic character escaping a dangerous situation. He capitalizes on that, and then rips it away in a classic turn that makes this story timeless.
    “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
    Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Clearly one of the most loved and well-known of Poe's works, this story is nearly flawless in its portrayal of distorted reality and the mind of a man slowly driving himself insane. It's been adapted to just about everything, from film to television and referenced in music.
    “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft
    One of my favorites of Lovecraft's work, and often praised by many as one of his best, this story is subtle and creepy, slow and enticing. An alien substance forces an irrevocable change on the inhabitants, land, and livestock of a remote farm. For those that haven't read it, it's definitely worth checking out. And, though the story is slightly different in its concept of evil and where it comes from, one of my favorite adaptations that captures the essence of the story is the Italian horror film Colour from the Dark directed by Ivan Zuccon.
    “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
    Considered a classic of American literature, this story sheds light on the horror of not questioning or refusing the status quo. Like many people, I was first introduced to this story in elementary school as part of a reading project. It's an unsettling piece, and has been adapted and referenced in modern culture many times over. And since 2007, in memory of the author, The Shirley Jackson Awards honors works of psychological horror. 
    Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.

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    Now that Labor Day has come and gone and the weather is starting to cool down, it's only a matter of time before the leaves fall to the ground and those awesome shops like Spirit Halloween and Halloween City start sprouting up all over the country. To me, there is nothing more glorious than a massive building filled with cheap plastic costumes, fake spiderwebs and rubber rats, and I think you'll agree that it just doesn't quite feel like Halloween until you've stepped foot inside one of those seasonal shops and walked out with a whole lot less money in your wallet. Blowing your rent money on giant inflatable lawn decorations and horrible looking Michael Myers masks is just a part of the annual Halloween experience, whether you like it or not.
    Though a large portion of the inventory in those shops is recycled year after year, there are always exciting new additions added to the mix, just waiting for you to discover them and take them home. Today we peek into the crystal ball for a glimpse at ten of those new items that you'll soon be able to find at your local Halloween shop, including masks, decorations, costumes and accesories.
    (Before we begin, it should be noted that you won't find any of Trick or Treat Studios' awesome 2013 mask offerings on this list, since we already covered those last month. If you missed that post, hit the link and check it out!)
    If you're asking me, the most underrated mask in Jason Voorhees' collection is the burlap sack he wore in Friday the 13th Part 2, before Shelly gifted him with his iconic hockey mask in the following installment. Inspired by the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Jason's sack-head mask was quite a bit creepier than the one he became most known for wearing, and this officially licensed replica is going to be available this year. True, you could just cut up a cheap pillowcase and tie a rope around your neck, but I think it's pretty cool that we're finally getting this version of Jason's mask, after so many years of the hockey mask lining shelves. All you need is a pair of denim overalls and a blue plaid shirt to complete the look, and stand out from all the other Jasons in your town!
    One of the more interesting horror films released this year was Texas Chainsaw 3D, a decades-later sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was pretty much universally hated by horror fans. Personally, I dug it quite a bit, and despite its many flaws I appreciated it for bringing something different to the table. I was also a big fan of the new mask Leatherface rocked in the film, a gruesome bit of patchwork that he literally sewed directly onto his face. That mask gets the Halloween treatment this year, along with a complete Texas Chainsaw 3D costume, for both children and adults.
    Though not officially licensed, these 'Smiling Woman' and 'Smiling Man' masks are quite clearly inspired by The Purge, another 2013 release that I was a big fan of. Though incredibly simple, the masks worn by the main villains were highly effective and creepy, the generic smiling faces taunting their victims with a false kindness that masked the pure evil underneath. If you want to put together an inexpensive Halloween costume this year, these masks are a great way to do it.
    Probably the most memorable Kaiju in Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim was Knifehead, a badass shark-looking monster with four arms and a giant sharp nose, an appendage that could cut through Jaeger armor like a hot knife through butter. In addition to a couple of different Jaeger costumes, this year Rubie's Costume Company is putting out this Knifehead mask and gloves, allowing you to become the killer Kaiju. I'm not sure how you'd go about completing the costume, which is a daunting task to say the least, but the mask and gloves make for pretty cool display pieces, if nothing else.
    Though I've got a lot of love for the cheaply made plastic Freddy Krueger gloves that have been hitting Halloween store shelves for the last several decades, there's no denying that they simply can no longer compete with the incredible gloves fans have been making for themselves of late, which look and feel like just those from the movies. I think it's safe to say that Morbid Enterprises understands that, which is why they decided to put a unique spin on the typical Freddy glove with this offering, inspired by the syringe glove seen in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. This is the first replica of that glove I've ever seen anyone make, and the company even put LED lights inside the syringes so that they glow. Makes ya want to get high, doesn't it?
    Speaking of Freddy, this awesome prop also comes out this year from Morbid Enterprises, which just might be the coolest piece of Nightmare on Elm Street merchandise ever made. One of my personal favorite moments from the franchise was when Freddy was eating the 'soul pizza' in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, a pie that featured human heads as meatball toppings. This incredible animated prop recreates that disgusting pizza pie and features both pulsating and sound effects. Click play on the video above to see it in action!
    I'm not sure there's ever been a more badass zombie killer than The Walking Dead's Daryl Dixon, portrayed by the super-cool Norman Reedus. In one of his most badass moments, Daryl cut the ears off a couple of walkers in Season 2 of the show, fashioning them into a crude DIY necklace. Though none of us will ever be as cool as Daryl no matter how hard we try, this latex replica of the zombie necklace is a damn good place to start... and it's a perfect companion piece to the replica of Daryl's vest that will also hit stores this Halloween season. Here's to hoping we get Merle's knife-arm next year!
    This Spirit Halloween Exclusive would not at all be out of place hanging up in Daryl Dixon's home: an animatronic wall-mounted zombie head that comes to life when it detects motion. As an animal lover, I've always been highly disturbed by the fact that hunters like to display the severed heads of their kills, but this is one piece of taxidermy I can get behind. Just keep your fingers away from this guy's mouth, because those chompers can keep on chomping, as long as the brain is still intact!
    If you're hosting a Halloween party this year, chips and dip are as essential as pumpkin beer, spooky sounds and slutty costumes, and I can think of no cooler way to offer up those treats to your guests than with this two-piece server: a rotten corpse that's emerging from the dirt, not to feast on your friends' brains, but rather to allow them to scoop salsa out of his empty head cavity. See? Not all zombies are mean and nasty. This is another item that you'll only find at Spirit Halloween.
    We round off the list with one of the only new costumes this year that caught my attention, inspired by the hit TV show American Horror Story. Though I've unsuccessfully tried to get into the show on several different occasions, I can't deny that the marketing imagery has always been impressive and attention-grabbing, and this awesome costume is inspired by the creepy nun from the second season. Unfortunately the costume doesn't include the mask, but blank white masks are easy to come by in Halloween shops, or you could even just go with white and black face paint to complete the look.
    Which of these new items will you be picking up this year? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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    Last month we showed you the trailer for Curse of Chucky (check it out here if you missed it), which marks the comeback of the murderous Good Guy doll after a long hiatus... and also suggests that the series will return to the more malicious angle that kicked off franchise, before things took on a more satirical (but still pretty damn funny) slant with the last two installments. Universal has just followed up the trailer with a new clip from the film, which you can watch below:
    Curse of Chucky hits DVD & Blu-ray on October 8th, as well as the boxed set Chucky: The Complete Collection, which includes all six films in the series.

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    The latest teaser promo for American Horror Story: Coven is less of a head-scratcher than "Staircase" or "Detention." A simple cross-section of a coffin with a woman inside, buried. Alive. Hey, I said it was less of a head-scratcher; not that it was any less creepy.

    American Horror Story: Coven stars Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga, and Gabourey Sidibe (to name a few) and premieres on October 9th on FX

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