Archive for the ‘Halloween’ Category

Top Ten Treehouses of Horror

October 14, 2011

Specializing in parodies of just about everything from The Twilight Zone to I Know What You Did Last Summer and mocking cultural references from the US presidential elections to the Millennium, the Simpsons’ annual Halloween special ‘Treehouse of Horror’ has become just as much a part of Halloween as tooth-rotting treats and cheesy slasher movies.

There are the ever-changing creepy opening sequences…

…and the ghoulish credits.

Beginning in 1990 as three segments of ghost stories told by Bart and Lisa in their treehouse on Halloween night, ‘Treehouse of Horror’ quickly became a cultural phenomenon. After over 20 years running it’s tough to pick favorites, but we gotta admit that the series hasn’t been the same since its heyday in the ’90s. Here are Awesome Art‘s Top Ten ‘Treehouse of Horror’ segments.

Where it all began…

10. The HΩmega Man (Treehouse of Horror VIII, series 9, 1997)

Back before apocalyptic zombie movies were a dime a dozen, the Simpsons had a go at envisioning a world where Homer is the last man alive after a nuclear bomb hits… but he’s not alone. After briefly mourning his family (and his television) Homer frolics naked in the church (Isn’t that what everyone would do first?) and comes face-to-face with a horde of mutated zombies who want to make him one of THEM.

Something's not right here...

9. Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die (TOH X, series 11, 1999)

Remember the universal panic over the Millennium? Computers would fail, gadgets would explode, planes would fall out of the sky? Seems ridiculous 12 years on, but this segment sees the Simpsons exploring the once topical panic of December 31st 1999. Naturally, the world falls apart as soon as the clock strikes 12, but Lisa and Marge manage to escape on a rocket ship bringing the world’s best and brightest to a new civilisation. Bart and Homer, on the other hand, end up on a rocket with the world’s losers (including Courtney Love and Tom Arnold) headed straight for the sun.

Don't get too comfy guys…

8. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (TOH IV, series 5, 1993)

When a series of vampire killings hits Springfield, nobody believes Lisa when she claims that Mr Burns is the culprit (even though he’s just bought the Springfield blood bank and lives in a mysterious gothic castle in the dreaded Pennsylvania), so when the Simpsons visit his castle for dinner, it’s up to Lisa to make sure that they aren’t the ones on the plates.

Don't you just love a trip to Pennsylvania?

7. Nightmare On Evergreen Terrace (TOH VI, series 7, 1995)

Groundskeeper Willie plays a ghoul seeking revenge on Springfield’s parents after he is killed in a furnace explosion during a PTA meeting (thanks to Homer turning the heat up too high). In this parody of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Willie gets his revenge by slaughtering Springfield’s kiddies in their sleep. A Looney Tunes-style opening sketch, Martin’s untimely death and that lousy Smarch weather… this is pure Simpsons humour at its best.

Don't fall asleep kiddies, or you'll end up like this guy…

6. Nightmare Cafeteria (TOH V, series 6, 1994)

Another childhood nightmare scenario and certainly one of the bloodiest TOHs, ‘Nightmare Cafeteria’ sees Springfield Elementary facing two problems: an overcrowded detention hall and budget cuts resulting in school dinners made from ‘Grade F’ meat. The solution to both problems? Serve up the naughty school kids for lunch. Üterbraten, anyone? How about a Sloppy Jimbo?

Mmmm.... tasty.

5. The Raven (TOH I, series 2, 1990)

An entirely different segment from the rest but easily the most well-known, ‘The Raven’ takes Edgar Allen Poe’s classic narrative and sees Homer recounting it word-for-word in a visually enchanting piece that includes Bart cast perfectly as the pesky Raven.

Too cute to be creepy.

4. Clown Without Pity (TOH III, series 4, 1992)

Let’s face it, everyone’s scared of clowns. And creepy dolls, everyone’s scared of those too. Put them together and you’ve got a nightmare on your hands. Especially when the doll’s switch is set to ‘evil’ and it comes with a free cursed Frogurt.

Seriously, would you buy your Frogurt from THIS guy!?

3. The Devil And Homer Simpson (TOH IV, series 5, 1993)

“So you like donuts, eh?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Well, have all the donuts in the world!”

Cruel irony…

Homer’s gluttony lands him in hot water when he sells his soul to the devil for a donut. Undoubtedly one of the funniest TOH segments, from Ned Flanders as the devil to the ‘jury of the damned’ that includes Lizzie Borden and Blackbeard the pirate, while the iconic ironic scene of Homer being force-fed donuts in Hell remains one of the best moments in Simpsons history.

Now THAT'S evil right there.

2. The Shinning (TOH V, series 6, 1994)

“No TV and no beer make Homer… something something…”
“…go crazy?”

"DON'T MIND IF I DOOO!!"

Some of the best lines in Simpsons history come from this flawless parody of The Shining that includes perfect casting (Moe as the bartender, Mr Burns as the hotel owner, Willie as the psychic hotel staff member), key moments from the film given a Simpsons makeover (a bumbling Homer recreating the ‘Heere’s Johnny’ moment to an empty room) and proof that television’s “warming glowing warming glow” will always save the day.

"Urge to kill fading… fading…"

1. Time And Punishment (TOH V, series 6, 1994)

‘The Shinning’ may take the top spot on most lists, but I have to admit that I’m more fond of this one (although technically they are both part of the same episode. Hooray!). The moral of the story? Don’t squish prehistoric bugs if you accidentally travel back in time through a magical toaster. As is the case in most TOHs, Homer’s clumsiness gets the better of him when he does exactly this, and ends up repeatedly traveling back in time to try to undo his messes. The worst alternative universe that he inadvertently creates? A world where Ned Flanders is the unquestioned Lord and master of the earth.

If that ain't a nightmare scenario, I dunno what is.

What’s your favourite ‘Treehouse of Horror’ story?

HOORAH FOR HALLOWEEN!

October 8, 2011

Screw summer, I say. Let’s face it, the only good thing about summer is the possibility of a warm afternoon or two, and unless you’re a school-going kiddie or lazy college student you’re probably going to be spending it cooped up in a stuffy office anyway. The winter months have many more redeeming qualities: chub-concealing cosy jumpers, the red cups’ annual arrival in Starbucks and of course the bestest holiday of all… HALLOWEEN!

Freddy's excited… are YOU?

Here at Awesome Art we have a whole horde of Halloween-themed posts in the pipeline to celebrate this special month. To kick things off, here are a few of my favourite things about the Halloween holiday season.

HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT

I’m not talking about the endless arrays of standard plastic decorations like squishy spiders and shiny skulls (although they are awesome too), but the everyday items that get a Halloween-themed makeover and start cropping up all over American malls around August (those Americans really know how to make some awesome HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT). My favourite item of HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT? My ghost fairy lights. I love these bad boys so much that they stay up in my house ALL YEAR LONG.

Aren't they cute? And scary too, of course.


AWESOME HALLOWEEN MOVIES

I love a good Christmas nostalgia movie, and we all know it ain’t Christmas yet until you’ve watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. But Halloween nostalgia movies are even better.

While Halloween is the time of year when horror-movie-haters finally subject themselves to watching the classics, for me, it’s when standard horror films go on the back-burner and I indulge in Halloween-themed movies that are somewhat cheesy, aimed primarily at children and full of HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT (sigh…don’t you just love it!?). Here are some of my favourites, to be watched while eating copious amounts of sugar and nuzzled up in front of a cosy fire.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Not only is this film beautiful to watch, full of adorable characters and set to a delightful soundtrack, it’ll also quench post-Halloween blues by getting you all excited for Christmas! But watch out for the Boogeyman, and his appearance in the most traumatic scene to appear in a movie pre-The Human Centipede (only a tiny exaggeration there…).

Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus is one of those awesome ‘family-fun films’ (as I like to call ‘em) of the ‘90s. Such films always had a gang led by a sarky kid (or a sarky kid without a gang, *sob*), just enough sexual innuendo to still be family friendly and an inevitable wholesome and happy ending. Other examples of this well-known genre that you might remember include films like Matilda, Harriet The Spy and Home Alone. But Hocus Pocus is the best for PG Halloween fun: it’s got a bratty Thora Birch, a hilariously pre-digital age robot cat and Sarah Jessica Parker in the role that God intended for her.

Addams Family Values

This sequel kicks the ass of The Addams Family movie, which let’s face it, isn’t all that awesome. Though Addams Family Values may not be as outlandishly ‘Halloween-themed’ as the other movies on this list, who gives a crap!? It’s the ADDAMS. They ARE Halloween. Best bits? The summer camp scenes, especially the Addams-style politically incorrect Thanksgiving skit.

Check back with Awesome Art for more AWESOME Halloween-themed posts soon!

Try to contain your excitement or you mind end up like this guy!

Rob Zombie Movie Marathon: Hold the Fried Chicken

May 29, 2011

Rob Zombie is the new-age Alice Cooper, blending shock-rock and campy over-the-top B movie style theatrics with plenty of tits and ass (usually that of his wife).

Yes, yes we get it. She's fit.

Zombie’s long-awaited musical return to the UK this Spring/Summer has resulted in a flurry of sold-out shows and has upped his credentials after his latest films resulted in more of a slump than a surge. But the dreadlocked devil hasn’t hung up the camera just yet; he also has a new film project in the bag, The Lords of Salem, which he describes as being his darkest work yet.

A teaser from Zombie's latest project

The Lords of Salem is inspired by the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, but is set predominantly in the present day, and is to be released in 2012.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I bloody love Rob Zombie. He is without a doubt the best live act that I have ever seen (and I am eagerly awaiting the experience of seeing him again at Download festival) and his tongue-in-cheek macabre melodies never fail to dazzle.

But upon hearing the news of his new film project, I realised that while I blare Mars Needs Women at every given opportunity I have never transferred my attention over to his – often poorly received – onscreen works. Awesome Art takes a look back over the best (and worst) of Zombie’s horror exploits.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

A colourful dose of camp southern gothic, Zombie’s first full-length feature tells the story of the demented Firefly family who live in the arse-end of nowhere in 1970s Texas. The film resembles a Rob Zombie music video, loaded with snippets of serial killers, pin-up strippers and black and white silent movies.

Two idiotic teenage couples attempting to write a book about desolate road-stop attractions in the southern states come across creepy clown Captain Spaulding’s combination gas station and dodgy fried-chicken hut complete with horror attraction: ‘The Museum of Monsters and Madness’. There they learn the legend of Doctor Satan and, after picking up a hot hitch-hiker, become entangled with the demented serial-killing skin-wearing Firefly family.

Would you really eat this guy's fried chicken?

The mediocre plot and often irritating script – did Zombie purposely set out to squash a swear word into every line? – are luckily overtaken by the visual impact of the film. Fetuses in jars, Sheri Moon writhing around with a skeleton, and the Firefly family herding their victims (victims dressed in over-sized bunny costumes) through the mist are just a few of the memorable moments that make this film the ultimate cartoonish nightmare. Just try not to judge too much on the poor ending, or on Doctor Satan, a hilariously awful excuse for a villain.

THAT'S Doctor Satan???

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

I was first introduced to The Devil’s Rejects as a teenager by a horror-loving ex-boyfriend who emphasised to me just how “fucking cool” this film was. I was horrified and thought it was the most disturbing thing I had seen since The Exorcist.

She's no Sheri Moon…

A few years on and I have been sufficiently desensitized by my consistent horror-viewing to assume that I would no longer have this opinion. But upon being re-introduced to the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, I can safely say that this is not only Zombie’s best horror movie, but definitely his most disturbing.

It’s six months after the killings of those dumb teenagers, and police are madly trying to get their mitts on the Firefly family. We learn that Captain Spaulding is actually Baby’s father, and he, Baby and Otis manage to escape the house after it is discovered by the cops.

Boasting a hell of a lot more plot than its prequel, The Devil’s Rejects gets to grips with these members of the Firefly family, turning them into actual characters (and an actual family complete with brother/sister spats) as opposed to the cartoonish hicks that they were introduced as.

A fun-filled family day out!

Zombie ups the gore and suspense; the motel scene is particularly uncomfortable to watch – although Baby is still the most unconvincing villain – and the scene where that chick hysterically runs through the street wearing a mask of her husband’s butchered face: pure horror genius.

rank

The perfect blend of horror and comedy, it’s no wonder that this film has earned itself such a cult following. It also has what its predecessor lacks: an awesome final scene, suitably set to Lynyrd Skynyrd no less. Altogether now kids: “If I leave here tomorrow…”

One last road trip?

Watch the final scene of The Devil’s Rejects here.

Halloween (2007)

Halloween 2 (2009)

Zombie’s first attempt at fiddling with a classic was neither a remake nor a prequel, but rather a mishmash of the two, with his second attempt carrying on from where the first left off. While Michael Myers was never known for his long list of motives for butchering everything that crossed his path, Zombie attempts to give a back story to Myers and with it, reasons for why he became the infamous boogeyman. Both films focus on the family factors behind Michael Myers’ killing rampages.

So baby Myers had a tough childhood: a slaggy mother (guess who plays her?) a slaggy sister and an asshole stepdad who wants to bang said slaggy sister. So, obvs little Mikey has no other choice but to butcher them all. Will this half-assed explanation really satisfy an audience of Halloween experts who want to know what makes Myers tick?

THIS kid is supposed to be Michael Myers!?

This is the Halloween franchise injected with classic Zombie: an abundance of swearwords from the start, trashy women, misogynst men and not forgetting Sheri Moon’s ass. Both films create a dark, desolate world filled with dirty, dishevelled and wholly unlikeable characters. But overall, the films are a whole lot more mainstream than those of the Firefly family sagas, and a hell of a lot less entertaining.

Stick with what you do best, Rob: showing off your wife’s ass. Oops, I mean… original storylines. Yep, that’s what I meant.

One for the lads.

Rediscovering a Lost Art: The Silent Horror Film

November 2, 2010

Many modern-day horror movies would appear to be in competition with each other to gross out their audiences with unnecessary overloads of blood, guts and gore (ahem HOSTEL ahem). While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of blood, or a few bucketloads of it, sometimes nothing curls your toes and spooks your soul more than some good old fashioned suspense in the form of the silent horror film.

Most horror buffs will have seen Nosferatu, the 1922 German Expressionist silent film that took unauthorized influence from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Max Schreck’s portrayal of the insanely creepy vampire makes Blade look like Edward Cullen. One piece of advice: don’t watch it when you’re stoned.

Nosferatu Creepin’
Happy Halloween

This Halloween I was lucky enough to be able to attend a screening of a lesser known but equally influential silent film, Der Golem, in the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. The 1920 film was shown combined with live music from Reflekor, a duo that includes Jan Kopinski on saxophone and Steve Iliffe on keyboards who have previously produced music to accompany other silent films including Nosferatu.

Der Golem tells the story of a rabbi who creates a giant creature from clay to defend the Jews of Prague from persecution, but in true man-makes-monster-to-become-slave style the Golem eventually turns against his master. Directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener, it is a visual treat that contrasts the clunky clay figure of the monsterous Golem with the sloping streets and pointed turrets of Prague, creating an eerie Jewish fairytale that could not have foreseen what real-life horror would soon be unleashed upon the European Jewish community.

The Golem in all his Glory
Scenes from Golem

Silent horror movies have become a lesser appreciated form of art for an over-stimulated internet-obsessed audience of today. But getting the chance to watch the flickering images onscreen with accompanying live music is nothing short of spectacular for any horror obsessive. Forget your slasher dvds, this is where it all began.

Here are a few more silent but deadly treats to keep horror fans simultaneously satisfied and spooked.

The Monster (1925)

• The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Chapter Arts Centre is showing a variety of horror films this November, including a showing of the silent film The Cat and the Canary on 21 and 23 November with live music accompaniment by Paul Shallcross. Details can be viewed here.

Halloween Playlist – Macabre Music to Mosh to

October 31, 2010

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (sorry Santa). While I would like to spend every day covered in fake blood and blasting Marilyn Manson, All Hallows Eve is the one day that this becomes socially acceptable. Well almost.

To celebrate both the birth of my blog and the annual night of the dead, I have selected a playlist of songs that I consider to be the ultimate in horrific melodies, complete with over-the-top visual theatrics.

Alice Cooper – Feed My Frankenstein

The Godfather of shock rock’s classic song deserves the top spot on this playlist, although I admit I can’t listen to it without being reminded of Wayne’s World.

Rob Zombie – Mars Needs Women

I would have no problem with completing an entire Halloween playlist of Zombie showtunes. But, given the recent release of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 this summer, I figure at least one new song deserves a mention, and ‘Mars Needs Women’ is a perfect example of Zombie’s signature tantalising tongue-in-cheek.

Marilyn Manson – Dope Hat

Long before Manson started embarrassing himself, he shocked the world with Portrait of an American Family. Manson uses his obsession with Willy Wonka to fabricate Dope Hat’s deliciously creepy video.

Monster Magnet – Space Lord

With a name like that, it would be criminal not to feature them on this playlist. Monster Magnet are still going strong, and their new album Mastermind was released in October. But ‘Space Lord’ remains the ultimate tune by these stoner rockers.

Type O Negative – Christian Woman

Sadly, lead singer of this Gothic/Doom band, Peter Steele, passed away this April. ‘Christian Woman’, from Type O Negative’s 1993 hit album Bloody Kisses, is a perfect Halloween classic, with its dark gloomy chords and gothic imagery.

 

• Nine Inch Nails – Closer

If we’re talking creepy videos, ‘Closer’ is the one to pick from Trent Reznor’s demenented mind. A sleaze rock classic perfect for Halloween debauchery.

Queens of the Stone Age – You’ve Got a Killer Scene There, Man

Lullabies to Paralyze is an appropriately-named album of chilling tunes, and ‘You’ve Got a Killer Scene There, Man’ is ideal for late-night, candle-flickering creepiness.

Rob Zombie – Living Dead Girl

To bring this playlist to a suitably spooky climax, a return to master of Halloween melodies is necessary. I’m hoping to see plenty of living dead girls channeling Sheri Moon scouring the streets tonight.

Happy Halloween horror lovers!

pumpkin