This haunted house is offensive!

by  on Nov.11, 2014, under Haunted Houses, Rant

gacy2I’ve seen a lot of haunters losing their minds over haunts that they deem to be far too extreme.  They’re offended that there’s a haunt that’s for adults only with intense sexuality and nudity.  They’re put off that a haunt in New York actually involves the customer in the scenes and gives them a fairly terrifying or psychologically abusive experience. Their jumping on a band wagon to condemn a haunted house for using real serial killers in Chicago as part of their event.  Something that’s been done over and over again in haunts all over the country for decades.

While I’m not sold on the more extreme haunts where people are literally tortured by actors, I’m all for them being in operation and out there.  Its not my cup of tea but obviously it is for some.  These are events that do lower numbers and have, no doubt, lots of legal waivers they make customers sign off on.  I’m not really offended by this but I can see how the public might be, however haunters should know better than to publicly denounce another haunt as offensive.

Its a the job of horror and haunted houses for that matter to push boundaries.  Haunts should take people to places they may find uncomfortable and scary.  That’s the whole point right?  I’m pretty sure it is.  So what’s wrong with making people uncomfortable with a guy dressed as John Wayne Gacy, or terrifying a customer by pulling them into the story and making them do something in order to get out? Is it in band taste? Hell yes!  It will offend some, thrill others, and scare the rest! This is what a haunted house can and should do if the owners are so inclined.  There’s no rule that says all haunted houses have to be sensitive happy places.  There’s plenty of room for both spicy haunts and mild ones.

“Haunts should take people to places they may find uncomfortable and scary.  That’s the whole point right?”

The adult only haunts with nudity seem to be on the rise and you have to be an adult to go through it.  If I choose to go to something like this and pay my money for the ticket then I have a right to do so.  Just like the owners have a right to sell me the ticket.  Is it extreme and sleazy?  Sure it will be seen that way by many people but clearly that haunt is not trying to appeal to a broad audience and they won’t have the kind of attendance a haunt that eschews these themes will.  They have to contend with the same issues as any haunt. Safety codes, fire codes, complaining neighbors, bad press, good press, and the like.  Will it take down the haunt industry? No I don’t think so.

“Safety should be our top concern not content!”

Unfortunately 2014 reminded everyone the real danger is haunted events that don’t take safety seriously and that’s what can possibly take down the industry.  This year saw at least 3 people die in haunted hayride accidents and in all cases it was a lack of safety and oversight that caused these deaths.  No one should ever get hurt at a haunted event let alone die!  The industry as a whole should be far less concerned about what they find offensive about certain haunts and instead be concerned with making a concerted effort to make haunted houses safe!  This should be the goal of any and all haunted house associations.  They shouldn’t be commenting on haunts they think are offensive. Instead they should be out there putting together some type of safety code to protect not only the customers but the haunted house owners and actors.   Safety should be our top concern not content!

I realize the states and cities are expected to make sure these haunts are up to code and I know that most are pretty tough  and expect a lot of safety protocols in place.  But there are still places out there that don’t put safety first and clearly the haunt industry should be taking a stand together to do something about it!  This has been the biggest issue in the industry for as long as I have been involved in it and now is the time to get in front of it before it gets spun out of control by the media next season.  Lets make 2015 all about keeping customers safe so our industry has a long future ahead of it.

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Video Game Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

by  on Oct.31, 2014, under reviews, Video Games

478497_20140822010920TVoEC_ScreenShot_03Its not too often I play a game that I think deserves a review but from time to time one does come along that I actually care enough about for me to put into words how it made me feel.  The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is one such game.  I recently downloaded it for some Halloween themed gaming off Steam.  Its a fairly quick play through, I maybe spent 3-4 hours playing it in total over the course of 2 days.

In the game you play a Paranormal investigator that has received many letters from Ethan Carter.  Ethan talks about a lot of stuff he should not know about.  He found a secret room in a house and now his family is changing in a bad way.  By finding the room Ethan let something evil out and now your character is coming to find Ethan and help him.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first Person adventure game that is simply stunning to look at.  The environments are highly detailed and the environment effects are very life like.  Usually with adventure games of this type we’re usually treated to technology that’s far behind the times and clunky.  Just go through Steams Adventure Horror category and marvel over all the old looking screen shots on new games.  This is usually because the games come from independent developers with little budget for the gloss and sheen of a modern game.  But The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter didn’t skimp on any of this.  You’ll look out onto breathtaking vistas and see environments where it seems every individual blade of grass is moving.

The sound Design is also excellent! The environments sound real and it just ads to the overall effect.  The game takes place in the 70’s and the soundtrack has sort of an old Howard Shore film score sound to it.  It reminded me of scores for The Dead Zone or The Brood from the 80’s and late 70’s.  It really works well and fits the overall feel of the game.

4bc9f76314df1b413842eaaa25c7cc481fa2a5ffThis game does not hold your hand or provide any training on how to use the games features.  You’re basically set out and you have to figure things out on your own.  Along the way you’ll come across things you can inspect and those will lead to clues and on screen “thoughts” that your character is having.  Usually you find a dead body and then have to piece together what happened.  Once you do find all the clues you can touch the body and see a replay of the persons death and the events directly leading up to it.  Its a pretty interesting way of presenting the info and it doesn’t feel quirky or silly at all.  Somehow it all makes sense in the world the game has created.

The story takes some twists and turns and finally leads up to an ending that’s both sad and a little disappointing, at least for me anyway. But its a quick play and the game play and environments make up for any flaws in the story pretty easily.  Its a good play through for a Halloween weekend or a dark and stormy night.  It has some good jump scares and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up more than a couple times. You can find the game on Steam and GOG for PC.  If you like Horror themed adventure games then you’d be hard pressed to find a better recent release than the Vanishing of Ethan Carter!

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Los Angeles Haunted Hayride Photos 2014

by  on Oct.21, 2014, under Canon 5D Mark III, Haunted Houses, HDR photography

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creepygirl_busI flew out to Los Angeles to shoot the very cool and unique Los Angeles Haunted Hayride just a couple weeks ago.  This event is always a treat to check out and simply one of the best Haunted Hayrides out there!  Hayrides are fairly difficult to make scary because the audience is sitting in a hayrack and fairly safe from the monsters and creatures in the scenes.  But LA Hayride manages to make people scream every year with their amazing scenes and intense actors!  This year was no different!

The theme is called “Tales from the Rift” and it all deals with the underworld and the apocalypse.  The scenes range from spooky to outright terrifying and they ramp up in intensity as they go.  One scene has these women carrying babies around the hayrack while wailing and crying.  They take the babies and give them in sacrifice to a demon in a decaying dilapidated church while an angel watches from overhead.  Its chilling and made even more so when the women return to the hayrack revealing their faces as distorted creepy doll like features!

My favorite scene however was the Rift itself.  I wont’ reveal too much but it feels like hell is opening up in front of you when you see it while demonic music feature the band Otep pumps in the background!

HD_churchSpeaking of music, I want to mention the awesome soundtrack this haunt has!  The event features a custom music piece for every scene at the event.  Each scene is set to play out with the music and it make the experience all the more intense and awesome.  I can’t recommend this enough to haunts that really want to step up their game.  having your scene perfectly timed to music makes it all the more terrifying and memorable for the audience.  The composer of the LA hayride has become a good friend of mine! His name is Chris Thomas and he’s worked on some popular TV shows but his true passion is doing haunt soundtracks!   You can learn more about Chris and download his albums at his website!

Check out All the LA Haunted Hayride photos on my Flickr site

and Visit LA Haunted Hayride’s Website for ticket information!

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Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare Chicago Photos

by  on Oct.16, 2014, under Haunted Houses, Rob Zombie

heidi_sweater2concert_zombieOpening weekend at Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare in Chicago was an awesome experience!  I was invited out to shoot photos and video of the opening night where Rob Zombie himself played to a sold out crowd!  The concert was amazing even though Rob wasn’t able to do some of his more advanced stage effects such as the pyrotechnics but it was still an amazing show!  I think regardless of whether or not you like Rob’s music you’ll still love his show. He’s a true entertainer and really gets into his performances!  The night was a little extra special since it was Shari Moon Zombie’s Birthday as well!

The haunts are of course stunning and highly detailed!  The murder ride features all the murderer’s from House of 1000 corpses and then some including John Wayne Gacy which has been causing quite a stir in the Chicago area since that’s where the murders took place.  However this is a haunted house and more over its a Rob Zombie Haunted House so if you are expecting puppy dogs and fairy tales then you should probably go somewhere else. Rob’s never shied away from controversy so its only fitting that John Wayne Gacy be a comical addition to the “Sick, Twisted, Haunted House” that the event advertises!

capt_spauldingThe event also includes the Haunted World of El Superbeasto in 3D as well as the Lords of Salem in Blackout.  Its a full night of “sick and twisted” entertainment and once I highly recommend Chicagoland check out especially for fans of Rob’s music or films!

You can find lots more photos I took at the event on my Flickr Album Here! Check them out!

 

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Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare Scottsdale

by  on Oct.15, 2014, under Haunted Houses, Rob Zombie

fireflyhouse_angleHDRIspaulding had the opportunity to fly out to Arizona for the opening weekend of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare Scottsdale in September.  For 2014 The Great American Nightmare expanded to two locations, One in Scottsdale AZ and one in Chicago IL, more on the Chicago location later in the week.  The Scottsdale location has 3 attractions including The Lords of Salem in Blackout, Captain Spaulding’s Clown School, and the Devils Rejects.  The Lords of Salem Blackout is the only attraction that was also used last year in LA but its been update with a much better intro and a facade that looks like the apartment building from the film.  The Clown School is an all new 3D attraction that combines the crude humor of Captain Spaulding with amazing cutting edge 3D effects and props.

My favorite attraction however had to be the Devils Rejects.  This attraction follows the film closely and begins with a shootout between the Firefly clan and the cops while the queue line waits to get into the attraction.  The cops play out the scene just like in the movie complete with real cop cars, lights, pyrotechnic effects and smoke.  When the shootout starts all hell breaks looks and the crowd is stuck in the middle of this huge old rundown house and a bunch of 1970’s style cops.  Its a pretty amazing scene and one of the coolest I’ve been witness to at any haunted house!

After that there’s the firefly house where you run into Otis, Baby, Mother Firefly and Tiny.  Once you getrob through the horrors of the house you’ll end up at the motel from The Devils Rejects where you’ll be shoved into a room and locked in there with some crazy motel guests!

If you’re a Rob Zombie fan then you’ll love this event!  Its like being in the movies and its pretty amazing to see the films recreated as attractions!  I honestly can’t wait to see where these attractions go.  Its no secret now that Rob is working on a new film that was inspired by the haunted houses.  31 starts filming soon and I’m excited to see if it becomes an attraction in the future as well!

Lots More Photos from the event can be found on my Flickr album here!

 

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House of Shock Photos 2014

by  on Oct.13, 2014, under Canon 5D Mark III, Haunted Houses, photography

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I had the honor of going to a haunt I’ve always wanted to see for 15 years! The House of Shock in New Orleans has been one of those infamous haunts that has had more than its share of controversy due to its themes of Satanism.  Its also one of those haunts that’s just as well known for its amazing sets and awesome stage show with pyrotechnics!  It was a real honor to get asked to come out and shoot some photos this year, their final year, for use on their site and promotions.  I have to say the show lives up to its legend!

bad_priest2When you first visit the House of Shock you’re treated to a stage show that is mind blowing! Its something out of the most intense heavy metal concert ever seen.  Lord Belial, the satanic priest comes out and talks about how the Antichrist was born at the House of Shock and now they’re ready to take on God and bring about the apocalypse! Jesus shows up, nailed to a cross, and blows away the Antichrist and a televangelist preacher in a huge pyrotechnic explosion of fire and sparks!  It’s just as crazy as it sounds and then some.  Its something that has to be seen to be believed and now that its in its final year your chance to go see it is quickly coming to an end!

The rooms are some of the most detailed I’ve ever seen in any haunt.  The Voodoo priestess house with its intricate statues, paintings, and ritual paraphernalia is awesome!  There’s so much to take in and I was very glad I had time to shoot the haunt before it opened so I could document as much of it as I could.  But the photos don’t do justice to what its like actually being in that room and experiencing it with all your senses.  The actors are intense and really into what they do!  Again its something you have to see to fully appreciate.

templeThe Satanic themes are pretty heavy in the house and there’s an amazing satanic temple room that just seems to explode into chaos when you walk into it and its all due to the amazing performances of the actors!  There’s screaming chained up woman, a satanic priest preaching at you and of course the Antichrist himself watches you from above!

The House of Shock is one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever been to! It’s a nightmarish trip through a dark vision of New Orleans fused with the underworld and its like nothing I’ve seen before!  Now that its ending I highly recommend you go see this haunt before its gone forever!

Visit House of Shock.com for details and tickets

To Check out more Photos from my trip please visit my Flickr album!

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Millennium Re-watch Episode 1 “Pilot”

by  on Sep.30, 2014, under chris carter, Millennium, Retro TV

millennium tvad100aI’ve made several posts about “Millennium”, Chris Carter’s sophomore tv series after the X-Files that he sort of forgot about after the first season.  Its no secret that this series had a tremendous influence on me at a very crucial time in my life and set me on the path to where I am today!  Recently there’s been some resurgence of interest in The X-Files with Kamail Nanjiani’s excellent podcast series, The X-File Files, which I can’t recommend enough even if you are new to the X-Files! But this has inspired me to really delve back into Millennium for my blog!

I loved the X-Files but for a variety of reasons, Millennium spoke to me on a very deep level and re-awakened my love of horror at a time when I had sort of moved away from it.  Hey Horror was in bad shape in the early to mid 90’s and it really didn’t take off again until a little movie called Scream came out.  But Millennium’s look and ad campaign also really inspired me artistically and pushed me back into creating dark art and video again for the first time in years.

In the Summer of 1996 during the summer reruns on Fox, these very short and weird promo videos began airing.  Fast cuts of horrible things, quickly ending with the image of character actor Lance Henriksen frantically clawing at the ground and then it goes to black and a voice says “You Can’t stop it” while the Millennium logo appears on the screen followed by a deep Bum, bump sound.  I was blown away by these promos! I couldn’t believe how cool the imagery was and how dark and weird it seemed.  “From the creator of The X-Files” was the only tagline and that was all needed to sell me.

Finally on October 25th 1996 Millennium finally aired and it was shocking!

With this series of reviews I will be going into spoiler territory so if you have never watched Millennium I recommend watching the episode then reading my review.  You can find some of the series online on youtube or buy the box set following the link at the bottom of this article.  At the time I’m writing this there is no legal streaming of the series on Netflix, hulu or anywhere else.

October 25th, 1996 Millennium aired for the first time on Fox at 9PM.  I wasn’t really prepared for how dark and gruesome this episode would be and neither was the majority of TV Viewers.  The episode opens during a heavy downpour in Seattle Washington where we follow a man into a rather sleazy looking strip club.  White Zombie’s “More human than human” pounds on the soundtrack as the camera wanders the club giving us a voyeuristic view of some of the weird individuals that are enjoying the show.  One of the girls is getting ready to go home for the night when the manager comes to tell her she has a “Private” dance request.  She reluctantly agrees and we cut to the girl dancing in a private room.  There’s a man sitting in the dark behind a glass booth watching.  “I want to watch you dance” he says.  He holds up a piece of paper against the glass written in French.  We start to see the flashes of what the man is seeing as he watches the woman dance.  The walls behind her oooze with blood. Flashes of knives and a struggle,  then as she dances blood starts to drip down from her head all over her body. The man in the booth struggles and sounds frustrated, his voice breaking as he says “I want to see you dance on the blood dimmed tide..”  He hangs his head and the titles come up.  (more…)

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New Video Tagsylvania (2014)

by  on Aug.26, 2014, under Canon 5D Mark III, haunted house commercials, Haunted Houses, HDSLR Filmmaking

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New Video trailer we shot for Tagsylvania Haunted Houses in New York state.  This is a great event with one of my favorite haunted trails!  There’s some very creative things going on here with the set  design including a real crashed plane that someone died in!  Creepy Dolls, amazing make up and one of the best 3D scenes I’ve ever witnessed in person!  Its well worth your time if you live near Big Flats NY!

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