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By The Reverend

With a lack of new titles and familiar franchises seeming lost, horror gaming has been all but dead over the past few years.  However the last few months of 2014 showed that this genre may be rising from the grave.  Resident Evil lost its way with several titles that didn’t live up to the series’ name sake.  Left 4 Dead 3 is tentatively MIA, Dead Space and Alan Wake are on hiatus soon to be joined by F.E.A.R. (at least FEAR online wasn’t a huge disappointment…oh wait…it was).  Dead Island seemed like a lost franchise with all of the post-original offerings feeling rushed and incomplete compared to the break-out first game.  Until recently, Silent Hill was believed to be defunct after its last offering Downpour.  It seemed like the genre was fading into obscurity in a market saturated with recycled first-person shooters and everyone jumping on the open-world bandwagon.

Luckily for us this is not the case.  Last year saw a fantastic upsurge of indie content.  Sure, it’s not the heavy hitters that have name recognition, but this shows developers are still passionate about horror gaming.  Thanks to indie titles like The Forest, Slender, Outlast, Five Nighst at Freddie’s, and Among The Sleep the mainstream market has come back to life releasing Alien Isolation and The Evil Within at the end of 2014. Konami also announced Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima’s new Silent Hill title starring Norman Reedus with a pee-your-pants frightening, playable trailer that has reached over a million downloads (time to stock up on Depends).  Horror is making a marvelous comeback.

2015 has a ton in store for the genre, so here are a few titles that I am looking forward to:

FRIDAY THE 13TH
One of the most surprising announcements was a new Friday the 13th co-op game where campers work together to survive the lumbering Jason Voorhees.  The game is being developed by an unannounced “experienced game studio” shooting for an October release in hopes to make up for the original NES title that appears on lists alongside the infamous ET Atari game.  Sean S. Cunningham, director of the original 1980 film, is heavily involved with the creative process and has promised a unique experience with plenty of replay value.

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Dead Island 2
After some embarrassing attempts at Dead Island spinoffs, this franchise has finally been handed off to a new developer to work on the official sequel.  Yager has already overhauled the troubled series and breathed new life into it with a renewed focus on humor and over-the-top-action set against some truly shining environments.  Count me in for this title when it gets released this Spring.

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Bloodborne
If you’re a fan of being torn down over and over again to the point of throwing your tv out of the window and lighting your console on fire this is the game for you.  Inspired by the Dark Souls series and featuring the same unforgiving gameplay that goes out of its way to make even the smallest victory the greatest thing that has ever happened to you it promises to be just as challenging.  

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Draugen
Announced on Halloween by indie developer Red Thread Games, this is easily one of several titles that I am most looking forward to.  This first-person, psychological adventure is told through the eyes of an American photographer/botanist against the backdrop of vibrant fjords and giant mountains in the beautiful location of1920s Norway.  He embarks on a dark, disturbing journey into the heart of Norwegian folklore and comes upon a remote fishing village where everyone has vanished without a trace.  Heavily inspired by Scandinavian fairy tales, Norse mythology, and Icelandic sagas, this title should be on every horror enthusiast’s list.

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Hellraid
One of two titles being released by Dead Island developer Techland for 2015, Hellraid was originally announced as a last-gen release but was sent back to the laboratory slab to be updated for current gen.  Though this caused a substantial delay in its release, I’m relived they are taking their time getting it right rather than rushing it out.  The game is essentially a mix of Skyrim and Dead Island with the combat of the former and the gore of the latter posed in a dark fantasy setting with an unending bevy of demons and hell minions to hack and slash.

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Kodoku
Imagine a series of nightmares induced by the world’s worst acid trip while watching The Little Mermaid cover NIN songs….it’s something like that.  Beyond that I have no clue, but I’m excited for this title none the less.

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Resident Evil (Remastered) and Revelations 2
It’s not surprising that Capcom decided to build upon the Revelations spin-off series seeing how it is probably the best game in the franchise within the last decade. What’s equally awesome is this game got announced along with the news that Capcom was remastering the Gamecube port of the original Resident Evil which gets released January 20 (tomorrow).  Revelations 2, starring Clarie Redfield and Moira Burton, will be released episodically beginning in February and will feature off-line co-op.

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SOMA
It’s been just over a year since Frictional Games announced this terrifying looking title, and it remains rather mysterious despite the release of more details.  The game will take place on the PATHOS-2, an underwater, remote research facility where the machinery that begins to take on human characteristics.  Modified corpses and face eating robots are just a couple of the enemies you will face, and that’s more than enough to get me excited.

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The Order: 1886  
Set in Victorian London The Order follows an ancient order of soldiers armed with steampunk weapons and gadgets through their on-going war with bestial, human half-breeds who happen to look a lot like werewolves (but are not officially werewolves).  If this description does not excite you, you may want to consider a psych eval. This game just may earn the title of “The Reverend’s Favorite Game of 2015”.


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Until Dawn
After this title’s initial announcement, things fell quiet.  But Sony recently re-revealed this highly-anticipated teen slasher after making some improvements.  The game follows the story of 8 teenagers spending the night in a remote log cabin on the anniversary of their friend’s death, unaware that they are being stalked by a sadistic maniac. Staying true to the tongue-in-cheek humor of a good slasher, the script was reworked from the original with the intent on making it less cheesy and exponentially more terrifying. 

 
 
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By Belladonna

Sometimes the experience of discovering a horror film - either online or “back in the olden days” on the shelves of Blockbuster or Video Thunder - only adds to our anxiety.  It gives the film a perceived fate-in-discovery as if supernatural forces wished for us to watch the film and set into motion an evil chain of events. That’s how I felt going into The Babadook.  

Before I go any further I want to set something straight: The Babadook is not a jump-scare horror film.  If that’s your jam, turn back now, you won’t like it, and the IMDB reviews reflect that.  BUT if you’re a fan of psychological horror and beautiful design, this is absolutely for you.  

The Babadook centers around a single mother (Amelia) enervated by the tragic death of her husband while raising a troubled son (Samuel) who becomes obsessed with the notion that a monster from a children’s book is lurking in their house.  Amelia is an exhausted mother. And although her husband’s death occurred seven years ago - on the day her son was born - Amelia is still haunted by recurring dreams of her husband’s passing. Samuel’s presence is not only a constant reminder of her pain, but also a continued stressor as he gets kicked out of school, acts out at home, and even seriously injures his cousin.

Amelia’s state of mind is reflected in the well-executed design of their home.  Nearly every element in their house is a shade of blue: blue walls, blankets, pillows, furniture, clothing, etc. This gives us the impression that Amelia is drowning (yet another theme from her nightmares) in her depression under the weight of carrying on as a single mother.  

The book "The Babadook" is a vibrant blood red.  And what a magnificent book it is.  It’s illustrated in a modern, German Expressionist style that is part Tim Burton, part Quentin Blake (illustrator for Roald Dahl), with the Babadook himself parading as Lon Chaney in London After Midnight.  After the book enters the film, we begin to notice the characters wearing red clothing and red elements throughout the house.  The Babadook is moving in.

Amelia ignores Samuel’s bewailing about The Babadook.  She requests sedatives from a pediatrician and takes some herself, so they can both finally get some rest, but soon she begins to experience the monster for herself.  She destroys the book but finds it again on her doorstep - this time with pages added depicting her as the monster.  Amelia takes on some of these monstrous qualities, her mental health deteriorates, and she even verbally abuses her son - something that moviegoers have criticized the film for.  

Samuel forces his mother to fight the Babadook which she vomits up into a black puddle much akin to someone going through drug detox.  But you cannot just get rid of the Babadook.  There’s a potential tie to drug abuse here especially when considering the sedatives, but if so I think it’s intended as another facet of depression.

The epilogue of this film depicts a much happier mother and son a few days after their ordeal, but the world is not as pleasant as it seems.  Samuel collects worms from their garden and gives them to Amelia.  She then travels down to their basement (to which several locks have been added) to feed the worms to the Babadook.  

The Babadook represents Amelia’s struggle with her husband’s death.  She has defeated it in a sense that she and Samuel are now functioning members of society, but she must feed the monster once a day to keep if from consuming her.  This draws a parallel to a depression relief technique where you are allowed to focus on a traumatic memory for only 5 minutes every day.  Amelia’s Babadook is the memory of her husband’s death…

What’s your Babadook?

 
 
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By Belladonna

It has been a long and dreary period of blogging silence from The Unkindness, but we are happy to announce our return to composing macabre musings for you sorry lot.  Our extended absence was due to an unfortunate excess of the banal requirements of everyday life coupled with personal darkness and strife.  In short: life happened, and it was hard, so blogging had to take a backseat.  

During this extended sabbatical we were able to discuss our methods going forward, and we have two major improvements to share with you: shorter posts and more regular posts.  I came to the realization long ago that my cohorts and I can be a touch long-winded.  While this may be appropriate for some venues, for this one it is not.  However, if we ever have a subject we are just DYING to prattle on about at length, we’ll offer a shorter summary to start.  

Second, we’ll now be posting new content every Monday evening.  We want you to get in the habit of finding us at a regular hour, and we want to hold ourselves accountable.  As always, we’re happy to hear your feedback on these new procedures.  

Blah blah blah *GET TO THE GOOD STUFF*

Well then...part of our little vacation involved The Reverend and I getting acquainted with our new town of residence, and what better city to become host to our wickedness than historic Salem, Massachusetts?  We’re delighted to become part of a community where spookiness is a way of life, tolerance is practically mandated by the mayor, and rich history combines with modern convenience.  

There is no lack of museums, tours, shops, eateries, and events to satisfy both visitors and long-term residents.  We’ll be developing reviews and profiles of some of our favorite places as well as delving deeper into Salem’s history for a look into how this famous village has transformed in its nearly 400 years.  Let us know if you have any requests or if you’re planning a trip. We’re full of suggestions!

In closing, today is “Blue Monday” - historically the most depressing day of the year, and we’re here to briefly indulge your dark thoughts with a spot of Poe:

Alone
By Edgar Allan Poe
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.


Ok, sulking is over.  Get up and go do something you love.  

XOXO
Belladonna

 
 
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By The Reverend

This coming weekend Miss Bellville and I will be flying across the aether to my distant home city of Columbus, Ohio to see family and partake in the annual anti-valentines-day-dance known as The Broken Hearts Masquerade.  While this tryst will afford us some of the elegant darkness we so desire, what will truly make my black heart sing is the 9th offering of Wicked Faire.  Wicked Faire IX: Through The Hedge is described as "the one Renaissance Faire created for the mad ones, by the mad ones" and a renn faire for "Steampunks, Geeks, Goths, Queer people, artists, Rennies, Pagans, Rocky Horror-ites, and all the other people who make up the beautiful and very weird heart of every Renaissance Faire out there.”

PictureVoltaire's new album - "Raised by Bats"
It’s a welcoming environment that affords con-goers an alleviating sense of freedom that is lacking in everyday life.  Wicked has brilliantly built a community where everyone feels welcome and not ashamed to let their wild side out.  It’s an unconventional convention of activities and entertainment wrapped up in a tattered blanket of evil dark Renn faire debauchery.  The full Wicked Faire schedule can be seen here. Also check out The Unkindness’ review of 2013’s Wicked Faire here.

Every year Jeff Mach and crew work tirelessly to create a unique experience for new and old attendees alike.  I am extra excited this year because he has teamed up with the infamous Aurelio Voltaire who will be running a sister event known as Voltaire’s Wicked NecroComicCon.  Voltaire has been a staple performer in the past, but this year he will have a greater presence.  This is the lead-in to me gushing over how much of an inspiration he has been and not just to me but to the goth/alt community in general.

I’ve had several run-ins with the gifted, gothic minstrel from my humble beginnings as a DJ in the Columbus goth scene - where he played our annual Gothcoming Dance - up to running his booth at DragonCon.  I will never forget the first encounter I had with Voltaire; he had just finished his set at Gothcoming, the entire venue was proper drunk and having an amazing time.  I stepped into the facilities to alleviate myself of excess fluids, Voltaire steps in immediately after, and just starts talking…like you do. 

The point is he’s not some ego-driven, megalomaniac performer – as one may presume - he actively engages his fan base.  Voltaire is a regular human being who happens to be extremely talented.  That’s what I have always loved about him.  He has dealt with being picked on and bullied both at school and at home as I have and as many of our readers have as well.  I can speak from experience when I say I know how hard it is to rise above and channel negativity into brilliant artistic expression.  That is precisely what he does.  With an impressive number of albums under his belt, his new highly-anticipated album “Raised By Bats” is a departure from his signature dark-cabaret style and is a throw-back to his roots of goth and dethrock—described as the album he has always wanted to make.

PictureBaron Misuraca in the act
I am excited about what Voltaire’s Wicked NecroComicCon will add to the already amazing Wicked Faire.  More musical performances including talents such as Symfony, The Silverhounds, and of course a vampiric lounge act under the moniker: Baron Misuraca (one of the acts I’m most looking forward to) Because, why not?  Voltaire himself will take the main stage Saturday night, and I will flog any of you not in attendance.  (But don’t take that as an invitation…)  Voltaire will regale you with stories and engage the audience with his trademark charisma.  It is truly an event not to be missed.

Participate and get creative with Super Art Fight and Ink and Paint Burlesque.  Howl like the werewolf or succubus you are at Voltaire’s late night Scare-aoke.  Then dust off your winklepickers and finest black clothing for dancing to classic goth music spun by talented djs. 

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the four “monsters” panels being presented by The Unkindness.  Come by and meet me, The Reverend, and the infamously beautiful Belladonna Bellville.  You can see the entire schedule here and don’t miss out on the contest going on through this Thursday for a chance to win free tickets to both of these fantastic conventions.  Full details on the contest can be found here.

 
 
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By Belladonna Belleville

Ahh Christmastime!  The time for gathering with loved ones to enjoy the festivities of the season: a sleigh ride over newly-fallen snow, giving a special gift, reconnecting over old family recipes, and enjoying the warmth of a roaring fire.  What other time of year can evoke such wonderful feelings and merriment?  None.  I love Christmas, and I celebrate it wholeheartedly (I’m in fact listening to Christmas music as I type), but for all of you Halloween-lovers the constant and expected joy of the Christmas season can start to feel a bit inauthentic.  Because with the festive music and mugs of hot chocolate comes fake smiles, annual Black Friday tramplings, flipping your shit after hearing Mariah Carey’s *All I Want for Christmas one too many times, and forcibly wearing your happy helmet whilist locked in a room with your extended family for several hours.  Does this more accurately describe your Christmas this year?

So for you my Jolly Goblins, I’ve compiled some tips to help make next year’s Christmas season feel a little more like you:


 
 
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By: The Reverend

It’s been nearly two months since the month of October bid us farewell. And as the trees bowed and their curtains of leaves dropped so did end the month of all things spooky. Amidst drowning our sorrows in copious amounts of eggnog and butter rum wouldn’t it be nice to have a dash of something spooky to add to your sugar and spice?

If you look hard enough the Christmas season has a decent offering of the macabre. The Nightmare Before Christmas alone bridges the two holidays together seamlessly and in a timeless and always enjoyable way. You also can’t forget the classics like A Christmas Carol (the Muppets version being the definitive one, of course). But sometimes we yearn for something new. Or maybe even something darker.

I know the urge to deck the halls with blood and make sure your neighbors are hanging with care runs rampant during this stressful season but before you all go Jack Torrence on the world why not take another swig of that delicious butter rum and que up Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale on your Netflix account?

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a rather brilliant lump of coal for your stocking hung by the fireside with care. How else to explain an R-rated Santa Claus origin story crossed with The Thing (1982)? Apart from the inescapable that the movie has Santa and reindeer in it, this is a superior horror film, a spot-on parody of movies about dead beings brought back to life. Considering the foreboding Finnish landscape, the extensive reindeer carnage and that notably tall, emaciated, naked elderly elf, it’s readily apparent that Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is no twinkling Hallmark ornament of a holiday romp.

The Santa at the center of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is not the sort Mommy is likely to be kissing beneath the mistletoe (or anywhere else) this year. Rather, the focus of this bizarre Finnish fairy tale — as black as anything the Brothers Grimm could have dreamed up — is a sinister old codger who chews off ears and whose demon minions kidnap innocent children. Ho ho no!

Drawing on ancient Scandinavian mythology, Jalmari Helander’s feature debut (spun off from two of his short films) is a thing of frigid beauty and twisted playfulness. It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus preserved in a mysterious block of ice and sprouting a gigantic pair of horns. This particular Santa is not the one you want coming to town.

Soon children from a nearby village begin to disappear, and a group of reindeer hunters finds its annual crop slaughtered in the snow. Only little Pietari (Onni Tommila) knows who’s responsible; now he must persuade his gruff father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila) to help him fight back. Together they capture the mythological being and attempt to sell Santa to the misguided leader of the multinational corporation sponsoring the dig. Santa's elves, however, will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare - a fantastically bizarre polemic on modern day morality.

Cocooned in a genuinely goose-pimply atmosphere and awash in marveling music, this Edward Gorey meets-Joe Dante fable turns Santa (Peeter Jakobi) into a savage troll and his elves into naked, wrinkly graybeards.

Kids will love the diminutive, motherless hero and a plot that’s completely bonkers; adults will enjoy the exuberantly pagan images and deadpan humor. Tots, on the other hand, will probably never sit on Santa’s lap again. So--for those of you want more grave than gravy in your Christmas--RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE is a re-imagining of the most classic of all childhood fantasies, and is a darkly mischievous, bracingly original and thoroughly captivating Yuletide import soon to be required perennial holiday viewing.

 
 
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By: The Reverend 

On April 5th 1974 Stephen King’s epistolary horror novel Carrie was released.  Written on his wife’s old type writer (the same he used for Misery) in the run down trailer that they were living out of, Carrie became his first published novel.  It was the fourth that he had written, and it would have been lost at the bottom of a trash can if it were not for his wife, Tabitha.  She fished the pages of the infamous shower room scene out of the trash and forced him to finish it.  Taking her advice, King expanded it from a short story into the novel we all know.  Thus the book was dedicated to her.

For those not familiar with King’s writing process (I highly recommend his autobiography/writing tutorial On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft), many of his stories start out as questions.  In this case: what would it be like to be raised by such a mother as Margaret White?  With the supernatural accenting the awkward process of a girl experiencing her first period, the novel features the eponymous Carrie White, an extremely sheltered high-school girl who uses her newly-discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her.  The fury of Carrie's tortured soul pushed too far forces her to destroy her high school, most of her home town, and her own mother.  When you play with matches, you'll eventually get burned.


 
 
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By Madam Mercy

Spooky World Presents Nightmare New England is a scream-park Halloween destination situated on the banks of the Merrimack River in Litchfield, NH. In addition to five haunted houses, the park also offers carnival concessions, restaurants, bars, a Monster Midway, nightly music, zombie paintball, go-kart racing, mini-golf, batting cages, tarot card readings, and a fire-pit.

Me and my cohort, the illustrious Dr. Phobias, being veterans of the industry, managed to score VIP passes to the attraction opening weekend and also attended the following weekend. Ergo, I will compare my experience from opening weekend (which can often be like a dress rehearsal for a haunt) to my experience from the following. The VIP passes on opening weekend made it considerably easier for us to experience the haunted houses without the hassle of the several-hour-long-wait lines. However, even with the VIP pass, the wait was quite long for their main house, Brigham Manor (about an hour). I would also like to point out that this was a Saturday night, and the park was offering a buy-one get-one deal, which meant the place was a madhouse. The second visit was only about half-as-crazy.

Waiting in line was boring like usual. Normally at a haunted attraction, there are line entertainers, or Midway performers. While a few of them scooted by on the back Midway, I saw very little interaction or attempt to break up the monotony of the line on my first visit. Luckily on a second visit, there was a good deal of line entertainment; this was great to see, because NNE has a number of talented Midway performers on staff. The façade of Brigham Manor is probably one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in New England haunted attractions, owed in large part to the design skills of Bad Boys Scenic Design. It is a two-story 18th century plantation, and it looks like a legitimate house in the middle of the woods. The lighting is sinister, and the sounds of Tool and A Perfect Circle complete the atmosphere with Maynard’s thumping rhythms and eerie vocals.

The inside of Brigham Manor was anti-climactic, compared to its flawless exterior. The décor was shrouded in darkness, which made it difficult to enjoy the detail of the sets. On a first visit, the actors were enthusiastic but definitely embodied that “first night on the job” vibe. On a second visit, the first half of the house was near-empty, but the second half definitely brought their A-game, making for an enjoyable walkthrough.

Brigham Manor dumps you immediately into a second attraction known as the Colony. This is a backwoods Hicksville kind of haunt complete with shacks, decaying cars, married first cousins, and Satanic priests. On a first visit, the acting, for me, was par, with a few nice surprises thrown in. Due to some technical difficulties, a chunk of the trail was without light entirely. The second visit floored me - in the middle of the woods, there are hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns peering out at you. You really can’t beat the natural ambiance of being in the middle of the woods at night, and on that second visit, the actors certainly seemed to be making the customers scream.

Next up was Freak Show, which is a 3D haunt. This style of haunt has been popular for many years now, and involves black walls painted with neon colors. The customer walks through with 3D glasses, and the art pops right off the walls. On opening weekend, the sets were visually fun, but the actors seemed as though they were lacking energy. On the second visit, however, the actors were impressively crazy and off-the-walls. In addition to scaring customers with creepy circus visuals, there were a number of interesting and new acting techniques that we witnessed in this haunt. But I won't spoil it for you. 

Next up was Riverside Hospital, which is your typical hospital/asylum style haunt where the customer is tormented by demented patients and doctors. I can’t comment too much on this haunt, as I found it disappointing. After seeing the gorgeous work that was done on Brigham Manor, this seemed like it was thrown-together. However, there were some talented actors working inside, and some great pop scares - so certainly don't skip it in your travels.

Lastly, we made our way out to Ravensclaw Cemetery "The Resurrection", which like the Colony, is situated in the woods. Before the gate to the cemetery stands an animatronic prop known as the Necromancer, a giant, hunch-backed skeleton with a coffin on his back that speaks to you as you wait. The haunt weaves in and out of crypts and catacombs and is crawling with zombies. On visit one, the actors were on par, but were not particularly scary. On visit two, the zombies had found their groove, adding their grunts and undead shenanigans to the uncanny atmosphere of the woodland graveyard.

Should you go before the season is out? Yes! You will be visually stunned, startled, but more importantly, you will have fun. Nightmare New England is fast-becoming a New England Halloween tradition and is a great way to spend one of your October nights. Check out their website, www.nightmarenewengland.com for more information on the attractions and special events.

 
 
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By The Reverend

Editor's Note: Our contributor originally announced as James 'Barren Juden' Halstein will henceforth be known as 'The Reverend'.  The Reverend has previously established himself in several communities of the same ilk as The Unkindness, so we thought it best to continue the leadership of his flock here.  Backdated blog posts will be updated to reflect this change.    
 
The killer's point of view is a time-honored shot in thrillers and scary movies.  From cheapie slasher flicks to more artful fare like The Silence of the Lambs, what better way to heighten the horror of the kill than to make the viewer unwillingly complicit in the demise of the victim, who looks directly into the camera — into the killer's eyes and our own — as they voice their final screams?

Just recently added to Netflix, Maniac (a 2012 remake of a notoriously violent 1980 cult classic of the same name) director Franck Khalfoun looks to test the limits of whether one can have too much of a scary thing when it comes to POV camerawork.

Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a socially awkward loner who runs a one-man, mannequin-restoration business in Los Angeles.  It's his inheritance from his mother, along with a complicated relationship with his childhood memories of the woman — memories that alternate between tender flashbacks to brushing her hair and less innocent recollections of peeking into her room while she had drug-fueled sex with strange men.  In response to his lingering emotional trauma, Frank begins killing women and taking their scalps to use as wigs for the dead-eyed plastic companions that populate his shop and his apartment.

Despite Wood's star billing, he has precious little screen time; nearly all of Maniac is shot from Frank's point of view.  Apart from a couple of brief moments in which Khalfoun breaks with this convention, the only time Frank is seen on screen is when he's looking in a mirror, often with a look as blank as the faces of his mannequins.

It may be a gimmick, but it's not one without a purpose. As in William Lustig's low-budget original, Khalfoun looks to make the material work both as gory, gut-level shocker and as character study in obsessive psychosis.  In that context, filming from Frank's point of view isn't just a device to unsettle the viewer during the murders, but also one that builds a thin thread of empathy with Frank — undeniably a monster, but also a victim of his past.  Lustig did so with voice-over conversations between Frank and his dead mother (an homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho in some ways); Khalfoun's device is more elegant, and fascinating from a technical perspective, though arguably less effective in creating setting the mood than Lustig.

The newer Maniac does manage to improve upon the look of its source material, but part of the lingering appeal of Lustig's film was how its cheap flash accentuated the grime and dark danger of a 1980 New York City, so it's a questionable improvement.  What did need overhauling was the original's reliance on clichéd slasher tropes — and Khalfoun's film, alas, fails on that count.

Here, Frank meets characters like the promiscuous young woman through his victim-finder of choice, an online dating site.  After dinner she's quick to invite this stranger back to her place and strip off her clothes, despite Frank showing every typical quality of a sketchy Internet hookup.  It's a lazy excuse for titillation and sexual violence and typical of the sort of moviemaking Maniac seems to want to transcend.

The film does improve when Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a fetching, friendly photographer who wants to use his mannequins for a gallery show she has coming up.  The development of their relationship provides some internal conflict for Frank - a tension between his honest affinity for this woman and his constant urge to kill.

That makes the latter portion of the film much more successful, an improvement aided by the fact that the POV device eventually feels less like the director trying to show off and more like an integral part of the story.  But it's still not enough to save a remake that, rather than trying to fix the deep flaws of its source, just covers them in a shinier coat of paint.

Khalfoun’s remake is genuinely unsettling and propelled by a brilliant, buzzing synth soundtrack straight out of the early 80s.  He makes great use out of the advances in special effects but at the same time that ends up being the unraveling aspect of the film.  The original version set new standards in gore upon it’s release, so all that's left is the question of which woman is going to be objectified and murdered next.  In the end the film is reduced to a 90 minute killing spree interrupted only by awkward dates, creeping, and copious amounts of nekkid women.  If that's your sort of thing, add Maniac to your queue.  

 
 
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By Belladonna Belleville

After a couple months of absolute insanity in the lives of The Unkindness, we're ramping things back up for October!  Please head over to our facebook page for daily posts on spooky facts and finds curated by Dr. Phobis!  Also, for October we're adding a new member to our flock, and you'll be hearing a lot more from him soon.  Introducing - The Reverend!

Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, The Reverend was an anomaly from the start. As a child his favorite films included Heavy Metal, Snow White, Monster Squad, and Child’s Play.  From that point on he developed a niche for the obscure and the macabre and was influenced by Tim Burton and new wave music – both prevalent in his early youth.  Learning about love from Morticia and Gomez, as well as Edgar Allen Poe, he grew into the quintessential hopeless gothic romantic whose main aspiration in life is to become a successful writer living in a gothic mansion with his muse.  

The Reverend attended West Liberty State College where he majored in English with a focus on horror and mythology.  In college he hosted a new wave radio show and an hour long weekly broadcast on the paranormal, heavily influenced by the works of George Noory and Rod Sterling, that focused on attempting to understand the  ‘forbidden’ and ‘unnatural’.  He also has nearly two decades of musical experience having played the cello and double bass in several pit orchestras and chamber groups.

The Reverend also attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where he focused on lighting and sound production. After college he was a DJ in the goth/industrial scene and ran a special FX makeup group.  Recently, James has put more focus into his writing and is working on a science fiction epic series.  He currently resides in Columbus, OH but will soon be re-locating Massachusetts to be closer to his lovely and talented paramour.

 

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