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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.

 
 
PictureImage by artisbasic.com
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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By Belladonna Belleville 

Taking top prize at the box office this weekend was a horror film based on a true story about demonic possession.  The Conjuring took home $41.5M this weekend, and it’s obvious why.  This movie is scary.  And it scares with moderate violence, little gore, I don’t recall any profanity, and no sexual themes or nudity.  It’s impressive that this film manages to be so terrifying without these staples of contemporary horror.  That said - this movie is R for a damn good reason.  Do NOT let your children watch this unless you’re prepared to have them crawl in bed with you through high school and can afford some serious therapy…for yourself.  Just kidding, you’ll be fine.  I promise ;)

 The Conjuring, set in 1971, first introduces us to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), real life paranormal investigators from Connecticut who are at the top of their field.  Concurrently we meet the adorable Perron family, a mom (Lili Taylor), dad (Ron Livingston), and 5 girls ranging from high school age, to 4-5 years old, as they are moving into their new home in Harrisville, Rhode Island.


 
 
PictureWatch me swiftly escape
in this handsome neckerchief!
By Belladonna Belleville

I’d like to retitle this film How Many Ways Can Brad Pitt Almost Die But Always Predictably Prevail at the Very Last Moment because this film seemed like a fetish flick for people who get off on Brad Pitt almost dying over and over…and over.  Ooo baby!  Nearly hit by a cop on a motorcycle, nearly eaten by zombies, nearly exploded, riots in Newark, pre-zombification near suicide, more zombies, riots in Israel, plane crash, piece of metal through the torso, more zombies, deadly virus, etc…  But don’t worry everybody!  Brad narrowly escapes each time using his superior wit and chiseled good looks.  **rolls eyes** 


 
 
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My apologies for the delay on this most glowing review of Steampunk World’s Fair 2013.  My most favorite Steampunk convention sadly caused me to contract a nasty strain of con-plague which I immediately followed with wonderful vacation, followed by an onslaught at my day job, so I’m just now getting back on track. 

If you are a Steampunk or are just interested in the genre, Steampunk World’s Fair is the premiere event of the year.  This is the largest Steampunk festival in the world and boasts more entertainment, guests, and attendees than any other exclusively Steampunk event in the world.  It is truly an event not to be missed. 

For one thing, this festival is so big it is housed in 2 adjacent hotels, the courtyard of one, and the parking lot between them.  Every nook and cranny is filled with something wonderful to behold.  While it can get crowded, staff and attendees were very good about clearing out high traffic areas, and I think the bustling crowds gives World’s Fair the festive aura that truly makes it special.  The setup does however get a bit tricky when you’re in a corset, booty shorts, platform heelless heels (see below), and it starts to rain on your beautiful, not-waterproof costuming.  (I nearly had high-maintenance costuming panic attack.)  But you honestly couldn’t get 2 hotels closer together.  With activity spilling outside as well, you’re always part of the action.  Just bring a fancy umbrella.  


 

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