Archive for the ‘Horror Blog’ Category

 

3Once again we are finding ourselves in the approaching shadow of the haunt season, folks. The great thing about Illinois is that no matter where you are there never seems to be a shortage of haunted attractions (professional or non.)

I wrote up a list last year, and figured I’d do the same again this year. While there are tons of haunts that I am looking forward to this year and am hoping to hit in Illinois (including my own past haunt home of  Skellington Manor) I’m going to keep this list narrowed to the greater Chicago area. So without further adieu…

 

 

4.) Realm of Terror

(Round Lake Beach, IL)

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This is one of those haunts that, every year, gets consistently great reviews by the general public and critics alike. Stellar sets, and actors who are really on point… it is no doubt  a staple of haunts one in/around the Chicago-land area must visit.  Do note though, this isn’t for the faint of heart (well, really none of these haunts on this list are.) The actors are high energy and really invade your space. A general sense of unease creeps over you as soon as you line up in the que.

 

3.) Basement of the Dead

(Aurora, IL)

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Yep, this was on my list last year folks. Why again? BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS FREAKING AMAZING, that’s why! These guys continually build and put on one of the best haunts I have ever had to pleasure of experiencing. High energy acting, amazing sets, and full throttle scares from every direction. This place, no matter the night, usually has an insane line qued up at the entrance, and for good reason. They’re one of the best in the state.

 

2.) HellsGate

(Lockport, IL)

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Kicking up a lot of speculation this year is the infamous Zombie Army Productions latest haunt- HellsGate. Inspired by the urban legends of a haunted house found only in the forest that is multi leveled and so scary that if you make it all the way through… your ticket is free! This attraction is found the woods, is multi-storied, but you can only get your money back if you find a special key. Challenge accepted! While my opinions of Statesville range, there can be no doubt that I am excited about this haunt. Woods? Several floors of scares? Amazing sets and makeup?  SOLD.

 

1.)Fable’s Fright Nights

(East Dundee, IL)

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Topping our list again is Fable’s Studios. Last year their amazing experience Project Chaos was cut criminally short. If it’s any indication of what this group can do with an entire theme park, I’m stoked. For the past several months they’ve been doing a Zombie experience at Santa’s Village that has garnered a lot of praise. This haunt season they are turning the entire park into a nightmare with three haunts, and street experiences, and a chance to meet the legendary Krampus himself (all in all, this is very ala Halloween Horror Nights/Howl-Scream/Knott’s.) Super psyched to see what the talented and passionate creators at Fable’s have in store for us.

 

 

That’s it for my list this year! What haunted attractions are you dying to attend?

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HHN 25 is only my third time attending the event. The other two years were 2009, and 2013.But I’ve followed the event for many years and consider myself a “fan from afar.” When it was decided that I’d be attending this year I was excited. I’ve never been present during an anniversary year nor a year that Jack was present and he, as clichéd and typical as it is, is my favorite icon. I got really in to this year even before the event started, taking advantage of the whole “Jack’s Maniacs” craze to inspire a short webseries. So, truthfully, I was more than excited for this year. I was excited for the shows, the number of houses as well as the type of houses we were getting this year (save for one,) and I was excited because my girlfriend would be attending with me and she’s never experienced anything like HHN before. Sure, we go to plenty of haunts in our area (suburbs of Chicago) but she had no idea what an event like HHN entailed.  So when we got there on the 24th and waited in line and watched those actors walk up to the gate, I could barely contain myself.

When we first entered we made a B-line for FvJ, which I knew, based on people’s experiences the weekend before, would be a very busy house. So I wanted to get my first walkthrough out of the way as I felt like I’d defiantly want to do it at least twice during our trip.

Freddy vs. Jason

We did end up doing this house twice during our trip. The first time we went through it was still fairly early, and we had only waited in line for ten minutes. The second time was on or second to last night I believe, the 26th, and we did it fairly early as well due to the fact that on Friday it had gotten up to about a 100 min wait time at one point! I was hearing nothing but good things about this house so I had some really high hopes, and boy was I not let down. Doing this house first was a great way to kick off the event for us.

Upon entering and feeling that cold Crystal Lake air hit my face I couldn’t help but smile. My girlfriend latched on to my backpack and tagged behind me, not wanting to go first. Right off the bat, the first Jason got me. As we continued on several more of the hockey masked killers got me. Entering into Freddy’s world was awesome and there were some really cool “kill” scenes (including one of my favorites- “prime time.”) It seems like, in general, the house starts off wanting to scare you with Jason and then turns in to eye candy and less focused on scares during Freddy’s part then ends with a mixture- which makes perfect sense.  The dream/woods area was such a trip, and by far my most favorite section of the house. Defiantly harkens back to La Lloroa but still just as effective. In fact it’s in this area that I got my biggest scare. The last Jason in this area got me really good both times I went through. The final battle scenes were fun, especially with Freddy’s dialogue going on in the background. Both times we went through Jason was the victor, and that final Jason got us good as well.

The sets were amazing, especially once we got to 1428. The woodsy smell pumped in in Crystal Lake and the dream sequence was a nice touch, and (once again) the call backs to some of the best kills in both franchises as well as some great moments from the FvJ film itself really make this a slasher fans dream come true.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Right after FvJ we hopped in line for Body Collectors, since it was right next door. We ended up doing this house twice during our trip as well

Body Collectors: Recollections

I have never experienced a Collectors house and was highly anticipating this one. It ended up being my second favorite house of the event!

Upon entering I just stood in awe of the façade. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, and the snow effect just really was the icing on the cake. But… damn it, why haven’t they done a 30 Days of Night house yet!?… I digress. Anyway, the mood was set before you even enter and once you enter your skin is crawling from start to finish. The atmosphere in this house was nonstop amazing and really made this a complete world for me.

There were startles aplenty to be found here, but the scare that really got me the best was the assistant in the room with the spine. So to your right when you turn you will see one of the Gentlemen ripping out the spine of a poor victim. While you pass by gawking at the act there is one of the assistants who comes out snapping at you. Jesus, those actors got me good both times we walked through. I will say in general I experienced fewer scares the second time I went through, but I feel like timing had a lot to do with it. It’s fine though because the second time going through I got to experience a lot more of the scenery and set which was equally as chilling as the actors.

Another note is the theatrical techniques used in this house are absolutely splendid. This is actually across the board true at HHN but there were some real stand out moments in the event this year and BC has some of those moments. The shadow and scrim work in various points of the house along with the audio tracks on top of all of the splendid acting just sold this house for me. There was no weak link in this house. Also- that opening music at the façade, the edited version of Voca Me sends chills down my spine, I love it. I wish I could find it some place.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

After leaving Body Collectors we decided to take a walk through some of the street zones since it was getting later and the sun was finally starting to go down.

PsychoScareapy: Unleashed

This was probably the zone we spent the most time in during our four days, as was my second favorite scarezone. While actors are obviously the key element to all of HHN, the actors really sold this zone for me. Especially on the stages where they would ask people from the crowd to come closer and tell them very intimate, deranged stories. It was freaking fantastic and if you have an opportunity, listen.

Also the actors in the street were just plain fun. They were scary, but they were fun at the same time. They actually acted along with you a lot of times, building a really nice sense of security that they weren’t going to “do anything” but then when you least expect it is when they’d absolutely turn or come at you with a weapon. It was great. And the set pieces, especially the flaming gazebo were also really nice and helped set a mood for the area.

Scares: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

Scary Tales: ScreamPunk

This is the first scarezone you encounter once you enter the park.  While the centerpiece and the gobos (once it’s actually dark outside) offer some great sources of atmosphere this zone offered very little for me. It really depended on the actors for me as far as my level of enjoyment of the zone. My favorite one by far was the Wicked Witch whenever she was out. The costumes and makeup is gorgeous, it’s just that the actors seemed to do nothing but roam around, and only really ever tried to scare you if a.) you had a camera, or b.) already looked scared.

Scares: 1/5 (I will give kudos to a Wicked Witch at around 9 on the 25th though because as I came through the fog she leapt out at me and startled me)

Atmosphere: 2/5

Overall 2.5/5

RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

This was the third house we did, and we only ended up doing it once. We could’ve easily had done it two or three times during our visit and a little part of me wishes we had been able to but at the same time it’s not that big of a deal for me.

I was excited for this house just because, once again, I had never experienced a RUN house. Judging by what others had said RUN was either a love or hate house in the past. Houses that have been in this location (Disaster) before in years that I’ve attended (which would be Havoc: Derailed and Leave it to Cleaver) were never houses that I enjoyed so I tried to remain neutral overall, and I’m glad I did. By not really expecting much I think I had a better time but this still proved to be the first house of the event to fall a little flat for me.

The sets were amazing, and the actors looked intimidating and great… there just weren’t a lot of scares going on. It was a lot of noise in this house and it just got to the point of a sensory overload for me so I kind of shut down during my walk through of it. While I loved the premise of it being in Hellgate and the general idea of the house I couldn’t help but feel like sections were simply just recycled scares from when the prison was used for TWD in HHN 23. Not a big gripe though as, once again, the sets are stellar to look at and the same thing was kind of done in FvJ as I’ve mentioned before. The actors though, for me, really lacked the energy that I was expecting- which is exactly what happened in Derailed a few years ago. In a house like this the actor energy is going to be everything and most of the time they just seemed to stand there. The only ones that seemed active to me were the ones you experienced once you got “outside” in the fenced area.

Scares: 2-2.5/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 2.5-3/5

All Night Die-In: Double Feature

Once you leave RUN you enter the Double Feature. This is probably my third favorite scarezone and while it does offer up many a chance for pictures, the actors do a brilliant job of scaring as well. Never once did I see one break character.

I keep going back and forth about which “feature” I like more, the old or the new but I think ultimately I have to go with the new. While I LOVE the costumes and makeup of the classic monsters and seeing so many of them in one place, the new slashers and monsters are obviously more vivacious and active.

There are some really good moments here like Jason trying to kill a young girl who then runs away in terror, and others. I always seem to get scared the worse in street zones when I try and take pictures. That’d probably because I’m so preoccupied trying to snap the shot that for a few seconds I don’t mind my surroundings. In the middle of trying to snap
a shot of one of the Strangers one of the female vampires snuck up behind me and hissed. I nearly toppled over. The same thing happened to me at a zone in HHN 23! My girlfriend had a good laugh!

Scares: 2.5-3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

After this point the rest of the event and the order we did things kind of becomes a big jumble to me, so the rest happened in no particular order.

American Werewolf in London

This was my favorite house in HHN 23 and while obviously I’d love for newer things I was still excited to experience this house again. My girlfriend and I had watched the film a few days before hand (her first time seeing it.)

Not a whole lot to say about this house other than it’s still great for all the same reasons it was before, and the few added scares were a welcomed change. Another welcomed change was the size of the wolves… just… wow. I loved the puppets from HHN 23 but these new puppets made those old ones look like puppies.

While I did coax her in to doing it twice, this was my girlfriend’s most “hated” house just because it freaked her out so much. Seriously. After the second time through she B-lined it out of the exit to the nearest bench and said “we’re sitting until I’m ready.” She refused to do it a third time, although wait times would have easily permitted a third walkthrough.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Asylum in Wonderland 3D

I’m not a fan of 3D houses. Never have been and don’t think I ever will be. I don’t know but I just feel like the sensory overload that I experience when walking through these houses just makes it impossible for scares to really be effective in any way.

I will say though that AiW3D had some really awesome costumes and characters so even if 3D houses aren’t your thing there is plenty to at least look at in this house. It’s better than Afterlife, for me at least, which was probably the house I like the least in HHN 23. But still I only hit AiW once and that’s okay with me, although my girlfriend actually loved this house.

Scares: 0/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 2/5

The Purge

I was torn when what happened, well… happened to this house. I was looking forward to a house based off the Scream films but not the show. But a Purge house was something I always thought could work well and I was very interested to see what A&D did to the house post-debacle to turn it in to the Purge and to see if I could make out any of Scream influence anywhere.

You defiantly can, if you know the films and that’s all I’ll really say on the matter.

As far as it being a Purge house I thought that the creative team did a good job of changing things up. While I really disliked the constant gratified on the walls (some would have been okay but to me it was just absolute overload) other changes such as “purge security systems,” anti-NFA members, and other things here and there were welcomed additions. Something that people who have seen the Purge films would recognize and obviously something that really had to be worked on and added to the house.

Also the actor energy seemed to always be really good in this house, although the scares really depended on timing (although that’s really true of any house at HHN.)

While this house wasn’t my favorite house I will say that it probably incorporated one of my most favorite elements of ANY haunted house I have ever visited (or been a part of for that matter, since I’ve worked haunts for ten years.) That actually threw in “victims” into the crowd of guests who would then be taken by the purgers and killed. While this sort of thing has happened plenty of times before at HHN (see All Night Die-In: Double Feature review, as well as throwing in civilians into other street zones this year and past years) this was the first time that I ever really experienced it very intimately in a house setting. The first time it happened was the first time we went through the house and this young woman came out of a corner and cut us (my girlfriend actually went in before me our first time through.) This young woman said “sorry and she had gotten cut off from her group” and was wearing a Universal Orlando hoodie so we said it was no problem and that she could go in front of us. As soon as we rounded a corner a purger grabbed hold of this girl with a knife and dragged her screaming into a closet and slammed the door. My girlfriend screamed and had reached out for a second and I was just dumbfounded at what had just happened. We looked at each other and it had taken a full moment to realize that it was a part of the show. It happened again when were outside waiting in line to do the house a second time, only this time to the people in front of us. Another lady with a Universal hoodie, without asking, just cut them and they were all like “hey, what the hell” and the male purger with the mic outside noticed and said “Oh, you think it’s okay to cut in line?” and that started a back and forth between them which eventually ended with him saying “I think it’s time to purge. What do you people think?” I looked around and the crowed was all kind of looking at one another or awkwardly smiling so… I yelled out “PURGE!” This actress spun around and looked at me in shock (whether she was simply acting or just not used to people saying anything I don’t know) but that’s all the purger needed to start his advance towards her and then they ended “off stage” and we heard a big bang. This kind of visceral interaction is exactly what I want to see more of from HHN and the haunt industry in general. We’re starting to see it more and more with houses but I was glad that Universal’s creative team added that in because it was such a huge thing to me and just made the experience that much better for me.

Scares:3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead

This was the worst house for me, as it was for many other people. It also consistently, during or visit, had the lowest wait time of any of the houses at the event at any one time. I think the longest I saw it get was around 35 minutes on Saturday, but in general I don’t remember seeing it going about 25 most of the time we were at the event.

While the sets looked great and some of the gags were cool in the house (the slit throat at the beginning was probably the most wet I ever got in a blood gag in a house, and that poor horse (although awesome looking) was a low blow) in general there was just nothing. No energy from the actors and most of the other effects that were there just didn’t work… it just felt like it was thrown together because it “had to be there” (which depending on who you ask, that may be the case.)

Scares: 0/5

Atmosphere: 2/5

Overall: 1/5

Evil’s Roots

This was by far my favorite scarezone. Full of creepy atmosphere and amazing imagery it’s really what I wished HHN 23: Evil Takes Root was instead of full on Walking Dead fest (while I love the show it was just too much that year.)

The actors in this zone were really spot on for the most part really playing into the darkness and fog. During the day it’s not as powerful or intense as it is as night progresses. It’s really a zone made by Halloween lovers for Halloween lovers.

Scares: 3.5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

INSIDIOUS

This house… I only got to do this house once during our visit, and it was on the last day, and it frustrates me to no end. It was a great house, and I mean absolutely great in every way. The problem was everyone else seemed to think so too as the wait times typically ranged between 45 min to an hour or more while we were there. On our last day we B-lined it to this house wanted were some of the first people to go through it that Sunday.

The sets were amazing and intricate and there were a lot of really great memorable moments from the films present in this house. Now typically when there are “scenes” from the films being staged the scares (for me) generally lack in those moments in the past, but that was not the case here. Even though you were watching the scene played out the scares were perfectly positioned to get you at exactly the right moments. The timing is EVERYTHING in this house and every single actor was spot on from start to finish. Some hard work from the creative team and the actors was put into this house, and it pays off.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

ICONS- HHN

This scarezone may not have been the scariest one but it had some really great atmosphere and some amazing vignettes by the main icons from Horror Nights past. My biggest gripe… where the hell is Bloody Mary!?

Defiantly spend some time here if you can, just to watch the stage shows. I wasn’t able to catch them all but I’m sure eventually they’ll all pop up on YouTube.  Also it’s great to see a bunch of lesser known characters and icons traveling around in the streets as well.

Scares: 2.5-3/5

Atmosphere: 3-4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem

My absolutely favorite house at HHN25. It’s funny to me because really this is the kind of haunted house I’m used to- the kind where it’s mainly a bunch of random rooms thrown together that cover a wide range of fears and characters.

From start to finish this house oozes atmosphere and character. Some really great moments and characters that I have never experienced before were all present in this house and it made me so happy as a Horror Nights fan. I loved how it not only covered the history of HHN but also, in part, the horror history of Universal- including monsters such as The Wolfman, Hunchback, and Frankenstein. This house reminded me a lot of Silver Screams which is one of my favorite houses from 2009.

A lot of actors got me good in this house, but the one that consistently got be both times I went through was the first Ringmaster Jack, so kudos.

This house, on top of some spot on acting and breathtaking sets had some really neat effects as well- my favorite one being the scrim used in the picture hallway. As you walk towards the picture of Jack, if you look to your right there will be a ghost which appears through the wall and seemingly floats by you. As you’re distracted of course there is a scare (which admittedly got me as well.) But that effect is just brilliant and absolutely amazing. That was one of those moments that will be engrained into my memory forever.

Scares: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4.5-5/5

The shows this year are amazing. Bill and Ted I don’t have much to say about other than it was funny as per usual, and The Carnage Returns was just plain fun. Defiantly hope that Universal decides to keep doing shows like Carnage because it’s incredibly obvious that the creative team loves putting them on. The number of inside jokes was well appreciated and the kills were brilliant. Wish that there was more of a “big finish” like there was in the original Carnival of Carnage show, but beggars can’t be choosers and overall the show was really entertaining.

I loved this event overall. I felt like there was a real return to some great creativity as well as a ton of callbacks to various things that has made this event so great for the past 25 years. Universal’s creative team really went all in with this year and it shows. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to another 25 years of this horrific event.

The haunt season is upon us faster than a drunk jock in a horror film. With many haunted houses opening their doors next week I’ve been trying to prepare myself (as well as my wallet,) planning which haunts I will for sure be wanting to attend this year. I live in the greater Chicago area so there are plenty to choose from!  I’ve managed to narrow down my five top choices which is what I’ll be sharing with you all. So without further adieu, let’s get started…

4.) 13th Floor Chicago

1940 George St., Melrose Park, Illinois 60160

I unfortunately missed his house last year, their first year in the area. While I heard a lot of mixed reviews as far as the scares go there was nothing overly negative, like some other first time haunts in the area. The sets and makeup are said to be spectacular, and with several other locations across the U.S they have to be doing something right!

They have two different houses  this year. One of them, Feral Moon, probably excites me the most! It sound very classic and deals with werewolves. This excites me as The Wolfman is one of my favorite classic monsters.  Dead End District: Wrong Turn seems like a pseudo Evil Dead/28 Days Later mashup of some kind in plot- which will be interesting. I’m not sure based on the description if these things are evil or if they are more zombie like. Either way, bring it on!

3.) Evil Intentions

900 Grace Street Elgin, IL 60120

Their story this year, The Awakening, sounds intriguing- basically centering around the idea that some ghost hunters have awakened a great evil in a local mortuary. I love houses with a story , so that just makes it all the better.  And this house just looks intense, and intense is what I like. Really expecting some great acting, on top of the stellar looking makeup and location they have going on.

2.) Basement of the Dead

42 West New York Street, Aurora, IL

This house launched itself into one of my top top five scariest haunt experiences ever last year. This house is utterly fantastic with some spot on acting and energy from beginning to end in the house, great twists and turns, great line entertainment. The website is advertising itself as bigger better and scarier this year and that the audience will ‘not recognize it from last year’ which really has me pumped. I am anxiously awaiting it again this year in all of it’s gory.

1.) Project Chaos

Right next to Evil Intentions

The latest from Fables Studios, advertising itself as a interactive haunted house- which just makes my life. Anybody who knows me know how much I love experiences like this. To actually be a part of the story make it all the more horrifying. They have a really planned out story for this year, and a great vision driving the haunt forward this year. I’m expecting an experience unlike anything else in the area with this haunt. Plus the fact that it’s right next door to Evil Intentions (in fact they have a partnership deal going on for tickets to both for just $40) is just an added bonus.

While these are just my top four, there are plenty others that I am looking forward too as well in the area. That’s the great thing about living near a populated area- never running short of haunts. Like last year, you can expect some reviews of haunts I’ll be visiting to pop up.

If you have any haunts in the greater Chicago-land area that you think are worth checking out, let me know in the comments!

Man, how I wish I had this book two years ago when I was writing my senior thesis in college! I did my SI on the evolution of horror as a theatrical art form (a paper I have revised many times, and am now attempting to publish) and I devoted a whole section of the paper to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.

This book was just released, and I knew right away that I needed to get my hands on a copy. I couldn’t resist a text solely dedicated to the history of HHN. Although I have only attended the event twice (this upcoming season I will actually be attending for my third time) I have been a fan of the event since around its thirteenth year. I’ve followed the event online, chat on the forums, watch countless videos, and am even working on my own short webseries based around this year’s event. I’ve known that the history of HHN has had a very interesting past, and that the amount of work that goes in to each event is overwhelming… but I wanted to know more. Thankfully Christopher Ripley and his new book gave me exactly that.

The book starts off describing Universal’s history with its monsters, as well as the original Horror Nights that originated in Hollywood years before Orlando took a stab at it. Horror Nights died, and when Universal Orlando opened it was met with many technical problems. So, in order to make money, the creative team at the park had to think of something. Enter Fright Nights (the first HNN before HHN was the title.) While I was aware of this history, the way that Ripley describes it so in depth and with rich facts and statements from newspapers and archives really adds so much more to the story. It also really hammers home the interesting parallel between how HHN really saved Universal Orlando much like the original classic horror films saved Universal Pictures.

Subsequently, with Fright Nights being as much of a success as it was it soon became a staple for Universal Orlando. The name was officially changed to Halloween Horror Nights for the second year, and has been that way ever since. The rest of the book outlines each year in its chapters. The chapters are broke down [basically] with some quick preproduction info for the year’s event, then production, and finally opening and closure of the event. There are obviously more layers to each one, such as many interesting facts about how marketing changed from year to year, as well as facts on various problems the creative team had to overcome. For instance, one of the main ones, is the well-known changes Universal made to its event post 9/11 in 2001. The book really describes in depth what was indented for that year and then goes on to describe what was changed and how the creative team went about doing this.

It’s also interesting to read about Universal’s evolution through the years and the subsequent effect it had on the event. You essentially relive the growth of Universal from the 90’s to now when reading this book and also get a great sense of how HHN grew during this time. It’s easy to see how the event had grown (I mean, for cripes sake, this year we have NINE houses!) but we overlook a lot of the internal workings and growth the company had to have gone through throughout the years to stay ahead of the curve. All of that is laid out in this book.

The book is actually quite fun to read. While it is a factual history book on the event, Ripley writes it very personable and I got a real sense that the he cares for the event just as much as I do. My only complaint is that I think the book maybe should have been proofed one more time before publishing, since there are noticeable typos and some odd sentence structure- but all in all it isn’t a huge hindrance. The text comes from the mind of someone who’s passionate for the event, and it reads that way. The information is golden and really insightful and that’s all that matters.

I also do also wish that there was some more focus on the HHN Hollywood event, as well as more of a satisfying closing chapter- but it’s just a me being greedy an wanting more. Hopefully in the coming years someone will write a separate book containing all of that (or… possible future revised editions?!)

This book is an absolute must have for HHN fanatics. It’s also a great read for anybody interested in haunted houses, theme parks (especially Universal) or just loves a good factual read on entertainment. It’s chock full of interesting information and facts you probably have never heard/read anywhere else. As someone who lives in Illinois and doesn’t get to visit each year and wasn’t even aware of the event pre-2003 (I was young, what can I say) the author does a brilliant job of taking the reader back to each event by painting eloquent pictures of Horror Nights past. Do yourself a favor and nab this book, especially since there is only 10 days left until HHN 25.

Halloween Horror Nights: The Unofficial Story and Guide (2015) is available in select stores, as well as on Amazon.

List price: $18.99

Eskdale & Kent Publishing

10

I have been a scareactor for many different haunted houses over the past ten years.  It’s a form of acting that I find a great amount of joy in, and I also take a lot of pride in. That’s why when I’m told by people that it’s not “real acting” I get really defensive.

Often times the directors, actors, etc. who says things like that typically dislike haunts/horror or have never been on the production side of these types of shows. Look, I get it. I understand how someone can go into a haunt and think that the actors doing the scaring are just fooling around or how it doesn’t take any skill to pop out and say “boo.” I get that thought process because the rub is it doesn’t take a lot skill to just say boo; to just be able to do the minimal in a haunt. The skill comes from the planning, the prep, the ability to read the audience, and the overall craft that goes in to real scaring. It’s the same amount of prep I’d put in to any performance on screen or on stage, and it pisses me off when people just discount the work that I and so many other talented people put in.

I believe this is a sort of paradox that any off stage live theatre performer deals with. You’re told that there is no real place for performances like this to be on your resume, and that it doesn’t take any real talent. That’s such bull to me. You can tell a good scareactor from a bad one in an instant. The good ones put in the time and devotion to the characters that we create, and that effort shows. I also go to plenty of haunt events and the ones that scare me or entertain me the most are always the ones where you can tell that the actors believe in their characters and put in the time and passion to flesh them out in their own heads. One of the first things you lean in theatre is if you as an actor believe in the action taking place, it’s that much easier for the audience to believe it. That is true on stage/film, but it’s even more true I believe in more visceral performances like haunted houses, or these interactive experiences like ALONE, Delusion, or Fables.2

Along with the process of creating these characters from the ground up, the ability to hone in and read the audience is so important to performances in haunts. It’s something that you have to continually work on, and perfect and is unlike anything you’d ever experience in stage theatre and especially film. With stage theatre, yes, you need to be able to read your audience- sure. But that is nothing compared to the way you need to read your audience in a haunt environment. First and foremost there is safety. You need to protect yourself as well as make sure the audience is never in any real danger. People have different reactions to being scared. I’ve been punched, slapped, kicked, scratched. elbowed, and have also had to deal with people crawling away into a corner, running backwards, and crapping themselves. There are so many different ways people deal with fear, and you have to be able to read that and be able to react to that so that you can still give a performance while making sure your safe, not holding the line up, or making the guests destroy the set or themselves.

You also have to be able to read what scares your audience. Not everyone scares the same way or is afraid of the same thing. So you may get one person who is petrified after you burst through a doorway screaming, but the next person may think that it’s scarier to see you crawling on all fours towards them. You need to have your character and the given circumstances in your mind, but you also have to allow yourself to be malleable to what the audience wants to experience. Really- if you ever want a great improv experience, try working a haunted house for a season.

While there are plenty of scareactors who are ostracized in theatre, the same happens in film. An example is the actors who have played Michael Myers. There have been many different actors to don the mask, and it sounds like a really basic and simple role. But to me it’s much more. Those actors have to not only portray him physically but all they have to act with is tiny gestures and their eyes- that’s it. That, to me, takes a lot of skill but I know a lot of people who don’t think that it takes talent.

1There needs to be more acceptance for scareactors in the world of theatre as well as film.  I do understand that just because a person is able to create a character and scare others it doesn’t mean that they can memorize lines or do other basic things and interactions with others on stage, but it’s all still importance and working haunted houses teaches actors a lot about improv, staying in character through distractions, reading the audience, and so much more. It actually pains me that after the hours, and years of devotion to this art I’m actually told that I should add this work to my acting resume; that I’m told that essentially all the work I’ve put in doesn’t count. It does count, and it matters. Acting is about creating an experience for the audience, and you can ask any number of the thousands of “victims” I’ve had over the past ten years and they’d tell you that I along with my fellow cast member did indeed create an experience for them.

When I started this blog I intended on it being nothing more than a place where I can review and discuss films, plays, and books- mainly those of a horror persuasion. Obviously it has evolved in to a little more than that, but still it has been built on that basic cornerstone.

As I was going through some of my past posts though I couldn’t help but notice… there is only one [horror] book review, for Let’s Go Play at the Adams’. And the review, if you notice, isn’t super positive. Now Let’s Go Play was a book that was not just recommended to me by several acquaintances but was on pretty much every “must read” list for those wanting a terrifying story. Yet when I read it… at no point was I terrified. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately on top of the fact that I haven’t written any other horror book reviews. It isn’t for lack of reading any. I’ve read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, Ray Bradbury’s  Something Wicked This Way Comes and several others and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy any of these books (on the contrary many of them are very well written and gripping in their own right) it’s just that they aren’t scary and I want to write reviews about books that really put me on edge- books I’d gladly recommend to others who are constantly on a search for stories that chill you to the bone. I have spent hours on the internet looking up horror novel/story recommendations and reviews in search for those tales that keep me up late at night, both because they have me in their clutches and because I’m afraid to turn out the lights. But for some reason… it’s really hard to find such books.

Now before any of you go and crucify me I understand that good horror is actually not that hard to find. All you really have to do is go to the library isle that is marked F – Kin, and walk only a few feet in. At the same time though horror really is difficult to accomplish through literature, I feel and I think that boils down to two main reasons: 1.) it’s hard to sustain suspenseful/terrifying tension in literature and 2.) horror is subjective.

For reason #1 – Some of the best horror I have ever read are short[er] stories. The Hellbound HeartPsycho, any of Poe’s work, most Lovecraft, tons of works put in to anthologies of horror, and (not even joking on this) Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. There is obviously plenty of good longer horror stories, once again- look back to the master, King. But even some of his best work is short stories/novellas.

The kind of strain and tension created by horror is hard enough to sustain with visual images (be it film, or theater), but I think it’s even harder to an extent with literature/words. Yes, the imagination is sometimes worse than reality or pictures but to initially be able to tap in to the imagination of your audience in the first place I think is a struggle. Then to hold their attention is a whole other issue. That was one of my biggest complaints with Haunted. Palahniuk wrote an amazing first chapter (Guts) which, while not scary, really had me reeling because of how I was able to picture it in my mind. But after that chapter the book just became a bore because he never was able to match the magic he worked in that initial chapter. And you are a straight up liar if you think classics like Dracula don’t have the same problem. They’re classics, and yes- Dracula does have some scary moment, but it is a bear to get through. Same with Frankenstein, which is actually one of my top five books.

If you can hook your audience and keep them on the line for an entire novel… that’s a feat. That’s why I think shorter works work better sometimes with horror. You hook your audience, and then proverbially release them soon after (although, the best stories never truly “leave” us do they?)

Now, for reason #2- Horror is subjective. What scares you may not be the same thing that scares me. Let’s Go Play is a prime example. Rape, to me, is not scary. It is a horrific act that is evil, but it’s not scary. I believe that it is a super cheap way to get under the audience’s skin. But plenty of people have read this book and love it and said that it really messed with them and was one of the scariest books they ever read.

Another issue is that the way you picture something the author is describing may not be the same way I picture something. With film, theater, or even comic books/graphic novels- it’s all laid out. You see the image they want you to see, and it’s in the open.  But in a book the author has to paint that picture for the audience and sometimes it’s very specific (ala King,) sometimes it’s left more to the imagination, and other times it sits right in the middle.  Horror is a mixture of describing the scene/atmosphere, the emotions, and the ultimate horror the characters are facing. That’s a lot of factors the author has to mesh together. And with horror being such an unstable craft it’s hard to get all those factors right. Now I’m not saying that ALL of them need to be spot on, but that general mixture needs to be at least somewhat solid for the terror to resonate with your audience. A lot of times, in longer texts, authors start off really well or eventually get to a nice spot where all the factors come together… but at some point it just kind of fizzles and the author tends to pull focus on only one of the elements, and forgets to give the others some attention. House, by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker is actually a book I think combines all of these elements well. Say what you want about Christian horror but this book, I think, combines a great atmosphere, with some great horror moments, and some real emotions. This formula is also why I think Pet Semetery is one of Stephen King’s greatest works. He crafted an absolutely heart wrenching story about a family losing their child, and then built out the atmosphere and some of the most horrific moments I have ever read. Some of the latter parts of that book still stain my mind with imagery that makes me shutter. I read that book about three years ago, and it was the last book I’ve read that really ever scared me to the point that I had to stop reading it for a length of time.

While there is plenty of good horror in the world of literature, both short and long, I believe that it’s a hard craft to crack. Also, ultimately you have to be the own judge of what scares you. I’ve read many a recommended stories that people have claimed to be “real shockers” only to read them and have my psyche unscathed by the encounter. Obviously I won’t stop taking recommendations, and if any of you readers have some out there (that I haven’t ready (which there is plenty I haven’t listed)) go ahead and post them and I’ll give them a read!

I really would like to start doing more horror lit reviews, which maybe I’ll just have to start doing reviews on short stories and from time to time do some novels- should I find one I think is scary enough. But until then I’ll remain on the lookout, for that elusive book that I hope will be so scary… that I have to force myself to finish it. That’s the kind of horror novel I want.

When my girlfriend saw the first official HHN 25 promo released today was an instantaneous “NOPE.” That, in turn, got me even more excited. This will be my fourth time attending HHN, and it’ll be her first. Based off of her reaction I can’t help but feel like Universal’s top notch A&D department hasn’t lost their tough with making a thoroughly horrifying and exciting event.

Rumors have been going around for some time now about what Uni has planned for this years HHN, but I try and avoid that kind of speculation at all costs. The main reason being sometimes they’re wrong, and I don’t really like to get worked up over nothing. I try and stick to the facts- info, pictures, etc. that is actually released.

Last year, at the end of HHN 24, Universal released a teaser for this year‘s event- something that to my knowledge they’ve never done before. And the video ends with everyone’s favorite Halloween clown making a brief return- Jack. But what did that mean? Was year 25 going to be another anniversary year? Would all the icons return yet again? What was going to happen?

Well, it seems as though we’re going to start getting some answers…

I can’t explain how excited I am. This will be the first time I’ll ever be visiting while Jack is there, and on top of that the official Halloween Horror Nights website promises more than ever before. Nine houses, five scare zones, two shows, more actors than ever before all spanning over thirty gory-ous days of Halloween fun. I am so stoked.

I’ve noticed some people groaning over the fact that Jack is back, but I can’t help but be excited. Even though I’ve never been to HHN when he’s been a part of it (directly that is) he’s still my favorite icon they’ve ever had and I personally think that Jack is essentially the poster child of HHN. Ask anybody who’s been going to the event or follows it fairly faithfully who is the one icon that pops into their head when they think of HHN and it’ll be Jack, I assure you.

And this year he looks more menacing than ever. Jack’s outfit is very reminiscent of  his Carnival of Carnage ringmaster garb (an outfit he donned for HHN 18, HHN 20, AND HHN 23 (in the Cabin in the Woods house,) but still somewhat changed. It’s more rugged, seems leathery, and more sinister. Jack himself seems… darker somehow to, which I like. For HHN 20 we found out that Jack along with all the other icons (except for Bloody Mary apparently) have been trapped in Fear’s lantern, which is essentially a sort of Hell. And Jack looks like he’s been through Hell here. I’m REALLY hoping that Universal’s A&D has a great story planned out for us this year, that informs us of exactly what Jack has had to do in order to escape and what he’s exactly been through.

It’s only mid-May; we’re MONTHS away from HHN’s opening, and I’m already stoked. I guess it takes very little to get me excited, but I expect in the coming weeks and months we’ll be learning more and more. Construction is already well underway for the event. I’m greatly looking forward to what Universal has in store for us.

I couldn’t let Halloween come to pass and not review one of these films! Plus this series is my favorite slasher series. Yep, I’m a Myers boy. I was originally going to review the first film but I kind of ran into the same problem I did with the Alien review (it’s too complicated to just hammer out in one sitting.) I’ll get there eventually I’m sure, but this is not a bad one to begin with! In fact I rate this in my top three of the Halloween films (coming in just after the original and the sequel.)

This film picks up ten years after the original film and it’s sequel. We’re going to skip over the fact that Halloween 3: Season of the Witch happened. It begins with out infamous murderer Michael Myers, who is now thought to be an invalid after the events of Halloween 2,  being transferred back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. But once he overhears the fact that he has a niece the evil awakes once more inside him, and he escapes again. Jump to Haddonfield, Illinois where young Jamie Loyd is having nightmares of a boogeyman coming after her. She is the daughter of Laurie Strode (who is “dead” after a fatal car accident of some kind, leaving her an orphan.) This fact means that she is unfortunately the niece of Michael Myers, and obviously his new target. Never fear, because Dr. Sam Loomis is on Michael’s trail of terror as he begins to tracked the masked killed back to Haddonfield. Loomis warns the police, and puts everyone on high alert. But that is still not enough. Michael begins his bloody rampage through the small Midwestern town, searching for Jamie with more brutality than ever.

This film brings back the series’ beloved Shape after a threequel that disappointing many fans- mainly because of the fact that it didn’t involved Michael Myers at all! And boy does this film bring him back with a vengance. By now Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th had, by now, stormed on to the slasher scene so Myers has some competition. Well, within the first few minutes of this film we get a taste of Michael’s new brutality with a thumb to the head! While Halloween 2 defiantly upped the level of gore and violence, we have never seen Michael like this. He kills people with his bare hands, breaking their faces and ripping them apart. He shoves guns through people, and electrocutes them. About the only thing we don’t see him do in this movie is actually stab someone with a knife. And not only does Myer’s do this but he is able to be “The Shape” while doing that. Meaning that, at no point, does this feel like a Friday film or something of the like. Michael is exactly what he was in the original film, omnipresent and evil, It feels like no matter where the character’s turn he will be there. He has some genuinely creepy scenes that I actually feel are some of the best moments in the entire series. Like this one:

Every time I watch that scene it sends chills up my spine. It is such a sinister moment that captures the essence of Michael Myers.

Also the fact that this time around Michael is hunting down a child makes this movie, to me, that much scarier. I was around seven or eight the first time I saw this movie and it terrified me to my bones. Not even Halloween 2, which is actually the first horror film I ever saw, did that. This film to me had no boundaries. If Michael was going after a kid, then all bets were off. Nobody stood a chance.

Now, there are plenty of cliche and eye-roll inducing moments in the movie, usually containing our teenage characters. In fact, they are ofter downright infuriating characters to listen to. Super arrogant and ignorant like… well, teenagers.

While I do wish that there would be a Halloween film that truly dives into how Haddonfield views the holiday of Halloween post Michael Myers (come on, that would be such an interesting story!) I love the addition of the town folk trying to hunt down Michael for revenge. I just wish that it was more flushed out in the end. Time and time again in these films we get moments like this that could lead to some interesting depth on the town and individual characters, but they are generally glossed over to continue on. After all the death that has happened I’m super surprised Halloween is even celebrated in Haddonfield any more.

This film also does an amazing job of getting that “Halloween feeling” down. That same feeling I talked about in my Trick ‘r Treat review. I don’t know how to specifically describe it but there is a feeling to Halloween as a holiday and a season in general. It’s a general atmosphere, and it’s a tone that is often not captured in the Halloween films which strikes me as really odd. Out of all of the films (which there are ten now) I feel like only three of them truly capture that feeling of the holiday. And Halloween 4 is one of them. Right from the bat we are give a series of images associated with the harvest, and fall. It sets the tone perfectly. And later on during the school day, and at night during trick or treating and the “Multiple Myers” scene it’s there.

And then, above all, the reason I love this movie… the ending. Dear God, that ending. It was a such a sinister and ballsy move. It still makes my eyes widen and limbs freeze when I watch the movie. As I said, I was young when I first saw this movie on AMC Fear Fest. And that ending legitimately gave me nightmares. It’s such a dark twist and one that I, and probably nobody else, never saw coming. The sound of Loomis’ scream mixed with the horror you’re actually seeing makes for one of the single best moments in, frankly, any slasher film ever made as far as I’m concerned.

All in all I love this film. I often consider it as good as the original Halloween 2, making them tied for my second favorite Halloween film. While I love this series and there are some genuinely frightening movements in some of the other films, this was the only one to truly terrify me and it’s mainly due to the ending. A few of the characters get annoying but their deaths make putting up with them tolerable and while there is some sense of “been there, done that” at moments in the film, most of it is generally done in a way that for the most part it feels fresh and new. Plus Myers’ new brutality mixed with his evil and ubiquity makes for one of the most frightening portrayals of the classic slasher. It’s the comeback of a life time for Michael Myers, as he reminds us that you truly cannot kill damnation.

Throwback Review: Trick ‘r Treat

Posted: October 29, 2014 in Horror Blog

This film is probably one of the most praised horror films of the last decade, and for good reason. While it has some minor flaws, the concept is the perfect blend of classic and new while really capturing the spirit of every horror geeks favorite holiday- Halloween. For several years horror fanatics had to wait for this to be finally released. I remember seeing the original trailer before the 300 DVD in 2006, and being super excited. While it played at conventions and festivals, it wasn’t until 2009 that most people were finally able to watch it. And man, was it worth the wait,

Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology, telling several small stories during the entire length of the film. There is the couple, where the husband loves Halloween and the wife does not. There is the murderous school principle and his son, A band of teenage girls looking for a good time on All Hallow’s Eve, a group of kids who wish to “pay their respects to the dead,” and a crotchety old man who seemingly hates all that Halloween is. All of these stories tie together with many different twists and turns that you’ll never see coming, and the journey is essentially tied together by Sam- the spirit of Halloween which takes the form of a small child. He’s out to make sure that the “rules” of the holiday are being upheld and respected. Otherwise there may be dire consequences.

Not since the original Halloween I feel has there been a film for this holiday that every horror fan feels the need to pop in during the month of October. This movie does something that is surprisingly hard in movies, and that is actually capturing the essence of what makes Halloween so great. Out of all of the horror films that are centered around the holiday I feel like there are only a couple that actually get that “feeling” right, and that goes for the Halloween franchise as well (I think only three, maybe four of those movies nail that feeling.) It’s a feeling that can’t be fit into words. It isn’t just the pumpkins, the colors, the leaves, the costumes, and the trick or treating. It’s something else. It’s like an atmosphere thing; it’s something in the air, and around you. It’s essentially what Sam is, as a character- the essence of Halloween. Trick ‘r Treat not only delivers all of the traditional Halloween visuals but gives us that Halloween feeling of wonder, sinisterness, and secrecy.

The stories start off fairly cliche, but each develop with a twist that comes out of left field. At times there will be little nods or hits as to what is going to happen, but generally you will not actually pick up on them until your second and third view. Heck, I’m still finding new winks and connections that I never noticed before when I watch it. While the film itself is a tad on the shorter side, and I (among many I’m sure) would have rather had seen it go on longer, the short running time doesn’t prohibit from any of the stories from having a beginning, middle, or end. It makes for very tight writing.

While I don’t have any problems with the movie, there are a few unanswered questions that always never fail to puzzle me upon watching the movie. Such as, why the heck does Steve Wilkins feel the need to dress up and attack young women as a vampire? He seems like a very effective and efficient killer, especially with poison, knives, and shovels. Why, then, put those teeth on and drink the blood of people? That fetish is never explained in the film, and plus it just seems like a very sloppy and dangerous way to commit murder. You’re eventually either a.) going to have someone escape for good, or b.) try it on someone who will turn the tables…. …. Secondly, Rhonda. That character specifically is literally, like, the only one that doesn’t connect to any of the other stories in any way. Her story comes, and while the dead troubled kids do play a part later Rhonda is just kind of forgotten and done. I liked her character and felt like she had more potential than what we saw.

The cinematography in this film is great, especially for the flashback scene involving the troubled kids. It’s absolutely beautiful and captures a real dreamlike quality. The quality of film-making mixed in with the genuinely mesmerizing and creepy score by Douglas Pipes makes for one heck of an experience. The whole film is eye and ear candy.

The effects are great, only using CG when needed. The rest are practical effects, and as I have said before- the more practical effects the better in films. It really gives this film an edge I feel to have so many unique effects, and to have them almost all be done on set rather than by a computer. Case and point is the werewolf transformation scene. AMAZING. Not only is a great and original type of werewolf transformation, hardly any computer effects were used. And when they were it was very minimal and seemed only used to make the applications and practical effects pop more. That scene is a perfect marriage of CGI, makeup, and “Sweet Dreams.”

In the end Trick ‘r Treat is an absolute MUST for your Halloween viewing list. It’s very much in the vein of anthologies like Creepshow, and Tales from the Crypt yet stays entirely original for the most part. It the Halloween season’s A Christmas Story, and with rumors of a sequel entering production soon I can’t help but anticipate what tales Sam will lead us through next. If you haven’t watched it yet this season, go pop it in as soon as possible. The film is a great mixture of dark humor, thrills, and horror- all of which are mixed together with splashes of blood, candy, and pumpkin guts. Be sure to pop this film in, and enjoy a bowl of candy corn between now and Friday. Because, as we all know, Halloween is the one time of year where the dead and all sorts of other things roam free, and you wouldn’t want to piss them off now… would you?

7

In less than five years the musical BatBoy has been produced twice in the Quad Cities. The first time was in 2012 by Augustana College’s Theatre Department, a production that I was actually a part of. The current production is being presented to the public by the QC Theatre Workshop in Davenport, IA. If you were worried about the same show being produced too soon in the same area, and actually involving several of Augustana’s original cast… don’t. Drop that thought into the trash, and burn it. Because the QC Workshop’s production is a completely different beast and, while using the same story, is so different than Augustana’s production that you’ll think you’re watching the show for the first time. And if you have never seen this “cult” play, do your self a favor- go out and see QC Workshop’s production this weekend. There will probably be no better way to spend Halloween weekend than by seeing this show (along with seeing ETU’s first performance this year at Augustana, of course!)

The play is inspired by the Weekly World News’ (a national enquirer magazine that was… I guess “popular” in the 90’s. I can still remember seeing it each week at the grocery store) story of a half human, half bat hybrid. When the “Bat Boy” (Calvin Vo) is found in the caves near Hope Falls, West Virginia, he is brought to the Parker’s house. Dr. Parker (Mike Shultz) is the local vet and the sheriff is sure he’ll know what to do with the creature. The town is in quite a panic since it appears that all of the local livestock is dying off, and they are ready to blame anyone… or anything! But Shelley (the Parker’s daughter, played by Becca Meumann Johnson) and Mrs. Meredith Parker (Jenny Winn) take a liking to the Bat Boy, whom Meredith names Edgar. The family keep the boy, and begin to teach him how to be civilized, though it seems like Meredith and Dr. Parker seem to know something that we don’t. But when the town finds out they don’t approve and insist that Edgar remain locked up, especially during the towns revival coming up. The good doctor gives his “word of honor” that Edgar will not attend but that doesn’t sit well with Meredith, Shelley, or Edgar for that matter. He wants to go badly. The three of them side against the doctor, causing something within the man to snap. He plans his revenge against Bat Boy as he begins to frame Edgar for murder and the killing of the local cattle! For the rest of the show we see Bat Boy being chased around by crazed towns people, while experiencing true love for the first time… (I’m really trying not to laugh while thinking about that.) It all leads to an big shock reveal about who Edgar really is and an operatic finale for the ages!

This play… is absolute lunacy. Just total, and utter hogwash. But that is what makes it so enjoyable. It’s the best of what makes dark comedy so great. It’s crazy, random, and out there while still keeping the tone dark and disturbing. This production really seemed to hone in on the ridiculousness of the concept and played it up to the utmost. At the same time, the QC Workshop is held in a really intimate black box like space- so while being over the top they knew how to handle levels during the show and really let those softer moments pop and reel you in.  It seemed like they had a really tight vision with this production, and it worked.

The choice of double casting worked in the absurdity’s favor, much like most of the shows decisions. There were only a few moments in the show that I felt like it was “too much” and it kind of took me out of the action taking place on stage, and that was usually when a quick change couldn’t be pulled off fast enough and the actors had to change on stage. But for the most part it was awesome, and the actors had some mad skills changing their persona’s for each character making each one unique in their own way.

This is actor Calvin Vo’s second outing at BatBoy, having portrayed the character before in Augustana’s production. I must say that acting opposite Calvin during the production is something I remember quite fondly. He’s a great actor with amazing skills, and watching him in this show strengthen’s that belief. He was able to take a character that he has portrayed before and make him entirely different. There is much more of a classic “Frankenstein monster” evolution with this Bat Boy I feel. The people view him as a monster no matter what he does, even when he is doing nothing. A prime example is a scene where Bat Boy is in a cage and the arrogant teen Rick (played by Aaron Lord) inspects him. Bat Boy only leans in slowly for a sniff and Rick freaks out. In Augustana’s version he was a lot more of a brutal, feral animal as Bat Boy from the get go. He lashed out at people every chance he got, and you really felt like that was who Bat Boy was deep down. In this production there is overwhelming humanity in the performance and Calvin plays him more like an injured dog, only lashing out when he feels threatened or protective. He’s less of a monster, and it’s really sad that he feels by the end that he needs to become a monster.

Mike Shultz’s performance as Dr. Parker is genuinely chilling and evil. A man driven by lust, love, and loss you do sympathize with the man on some level but… damn, what a creep. And Shultz plays it with such a Lector-esque relish that you can’t look away and your full attention is on the man almost every second he is on stage. Shultz is in it every step of the way, and his gradual decent into madness throughout the show is quite entertaining to watch.

Jenny Winn also gets a shout out as Meredith. Her passion for her family is genuinely felt through her portrayal of the character.  I feel like this character would walk through hell and back for her family, and do anything it takes to make them happy or to protect them. But then when all hell breaks loose she just has that slight touch of madness in her as well (you know, come to think of it… madness must just be a Parker family trait.)

Becca Maumann Johnson plays Shelly Parker with a sincere innocence that was enduring. She created a lovable character that really grew from being another towns person who hated Edgar to, really, the only person who loved him in the end. Aaron Lord did a great job as the “tough guy” Rick but I feel like he really shinned as Lorraine, one of the towns women who tends to like to gossip. Keenen Wilson was a joy every second of stage time no matter the character, but especially his super interactive and vibrant portrayal of  Rev. Hightower. Dat voice. Brant Peitersen really played a sheriff torn apart by his own morals and the towns people. Macy Hernandez and Ty Lane offered some very solid variety of characters ranging from Hernandez’s seemingly collected yet overly worried town mayor and Lane’s hickish rancher Bud. And then there is Kailey Ackermann and her exuberant and vivacious god of nature, Pan.

While we are on the subject of Pan, I do want to give kind of a fair warning that there are elements of this show that make it more of a “PG-13 nature.” It’s mostly due to the “Children, Children”/Pan scene in the second act of the show. But it also deals with (even though they are portrayed absurdly) very violent and adult elements, especially when dealing with Bat Boy’s origins.

The stage design was simplistic, yet really effective. Parts of the stage opened up and parts came out to form different set pieces utilized in various locations for different proposes. Also the use of the screen in the center of the stage was very effective especially during the flashback scenes at the end of the play. The way they were staged was fantastically hilarious.

While some of the cast defiantly were not always on pitch with the songs, they defiantly gave it their all and frankly I think it added to the hilarity of the overall show. This show isn’t your a-typical musical, and there fore I don’t think it should be held to the typical standards. I’m sure there are people who disagree but I think if the singing had been perfect it would have been kind of distracting to be. The rest of the show is supposed to be absurd so why shouldn’t the singing?

The musical accompaniment was awesome through and through though. I especially loved the use of guitar as the more sinister parts of the play. It was really belted and dark, and really added that layer of menace to the score.

All in all it was a fantastic show. Truth be told I feel like you really have to appreciate this type of dark comedy and absurdity to like the show, especially this production of it. It’s defiantly not for those who are looking for a “cultured” theatrical experience. It’s raunchy, dark, and gruesome. But I greatly encourage anybody even remotely interested to check it out. It’s such a blast to watch, especially with a good audience. QC Workshop has a great track record with it’s shows, and Bat Boy:The Musical continues that path, even though it’s wrong…. so wrong!

Show Dates and Times:

Friday, October 31: 7:30pm
Saturday, November 1: 7:30pm
Sunday, November 2: 3:00pm

Friday, November 7: 7:30pm
Saturday, November 8: 7:30pm
Sunday, November 9: 3:00pm

Run time: Two hours fifteen minutes, including intermission.

Price:

Pay What It’s Worth“. Patrons see the show first, then pay afterward based on what they feel the experience was worth and their own ability to pay.

Seats do sell out but you can make reservations by emailing

info@QCTheatreWorkshop.org and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • The date of the performance you would like to attend
  • Number of seats to be reserved
  • Your phone number

http://www.qctheatreworkshop.org/index.html