Thursday, April 16th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Last week I mentioned running into Mike “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and his crew at the HAA in St. Louis. Fitz is the proprietor of Evil Intentions, a haunted attraction housed in the former Elgin Metal Casket Company in the suburbs of Chicago and during what is now the off-season, Fitz has opened the place up for paranormal investigations.
When we visited Evil Intentions last fall we agreed it was one of the best experiences of the dozen or so haunts we attended, mainly because of Fitz’s “low tech” approach which allowed the utter creepiness of the building to play a central role in the attraction. So I was entirely psyched when Fitz invited us to do a ride along during an upcoming investigation.
Mysteriously, BG photog Chris Z had a pressing engagement elsewhere, and perhaps not so unexpectedly, I could not solicit any of my colleagues to join me on this little outing. So it was down to me to go hang out in the abandoned casket company from 9 p.m. on a Friday night, to 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
Granted, the building does look even eerier in the middle of a March night while not decked out in all its Halloween lighting and finery. But the first thing I had to ask is why Fitz thought the place was haunted, just because it used to make coffins?
Apparently, it is a documented, historical fact that in 1890 a cemetery on the grounds became overcrowded and remains of early settlers were dug up and moved to the new Bluff City Cemetery less than a mile away.
Relocating bodies… Doesn’t it always start that way?
Thursday, April 9th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
For the fifteenth year, Transworld invited Black Gate back to cover one of the largest horror industry trade expos in the US; the Halloween and Attractions Show (“HAA”) in St. Louis, MO.
If you’ve ever wondered where the movie special effects guys go when they aren’t slinging gore for the latest scream-fest, then I can safely report that I know – they’re cooking up crazy makeup, animatronics and other visual gross-outs for the professional haunt industry.
The HAA is a “trade only” event, meaning the general public isn’t invited, but that didn’t stop a perpetual crowd from standing around outside the main entrance to the America’s Convention Center in order to get a glimpse of the attendees.
And as always, there is quite a lot to glimpse.
Over 250 exhibitors, some with what were essentially full-scale, mobile attractions, filled the cavernous convention space displaying everything from fog machines (with realistic “scents” – let’s just say yuck right here) to audio backgrounds and latex makeup elements to $15K+ robotic effects. As one attendee put it, “This is Christmas in March for everyone in the horror industry.”
Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Arnold Schwarzenegger may be back in his cold steel Terminator role later this year, but first it looks like he’s going to get all warm and gooey.
In a new film called Maggie, Schwarzenegger plays a loving father to a teen daughter he’s doing his best to protect at the peak of a zombie apocalypse. When Maggie becomes infected, the all-consuming virus begins to transform her into an undead creature with a budding appetite for human brains. Wade stands by her and attempts to ward off the authorities who are trying to collect her for quarantine and termination. Though her condition worsens, Wade is firm in his love; although Maggie would like him to save himself from the disease that is undoing her humanity.
Schwarzenegger manages all this while dropping only a few manly tears and sporting a grief beard that would put Tyrion Lannister to shame; though I’ll bet you an adult beverage that sometime before the credits roll we’ll see Arnie doing what he does best, involving fire and heavy weaponry.
Freshman Henry Hobson is in the director’s chair, and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine and Zombieland) stars as Schwarzenegger’s ill-fated daughter. Maggie is scheduled to hit theaters May 8th.
Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
You may truly be unaware of this little tid bit, and no one would blame you if you were, but the Chia Pet has been around for almost 40 years.
Marketed by Joe Pedott’s California-based company Joseph Enterprises Inc., Pedott first learned about Chia Pets when he attended a housewares show in Chicago in 1977. But it wasn’t until that mind-worm of a catchphrase (“Ch-ch-ch-chia!”) and the release of the ram Chia Pet in 1982 that they became little terrracotta icons.
Chia Pets have managed to survive in exactly the same way that Pet Rocks and Beenie Babies have not. Maybe part of the reason for their longevity is that Chia Pets have kept pace with pop culture, with Chias hitting the market depicting everything from Disney characters to Looney-Tunes, The Simpsons to SpongeBob and recently, Duck Dynasty and President Obama.
So I considered it complete validation of my assertion that zombies are the current “it” monster — successfully unseating angsty, flannel-wearing vampires — when a Chia Zombie arrived at my door, direct from none other than Joseph Enterprises themselves.
You won’t see Chia Zombies around until fall, since Chias are traditionally only on store shelves for the holiday buying season, but I did find them on Amazon.
Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest
If you’re the kind of person who gets misty-eyed with nostalgia when you hear sitcom titles like Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Married With Children, then Wizard World’s Fan Fest which took place March 7-8 in Chicago would have been just the place for you.
And if you’re considering possible explanations for how the heck I ended up there (dragging BG photog Chris Z along for fun), the answer is no – I did not have a fever or a head injury.
There is a darn good explanation actually.
Fan Fest came to be when Bruce Campbell, the cult-favorite TV and movie actor, had to cancel his appearance at the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest because of a television commitment. The horror fest was scheduled to take place that weekend and Goth Chick News had been invited to attend.
“We knew we couldn’t continue to hold the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest without Bruce Campbell!” said Jerry Milani of Wizard Entertainment. “But it also seemed a shame to let the weekend go to waste, since we already had the date and the venue.”
And so, the idea of Fan Fest was born. Organizers quickly secured a lineup of actors along with celebrities from the comic-book and pro-wrestling worlds. (The Bruce Campbell event has been rescheduled to take place in August with Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con.)
Thursday, March 19th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
And so this happened last week…
John O (the big cheese): People probably imagined you lot (Photog Chris Z and I presumably – GC) are just hunkered down there in the subterranean offices of Black Gate sequestered with a blender, several bottles of adult beverages and the Roku horror channels.
John O: So – that’s not the image we want to portray here at Black Gate.
Me: We have an image…?
John O: OF COURSE WE HAVE AN IMAGE! Why can’t you be more like Scott Taylor?
Me: Who? Oh…you mean Art. Right. Wait, what was that first thing again?
John O: [insert unpublishable adult language] Would you please just go be visible somewhere? Be a reporter – get out in the field and report. That’s what Scott Taylor does. He reports… on art… for Black Gate.
Me: The ice machine is broken again.
John O: ARG! [insert more adult language and stomping up the stairs]
What John O doesn’t know but what — and I’m just guessing here — he wants to know, is the following.
Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
For all of you who daydreamed about what could have been, as far as the Alien franchise goes, today I bring you official glad tidings.
But first I must take you back to those dark days in 1992, and again in 1997 (forgetting the whole Aliens vs. Predators thing for a moment) when, following the beleaguered Ellen Ripley’s escape from LV-426 and its Xenomorph inhabitants, she found nothing but continued misery in the form of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection respectively.
Ripley repeatedly saved mankind from not only corporate tyranny, but from having our collective intestine ripped out as human incubators. But did she ever get a moment’s peace or happiness. Or for that matter, did the fans?
That would be a great big “no way.”
However, hope now springs eternal.
Last week Sigourney Weaver raised a collective cheer when she publicly announced the Alien franchise was now in the capable hands of District 9 director Neill Blomkamp; then doubled our joy by saying she’s looking forward to returning to her signature role of Ellen Ripley in a new installment of the science-fiction series.
Thursday, March 5th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Zombies continue their relentless, feet-shuffling domination of all things pop culture – proof (we continue to hope) that sparkly, angsty, Seattle vampires with sappy theme songs are staked for good.
One of many indications that our infectious love of the undead shows no signs of a cure is the proliferation of Walker Stalker Con, a convention spawned by and primarily dedicated to, AMC’s hit TV show The Walking Dead.
What started in Atlanta, GA (near where the show films) as a small fan convention organized by fanboy pod-casters James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, then spread to Chicago in 2014 and has now grown to a seven-city tour.
Walker Stalker Con is more than a standard fan convention. In the two Chicago events we have attended, Frazier and Nordhoff have managed to secure a sizable chunk of the cumulative cast of the show’s five seasons and space for “the talent” accounts for more than half of the convention floor.
In addition, the organizers strive to ensure all guests “come away feeling like they’ve had an amazing experience and became part of a greater community of zombie lovers!”
Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Poltergeist then and now
Poltergeist might have been the first time I was ever truly scared by a movie.
Of course I grew up on a solid diet of Universal Studios movie monsters along with an array of black and white horrors from Hammer shown on late-night TV. But in all of those, no matter how high the creep factor, it was fairly clear that these stories depicted reel reality, not real reality.
But then along came little Carol Anne Freeling and her off-air television.
Suddenly, all “real” scary stuff was up there on the screen; the craggy dead tree knocking against your bedroom window, lightning storms looming ever closer, the half-open closet door…
And the clown… under the bed.
I mean come on, Vincent Price as The Fly was enough to make you watch at least part of it through splayed fingers, but deep down you knew a fly with a human head was pretty darn unlikely.
But an evil clown under your bed? Entirely plausible.
To this day, even as low-tech as it now appears, Poltergeist still gives me a shudder. It knew what scared us alright.
So it is with some trepidation that I remind you that a reboot of Tobe Hopper’s original fright fest is due to hit theaters on July 24th, in 3D no less.
Thursday, February 12th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
Back at the 2013 Haunted Attractions Show we met the very talented and creative folks at AtmosFearFX Digital Decorations. These are the people responsible for the digital loops of various horror scenes which can be projected on any surface with stupendously unnerving results.
At this year’s Goth Chick News Zombie Apocalypse Party, Black Gate photog Chris Z., who does double duty as the resident technology guru (necessary due to John O’s regular “blue screens of death”), used AtmosFearFX’sZombie Invasion loop to create a Hollywood-worthy effect.
Covering a large window with rear projection cloth, he projected from the outside of the room. The result was life-sized zombies beating against the window leaving bloody hand prints before dragging themselves out of view.
The loop repeated with a timed frequency and with enough slight differences to be nothing short of perfect.
You know it’s a good effect when a guest asks where you hired the “people dressed as zombies hanging around out on the terrace and banging on the window.”
And just like a gift that keeps on giving, there’s no end of fun to be had once you make the nominal investment in a project (available on eBay) and the fabric which is available at most stores selling home theater equipment at around $10 a square foot.