Goth Chick News: Finishing Out “The Season” at the Holiday Horror Con

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Holiday Horror Con 2019-small

Last week I told you about how BG reader R.K. Robinson gave me a bit of grief for writing about Halloween in March. The fact this column is entitled Goth Chick News aside, I couldn’t help but drag him into the coverage of what is normally the last show of “the season.” Days of the Dead used to be where our road-tripping to various horror-related events ended for the year, and we settled into a long winter of Netflicking and reading before picking it all up again at the Halloween Attractions Association show in March; which is where RK came in.

However, this year BG photog Chris Z and I got an offer we could not refuse; not the least of which because it provided a perfect opportunity to offer RK a further extension of the Halloween season. That and because covering a show of this type the weekend after Thanksgiving when the Christmas décor is dripping from everywhere was just too appealing.

Enter the Holiday Horror Con.

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Goth Chick News: It’s Not Over Yet! Days of the Dead Lurches into Chicago

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Days of the Dead 2019

I will start this week’s article with a shout out to Black Gate reader R.K. Robinson who posted “It’s only March!” on my coverage of the Haunted Association and Attractions show. Apparently, he is genuinely unaware that “the season” begins with the HAA which often happens in February (it was late this year) and generally goes all the way into November, ending with Days of the Dead. However, in honor of R.K., Black Gate photog Chris Z and I have accepted an invitation to cover the Holiday Horror Con taking place this weekend outside of Chicago, officially extending “the season” into December.

Next week our Holiday Horror Con coverage will be dedicated to R.K.

But this week we’re talking Days of the Dead (or DotD for you cool kids) and the fabulous event that it was last weekend.

DotD is a horror and pop culture convention with annual stops in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Charlotte, wrapping up its tour in Chicago. Due to its increasing popularity, the 2019 event here was moved to a bigger hotel venue then in the past, and from the looks of it, probably needs to upsize again next year. As always, DotD attracted an impressive list of celebrity guests including Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws), Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Police Academy) and Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator) among many others. Additionally, there were over 100, horror-themed vendors selling everything from jewelry to movie memorabilia. What is especially wonderful about DotD in Chicago is the amount of material we always get from meeting indie filmmakers, new artists and aspiring writers.

That, and the opportunity to do a bit of holiday shopping…

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Goth Chick News: Thanksgiving History Makes for a Horror Feast

Thursday, November 21st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick News Pilgrims-small

Considering all the stories one hears about how stressful Thanksgiving family time can be, it’s surprising that the annual bacchanalia of feasting and intoxicated relatives has not been fodder for more Thanksgiving-themed horror movies. There have been a few of course, such as Home Sweet Home and Thankskilling, but they have been campy and largely forgettable, in spite of the bewildering amount of material to work with.

But, as we reported last week, Jason Blum and his crew at Blumhouse Productions are on a very entertaining roll turning your cherished memories upside down. Last year they joined forces with Hulu for an analogy project called Into the Dark, dedicated to releasing holiday-themed horror films every month. Blumhouse’s Thanksgiving offering for 2019 will likely go down in history as the best Thanksgiving-horror movie tie in ever.

In a collaboration between screenwriter Noah Feinberg and the writing duo Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (Feast, Saw IV-VII) Pilgrim isn’t just a horror story that happens to be set during Thanksgiving, but instead is a film steeped in Thanksgiving history and tradition; all of which is perversely twisted for our enjoyment.

A woman invites Pilgrim re-enactors into her home to give her family an authentic recreation of the first Thanksgiving, all in the hopes that they’ll put down their phones, cast their differences aside, and learn to truly appreciate one another – if only for a couple days. But when the actors refuse to ever break character and their behavior becomes increasingly concerning, the lessons they bring may come at a deadly cost.

Not long after daughter Cody wishes on a turkey wishbone that her step-mother’s Thanksgiving plans backfire in her face, Pilgrims Ethan (Peter Giles) and Patience (Elyse Levesque) arrive at the family’s home and her fears (and wishes) come true. Ethan and Patience represent Puritanical extremism at its most frightening and aren’t afraid to get a whole lot of blood on their hands in the process of spreading their message. Their mission is simple: make the family appreciate what they’ve got.

Check out the trailer….

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Goth Chick News: Welcome to Fantasy/Horror Island…

Thursday, November 14th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Fantasy Island-small

If you’re not familiar with the fairly cheesy but no less iconic television series Fantasy Island (1977-1984), you immediately need to find it on your favorite streaming service and watch a few episodes. I found at least a few of the 286 installments for free on YouTube and those should be enough to hook you as well as give you the context for the most awesome news since Elsa got drunk and crapped up Chicago with 4 inches of snow.

The storyline was fairly simple. The incredibly wealthy and mysterious Mr. Roarke, played perfectly by the exotically-accented Ricardo Montalban, has a tropical island. In each episode he hosts several guests who have come there to live out their most secret fantasies. Mr. Roarke and his rather adorable but equally creepy sidekick “Tattoo” played by Hervé Villechaize, magically transport each guest into their fantasy where they routinely learn a hard lesson / get their comeuppance / get their heart’s desire, etc, etc.

Now, even my grade-school self who was obsessed with this show, wondered why these fantasies were always so G-rated, even if they sometimes bordered on scary. Like most kids I had stumbled across and snuck looks at verboten material and understood in a small way that the dark recesses of the human imagination were far murkier than finally showing up the high school cheerleader who was always more popular than you, by become a millionaire business woman. In college, Fantasy Island occasionally cropped up in discussion as we mulled over what would actually go on if a place like this really existed. And having run across the show on late night reruns, my adult self immediately wondered why some enterprising film maker had never explored that exact question. I figured there had to be some legal hang up somewhere.

And now this.

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Goth Chick News: Fantasticland Is Well… Fantastic

Thursday, November 7th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Fantasticland-smallA couple months back, before the insanity of “the season” got into full swing, my Amazon account hit on an incredibly spot-on recommendation. Under the “ you might like” section was a book I had not come across previously; Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven. I opted for the audio book, as the description made it seem like a fine way to spend my daily hellacious commute in Chi-town traffic.

Since the 1970s, FantasticLand has been the theme park where “Fun is Guaranteed!” But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees find it anything but fun. Five weeks later, the authorities who rescue the survivors encounter a scene of horror. Photos soon emerge online of heads on spikes outside of rides and viscera and human bones littering the gift shops, breaking records for hits, views, likes, clicks, and shares. How could a group of survivors, mostly teenagers, commit such terrible acts?

Presented as a fact-finding investigation and a series of first-person interviews, FantasticLand pieces together the grisly series of events. Park policy was that the mostly college-aged employees surrender their electronic devices to preserve the authenticity of the FantasticLand experience. Cut off from the world and left on their own, the teenagers soon form rival tribes who viciously compete for food, medicine, social dominance, and even human flesh. This new social network divides the ravaged dreamland into territories ruled by the Pirates, the ShopGirls, the Freaks, and the Mole People. If meticulously curated online personas can replace private identities, what takes over when those constructs are lost?

FantasticLand is a modern take on Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale that probes the consequences of a social civilization built online.

Fantasticland might end up at the top of my 2019 reading list. As a frequent visitor to Disney World in Florida, the parallels are entirely obvious, though Disney is presented as a competitor to Fantasticland.

The story is biting social commentary which explores themes we have all thought about – what would happen if our technology-rich environment was suddenly gone? It probes the prejudices, harassment and bullying that is all too frequent in today’s headlines, but pushes each to its most horrifying extreme. For me, it was all the more terrible taking place, as it was, against a backdrop that was the antithesis of all things negative; “where fun is guaranteed.”

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Goth Chick News: Count(ing) Dracula – There’s Always Room for One More

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Every Night is Halloween

First off, being today is the holiday around which the entire Goth Chick News year revolves, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! The Black Gate offices are positively awash in cobwebs and black candles, while the adult beverage maker is blending at top speed. It’s causing a brown out in the executive suite but is also serving to drown out John O shouting about not being able to hear his Robots of Gotham audio book. Black Gate photog Chris Z, who is wearing a Devil’s Rejects tee shirt with his kilt and army boots, is hosting a screening of Zombeavers for the interns, and the whole place smells like Fireball whiskey and pumpkin spice.

And never mind it’s snowing in Chicago…

So, before I head out to the Uber for my 24-hour bacchanalia of decadence marking October 31st, I had to take the time to give you this one tib bit of (hopefully) good news.

As you may or may not be aware, Dracula has headlined no less than 61 films since Mr. Stoker first introduced him to us in 1897. There has literally been a Dracula for all times and cultures, appearing on the big screen and small, and telling us about the children of the night in literally dozens of languages. But today we get a glimpse into the fanged-one’s spiritual homecoming. Though the vampire made his home in Transylvania, Dracula as a character was born in Cruden Bay, Scotland rooting his literary origins firmly in the U.K. and it is from London where he is once again being reborn.

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Goth Chick News: Beating You to Halloween… Literally

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist



Every year around the time of my favorite holiday season, reports make the news about “extreme” haunted attractions. This sort of thing is so far beyond your local Jaycee’s haunted house that putting them in the same category is just this side of dangerous.

Why, you ask?

Because around 10 years ago, someone decided jump scares and fake blood was no longer doing the trick when it came to getting one’s heart and adrenaline racing. Actually, the original someone’s were the proprietors of Blackout who launched their sadomasochistic experience in 2009 immediately attracting a very enthusiastic fanbase. For $50 and your signature on a waiver, you embarked on an hour-long odyssey which required a “safe word” in case you had enough of being screamed at, choked, blasted with a fire hose, and having all five of your rational senses otherwise assaulted.

I remain conflicted about what to think of this whole thing, mainly because getting scared — whether at the movies or attending an October event — is generally a safe version of escapism. I mean, the chance of zombies actually chasing you is relatively low in real life.


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Goth Chick News: When the Size of Your Spirit Matters

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Giant Ouija Board 2

Long before the Travel Channel’s obsession with spirits and professional ghost hunters, folks in the mid-1800’s became obsessed with spiritualism and all it’s trappings. Among the ‘spirit photography,’ levitating tables, and crystal balls, perhaps the most famous and long-lasting are ‘talking boards.’

First appearing around 1848, talking boards were used to summons and communicate with spirits. Most Americans, especially anyone who has ever attended a teenage sleepover, are aware of the most famous talking board, Ouija, which was first introduced in 1890 by the Kennard Novelty Company and sold today by Hasbro, Inc. These days there is even an organization in Massachusetts called Talking Board Historical Society, whose mission is to research, preserve, and celebrate the history of talking boards along with the people who continue to use them.

Now, just in time for Halloween, the Talking Board Historical Society have gone and outdone themselves by breaking a world record with “Ouijazilla,” officially declared by Ripley’s as being the world’s largest Ouija board.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sitting there absorbing the fact there was even a Ouija board record to be broken, but moving on…

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Goth Chick News: Universal Studio’s HHN 29; The Real Horror Was the Cost

Thursday, October 10th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Universal Halloween Horror Nights 2019-small

Last month I told you how I was hopefully looking forward to having another look at Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN for you cool kids). I say “hopefully” because my last visit there three years ago pretty much put me off what had been one of my all-time favorite Halloween events. Lack of adequate crowd control, lousy foot-traffic patterns and an event that was way oversold, took what should have been thrilling haunted attractions and turned them into real nightmare for anyone not enamored of being pressed against a lot of other sweaty bodies in 93-degree-plus heat.

But this year’s offering was too tempting to pass up and I decided to give HHN 29 another go at the end of September. Now remember, Universal has been doing this for 29 years and with attractions themed off Stranger Things and Ghostbusters, anticipation was high.

So, how’d it go you ask?

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Goth Chick News: “Fright Fest?” I’ll Be the Judge of That…

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick 2019 Six Flag Fright Fest

Every September for the last 20+ years, “The Season” has begun the same way – with a special sneak preview event at our local Chicagoland Six Flags amusement park called Fright Fest. Saying I look forward to this is a significant understatement. Like the whole kid calendar revolving around Christmas in A Christmas Story, the whole Goth Chick year revolves around Halloween, and Fright Fest has historically been the high-water mark that kicks off the festivities.

Though every year has not necessarily been created equal,  one can usually expect copious decorations, a large number of staff in very high quality costumes (the Edward Scissorhands of one past year is still one of the best I’ve seen), and multiple themed “zones” throughout the park such as an alien zone, a zombie zone, etc, where everything is kicked up a notch. Some years back, Six Flags made the patron-sensitive decision to split the park in half for the protection of younger visitors. Enter the gate and go right, the experience is of more the pumpkin and skeleton varieties; go left, and a very high-quality wolfman could chase you half a city block. In other words, the experience was definitely “adult.” In addition, there were 5 to 6 “haunted houses” each year, again, ranging in intensity. However, the “headliner” houses, of which there were usually two, were high-quality experiences with good special effects, great décor and plenty of actors delivering the scares.

Alas, that was previous years.

Though Fright Fest 2018 had shown a marked decline, I didn’t want to call it a trend after one season. However, this year clinched it and I could not be sadder.

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