Monday, October 12, 2015

Countdown to Halloween Day 12: The Brewer Witches and Alien Resurrection

Hello ladies and gentlemen! It's day 12 of my Countdown to Halloween here on the blog, and today I want to show you some Halloween-y finds I brought home from the Brewer, ME store just a few weeks back. 

Here's a quick look at the whole pile of stuff. Without any further ado, let's start digging in with a look at some of the book finds.

"Stories of Ghosts, Witches, and Demons" was intended for the Halloween pile, but I don't know if I'll have time to fit it in at this point, to be honest. "The Time of the Vampires" looks a little sketchy to be honest, and I'm definitely not trying to get to it this year. It kind of looks like it might just be a collection of vamire stories for fans of the Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake books... and while I'm not against those in any way (I was a Southern Vampire fan for a few books before I got a bit bored or burned out or both) I'm just not sure t's worth me panicking over this year. Maybe next year.

But then, speaking of next year... I am seriously toying around with the idea of populating a Halloween Read Pile with nothing but horror movie novelizations. I Just might try it. With "Lifeforce" and "Jaws" here, and the healthy pile of books I've managed to accumulate, I'm certainly off to a good start.

I was delighted to find this megaphone of the Brewer Witches in a nice Halloween-y orange and black. This is indeed the mascot of Brewer High School, the same town where this Goodwill is located. I did a quick search to see if there is any background on why the school chose a witch as its mascot, and came up fairly empty handed. But it matters not! This thing has some nice local flair, and lends itself to this time of year nicely.

Finally... This. I bought this. As you can see, I paid FIVE DOLLARS for it. Friends of mine told me I sorely overpaid for this item, and I kid of agreed, even as I was debating this purchase in the store. This is a "Call" action figure of Wynona Rider's character from "Alien: Resurrection". But here's the thing: I don't actually hate Alien Resurrection as much as everybody else seems to. I kind of liked it in fact... or at least as far as I can remember. I liked the new Ripley. I liked Call. Storywise and tone-wise it veers wildly from the track of the first three films... exactly the way all three of those films differ wildly from one another storywise and tone-wise. The first movie is a slasher flick. The second one is a sci-fi war movie. The third is a prison film. And Resurrection is... well it is what it is.

Plus dig these accessories! We have a face hugger splayed out and aggressive looking, and a chest burster baby alien! Plus some nifty guns too.

The likeness isn't 100% selling me that this is a Wynona Rider action figure, to be honest, which is a little disappointing. But at least maybe I won't have to worry about it shoplifting all my stuff.

In this scene she says the classic line "Aren't you a little short for a xenomorph?" I was a little disappointed to discover Call is much taller than the xenomorph figure I have in my collection. Ah well, c'est la vie. I don't remember those wrist spikes being a thing in the movie. Am I crazy? Did she have some sort of wrist spike thing she used to interface with computers maybe?

Anyway... that's it for tonight kids! I'll be back sooner than you can say "Wait, did he just say he LIKES Alien Resurrection!?" with more Gibbering Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!

Remember, I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Countdown to Halloween Day 11: Anthologies - Ghosts, Monsters, and... Weenies?

Hey there kids! Today let's flip through the pages of a few short story anthologies I've picked up specifically for this year's Halloween Read Pile. 

Here we have a group shot of the four books I'll be highlighting, two books each from two different series of books. Bruce Coville's "Book of..." series, and David Lubar's "Weenies" series. Let's dig right in and get talking spooky stories shall we?

In the "Land of the Lawn Weenies" does not look at first glance like it would be a good Halloween read. I think I often passed over the Weenies books over the years because I assumed they were comedy anthologies. But in fact, the complete opposite is true. Lubar's shorter-than-short tales in the two books I'm featuring here are quite effective. They remind me quite a lot of the stories found in "Half Minute Horrors" which I picked up and read last year.

I felt like "Land of the Lawn Weenies," Lubar's first foray into Weenies territory, is a bit stronger than the other Weenies book I picked up, which I'll talk about below. The stories are unexpectedly bizarre, often deliciously mean-spirited, and some of them border on being genuinely disturbing.

Stories like "The Slide" and "Smunkies" stand out for the feeling that dread that Lubar builds up over the course of a very short period of time, and "Join the Party" manages to be just a little spooky while also being kind of an uplifting, bittersweet story. I felt like "The Evil Tree" and "The Language of Beasts" were a little weak, but almost all of the stories were enjoyable and over in the blink of the eye before I was shuttled along to the next.

There are currently seven books in the Weenies series, and "The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies" is the one smack-dab in the middle and number four. And unfortunately, it feels a little bit like Lubar is writing a bit too much to cater to the format instead of simply writing stories that genuinely creep you out. There's six years between the two books I have here, and it feels like Lubar is kind of phoning this one in. There are still some great sotires to be found, but this one felt a bit more padded with filler than the previous one. He put out the most recent collection, number seven, in 2014, so I'd be curious to see how that one reads at this point.

There is some shivery fun to be found in "The Department Store," "Braces," and a few others I can't even really recall at the moment, but waaay more of these just fall under the jokey or bizarre category, and the story "Dear Author" just feels like a nasty jab at readers who send him story ideas, or who at least claim to have done so. I might still check out some of the other Weenies books based on my great enjoyment of the first book... but I don't expect much from the later volumes.

Bruce Coville is sort of the unsung, poor-man's R.L. Stine. I actually know him best from his "Into the Land of the Unicorns" series, which my daughter adored growing up... but he's also the guy who wrote all of those "My Teacher is an Alien!" books, and a bunch of Magic Shop books involving haunted or enchanted items bought from a magic shop (one of those, "the Monster's Ring" is a great Halloween read, although very similar to Stine's "The Haunted Mask") This "Book of..." anthology series is not solely written by him, which is a series that includes Books of: Aliens, Nightmares, Magic, Ghosts, Monsters, and Spine Tinglers. With many of those topics actually receiving second volumes as well, making for a total of somewhere around 10-12 books total.

This time around, I'm talking about the weaker book first. This "Book of Monsters" was a semi-fun read but ultimately I felt a little cheated by the end. Many of the stories are just kind of weak, or jokey, or feel like advertisements for other book series. And as much as I like creepy folktales, I like my folktales to actually be creepy, not just kind of a bland retelling. Even Jane Yolen's and Joe Lansdale's stories, (which were each a paltry almost-three pages long) while fun to read, and would have made nice pallet-cleansing stories in a different collection, are pretty much just monster jokes. On the other hand...

Bruce Coville's "Book of Ghosts" had a much better pay-off. There weren't many duds in this collection at all. Almost all of the stories had some sort of spook-factor to them. Even Coville's story, which included characters from some other book or story series, felt standalone and had some good moments of creep and bittersweetness to it.

There's some great talent collected together here as well. We see both Joe Lansdale and Jane Yolen again, who are both personal favorites, and the ghost story maven, Mary Downing Hahn contributes a tale as well. "The Ghost in the Summer Kitchen" was a very nice tale, if slightly predictable, and "For Love of Him" by Vivian Vande Velde actually turned up later in a different anthology in my Halloween Read Pile, and I read through the story both times I liked it so much. I recommend this one very highly!

Overall, I recommend Coville's "Book of Ghosts" and Lubar's "Land of the Lawn Weenies" especially if, like me, you like to gather together creepy collections of short stories for your Halloween reading.

That's it for tonight kids! I'll be back sooner than you're probably entirely comfortable with to share more Gobliny Goodwill Goodies!

And remember, I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Countdown to Halloween Day 10: Boo! Treat Pail, Slime, Baby Devil, Tiki Heads, and More!

Welcome back kids! Today we're going to take a look at a few Goodwill finds I recently made in the Halloween sections of the Bangor, ME store in their Halloween section! 

There's actually two group shots here to show everything off. It just all looked really crowded in one giant shot so I tried to break it up a little. 

As you can see there was quite a lot of fun stuff I discovered, so let's check it all out! 

This first one I hemmed and hawed over whether to include it with the Halloween stuff or not. In the end I decided to go for it. We'll pretend he's your brother-in-law, Gary, dressed up for a Halloween Party. In reality this is "Gustaf" from the Marx Toys line of viking figurines. There's not year stamped on the base, so I have no idea when this was produced. I really like the old-style feel of these Marx figures though.

This is more like it! This adorable baby devil dances when you place it in direct sunlight. I could honestly do without the base completely though. Or it would have been nicer in black. The devil is just the freaking cutest! I have a little devil collection going and this fits in quite nicely.

This ghostly fellow is a Mars Trick or Treat Pail! He used to have a Snickers sticker to make it look like he was holding a Snickers bar. The fact that it wa missing was almost a deal breaker for me. I felt bad leavng him behind though... and so I got an idea:

So I patched him up! It doesn't fit perfectly, but for my purposes he's just fine. My wife has the goblin holding the Three Musketeers Bar, so now all I have to do is track down the Pumpkin pail holding a Milky Way Bar and I'll have all three!

This was a nice surprise! In with the DVDs I found a copy of "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" which I will be watching with my boys this season!

Anything "Eerie Indiana" related gets an automatic pass into my shopping basket at Goodwill. So "Bureau of Lost" was a no-brainer. And "The Slime That Ate Crestview" has a couple of things going for it. First, it's about a blob-monster (a mold/slug/hybrid to be clear) and those are some of my favorite kinds of monsters. Secondly, it was written by Jahnna N. Malcom (which is actually a married couple, not an individual) who wrote the excellent "Scared Stiff" which I bought and read last year as a part of last year's Halloween Read Pile. This Slime book went onto this year's pile and was devoured in less than a day. While it wasn't quite the same caliber of creepy as "Scared Stiff" it was still a very fun read.

"Alfred Hitchcock's Daring Detectives" wasn't quite Halloween-y enough to make it into the read pile this year, but it's Halloween-y enough to share with you here! I have made it a new hobby of mine to collect anthologies presented by Alfred Hitchcock. Since last year I've accumulated a total of about 10-12 or so books. I have yet to be disappointed reading one of these volumes, and I actually have 4 different books on the Halloween read pile from the Alfred Hitchcock library.

I thought this book, "Death Watch" from The Undertaken Trilogy looked interesting. It has all to do with death, the afterlife, and the chosen few that protect the border between the two? Maybe? Or maybe not that at all. Anyway, it sounded interesting. And I can't resist a movie novelization even if it is for "Van Helsing" which I've never watched all the way through.

THESE GUYS! These looked fun, and though my original plan was to only pick up the green and white ones, the whole set begged me to bring it home, so I did. Only the black one on the far right was actually in the Halloween merchandise. The others were actually scattered all over the store, one in the toy department, and the other two on end caps near the front registers. These are some sort of custom jobs as they have artist stickers on the bottoms, identifying who did the paint jobs: The first one in brown was done by Craig Judd, the green and white were done by Larry Salazar, and the black one had no identifying sticker, but looking them up online it looks like another Salazar too. These things are called Hot Rod Underground Tikis and they come in about 4 different sculpts, and several different paint designs from different artists. While these are more items I don't 100% consider to be Halloween, I felt like they fit well enough.

A Darth Vader trick or treat pail came home as well. I don't really have a ton to say about this one, honestly. There it is.

Finally, it is a rare day when I manage to find a John Bellairs book that I don't already own. So "The Dark Secret of Weatherend" was a pleasant surprise indeed! "Horror Show: Terror in the Mirror and Other Stories" just might make it into this year's Halloween read pile... but it also might not. We'll see. It's pretty BOOKED up already! Ha! See what I did there?

Well that's it for tonight kids! I'll be back soon with more Grizzly Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!

(UPDATE!!! Dex of AEIOU and Sometimes Why has posted an interview with me as a part of his Halloween Web series! Please be sure to go give that a look, as well as all of the other interviewees has already featured, and will continue to feature throughout the month!)

I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Countdown to Halloween Day 9: Anthologies - Monsters "Small Blessings"

Hey there everybody! Today I want to get back to TV anthology shows for another look-see. 

Monsters was an anthology show that lasted for 3 seasons. It was pretty low-budget and had some pretty awful episodes, but it also had some incredibly fun and memorable episodes regardless of its handicaps.

The opening sequence was one of the best aspects of the show to be honest. It features a family of suburban monsters huddling around the TV in the living room to watch their favorite TV show: Monsters! The mother and daughter appear to be from a Ray Harryhausen pedigree, with their horns and cyclopeon eyes. 

The father is a potato-headed lumpy mass with one normal arm and one arm that looks more like a gnarled tentacle. They settle in with their assortment of disgusting snacks for a shared family viewing of the show. And the episode I want to talk about today is "Small Blessings," which really stood out to me as a kid. This is a pretty fun one, honestly. It's all very tongue-in-cheek, played for laughs, and full of some pretty subtle humor mixed with some fairly blunt sight gags.

For an episode of Monsters, it's honestly a bit tame... but it does have some bite... Julie Brown plays new mother, Wendy. I remember the fact that Julie Brown was doing an episode of the show was a really big deal to me at the time. I knew her from MTV and from Earth Girls Are Easy, and she was funny as heck!

It isn't clear what's so different about Wendy's situation right away compared to most new mothers. The viewer KNOWS something is off because 1) they won't let us see the baby as Wendy is trying to convince it to sleep and 2) this is "Monsters".

We soon find out that baby Eric is a fanged, meat-hungry freak baby. His parents love him regardless, though Dad Louis (played by Kevin Nealon) is much more accepting of their bundle of joy than Wendy is. Wendy is having a hard time accepting Eric for who he is, considering baby Eric has been known to disfigure visiting relatives that get their ears too close to his mouth.

For the most part, Eric is played by a fake looking series of dolls. There are a few close up shots that Look a bit better... but if you're looking for sharp, polished effects here... move on. You just have to kind of go with the flow on this one.

Eric is quite the handful. He almost never sleeps. He regularly breaks out of his crib and gets into mischief (like on the ceiling above) and unlike most cranky newborns, Eric was born with a full set of sharp teeth and a hunger for: 

Raw meat! In fact, the meat delivery boy (played by David Spade) comments on how much meat the family has begun buying. Wendy just despairs over the fact that there are only so many ways she can serve raw meat to her hungry boy. 

Unfortunately, it turns out that several pets, and even some people, have been the victims of horrible violence just recently. And Wendy suspects Eric is the culprit. Especially one night when he gets loose and shows up on the front porch with a neighbor's half-eaten pooch. 

In one of the episode's funniest moments, we see Wendy welding a cage in Eric's nursery to keep him contained while dad tries to comfort the child. Domestic bliss! 

But then plot twist!!! Wendy discovers it ISN'T Eric after all whose been going on the killing spree! It's actually Teddy, the meat delivery boy! He's a psycho and he wants to become a famed serial killer! 

Lucky for Wendy, either her welding skills are crap, or Eric is just getting stronger and more aggresiv by the day, or both... because Eric hears Teddy menacing his Momma and breaks free!

The inanimate doll that is obviously NOT a baby of any kind takes a bite of Teddy's leg and sends him running for the hills. Wendy finally accepts Eric in her heart when she realizes the baby loves her too despite his... abnormalities.

Now honestly, David Spade's character should NOT have escaped. It is my one major gripe about this episode. I don't even care that the baby looks fake! It's kind of funnier that way! But Teddy should have been straight up eaten by Eric the monster baby. There is no excuse for not having the episode end that way. Wendy and Louis could still share the warm embrace with their freakish son while he was contentedly digesting a belly-full of meat-delivery boy. Where was this episode's sense of ironic justice!? Could they seriously not have picked up a plastic Halloween skeleton, squirted some blood all over it, and draped Teddy's signature apron over it? It could have been EPIC. But overall, I forgive it for just being so stupid and fun to watch. You can tell Nealon really has some fun delivering his lines defending little Eric, and Julie Brown actually does a great job acting as Wendy the beleaguered mom. overall, I would recommend this episode, but caution viewers to keep their expectations loooow. A lot like many of the other episodes of Monsters actually. But therein lies its charm.

That's it for today kiddos! I'll be back soon with more Grizzly Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!

I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Countdown to Halloween Day 8: Garfield, Lego Monster 4, and More!

Welcome back! Today we're looking at some more cool Goodwill finds I brought home to celebrate this Halloween season! 

Just a small pile of items today, so here's your first glimpse... Let's dig in!

A couple of book pick-ups include a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories in "The Tomb and Other Tales" and "The Eye of the Warlock" by P.W. Catanese. I read "The Thief and the Beanstalk" by Catanese, and really enjoyed it. This Eye of the Warlock book is somehow related to the tale of Hansel and Gretel in the same way the other book was related to Jack and the Beanstalk.

Next up we have this Monster Maker card game from Buffalo Games. This one looks like fun, and one I can maybe even play with my kids!

Each of the 5 monsters you try to assemble as a part of the card game gets their own biography that lets you know a little bit about each of their likes and dislikes.

Can't wait to try this one out as it looks silly and fun and not too hard to learn.

I also brought home a stuffed Garfield toy because I almost never say no to Garfield. He is such an integral part of my childhood and of my Halloween that I consider this guy to be a bit of a Halloween decoration in and of himself. Here he is sizing up my little Halloween Garfield PVC figure (I got that on eBay and he is a German import apparently... that figure is one of my most prized possessions.)

Finally, I picked up a copy of LEGO's Monster 4, which was miraculously COMPLETE! No missing pieces or materials whatsoever!

The game was already mostly assembled for me, so it didn't take too much effort to get together.

 I figured that even if I didn't end up liking the game, I could use all of the monster heads included in the box as game pieces to build monster mini-figures, and there would be no loss either way.

Turns out, the game is pretty great, and simple enough that my 4 year old picked up the rules very quickly and BEAT ME two out of three times! Turns out it's a slightly more complicated version of Connect Four.

There's a die you piece together, and a spider that hops around the grave yard, scaring your monsters away. It's a lot of fun, very fast paced, and can be as simple or complicated as you make it, depending on what you roll and where you place your pieces. Very happy I picked this one up for several different reasons!

That's it for today kids! But I'll be back soon with more Grody Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!

I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.
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