In late 2010, planning was underway for a street hockey league which would be played at Mother Teresa Regional School in Atlantic Highlands. I was asked to be one of the founding coaches by Ann Margret and Vinny Duminski, whom I had met at Holy Family School in Union Beach back in 2007. There was a league there too, sponsored by the New Jersey Devils and their “Street Devils” program, and following the closing of that school in 2009, people split up and went their own ways. The Duminski’s waited a couple of years and then decided it was something that should continue. They were going to run the leagues themselves, which as you will see, was easier said than done.
The other day, I concluded the first of a four-part lecture series on the American Civil War for Brookdale. We started with the causes of the war and ended right at the start of the Peninsula Campaign. When it was over, a few participants came up to me to chat. Mainly a greeting, maybe saying they enjoyed it, or shared a trip they took to a battlefield. But the last person waited until everyone was gone. She said she had a question. “I didn’t want to ask this earlier because you know how people get, but do you see any similarities between now and right before the Civil War began?” My short answer was yes. She was no doubt referring to a few slides I had covering the antebellum years of our history, regarding differences in society. We seem to forget that the lines were not just drawn between pro and anti slavery, but the differences in lifestyles and views aside from that were just too great. Part of me wanted to relate it to now, but it was the first class and, well, you know how people get.
I have a love-hate relationship with alien/UFO shows on television. Some are credible and leave you pondering what is actually out there. Others make you want to grab a tin-foil helmet and lock yourself in the closet whilst sucking your thumb in a fetal position. Some of the old History Channel stuff was pretty good, such as UFO Files. Destination America even boasts Unsealed: Alien Files which can be a bit crazy but is actually entertaining. The show is only a half hour, so it’s over before you want to want to board the spaceship to Sinmorfitellia.
Every writer has an author who inspired them at a young age. For me, that person was William Peter Blatty. I’m not prolific by any means. I’ve written one book, have about a dozen manuscripts I started but never finished over the years, and a few more ideas I would like to see published at some point in my life before I kick the bucket. I always loved writing, but I never wanted to sit down and write a work of fiction until I read The Exorcist when I was 17 and a senior in high school.
As detailed earlier in the year, Don’t Go in the House is officially out on Blu-Ray via Scorpion Releasing. Things have been very cryptic lately with no news coming for months. Then Scorpion made a few posts on their Facebook page last week and voila, we have a release. Yesterday, December 5th is the official date. They are being kind enough to send me a free copy as well as one to keep on hand at the Strauss Mansion Museum, its filming location. We actually screened the film this past October and the event sold out. Like so sold out that we had people sitting on the floor and standing on the staircase in the foyer to catch a glimpse.
It may be the most confusing movie ever made. By no means is that a good thing here. It skips right past intriguing and mystifying and right to, “What the hell is going on?” In a way, it reminded me of Scream and Scream Again; a movie where we think we know what’s happening in the beginning, and then as the scenes and endless subplots get introduced, we get lost and it all falls apart. Chandler has the look and feel of a good detective story. Starring one of my favorite character actors, the underrated Warren Oates, we are expecting a rough and tumble, edgy plot with a decent level of violence. It never comes.
Meteor is one of those films that you can say was a victim of bad timing. The disaster genre of which this is a part was dead for years. On the flip-side, the special effects required for such a movie to be convincing and terrifying had not yet been developed for productions operating on a smaller scale budget. So, it relied on a star-studded cast to attempt to be successful, and failed miserably. Critics panned it, audiences hated it, and the film slipped into oblivion. American International Pictures went bankrupt shortly after. However, after watching it the other day, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. No, not in one of those so-bad-it’s-good kind of ways, but genuinely, sincerely liking it. Normally, a movie with a name and story like this would fall victim to my comical wrath. Not the case here. Instead, I find myself arguing why this is a good movie.
The rumors may have begun as early as 1990 when The Exorcist III immediately struggled at the box office and with critics. There was a superior cut called Legion somewhere out there, writer-director William Peter Blatty’s ultimate vision. As the years turned to more than two decades, fans anxiously waited. All they had were some screenshots, a few fleeting seconds in one of the early trailers which included footage not in the theatrical cut, and stories from people who had seen the script to ponder “what should have been”. It’s now 2016, and we have the cut of Legion. While it still seems a bit incomplete, we cannot be surprised. In an almost unprecedented move, Shout! Factory did what it could, using whatever footage they could find, and put it together in a way that the story would still make sense. Whether you like the finished product or not, after 26 years of waiting, their effort was more than commendable. While this does in fact bring about an end to the wondering, it also marks the end of an era: we may never again have a search for a “lost cut” of a feature film of this magnitude.
This might be the coziest horror movie you will ever see. The House That Dripped Blood takes place in the English countryside, in a beautiful cottage. It is an anthology film, with four different stories presented. Each have two things in common: the house in question and the untimely and bizarre fates of the person who purchased it. Though the title is literally dripping with images of gore and all sorts of violence, there is remarkably little blood on screen, if any. What we have here is an exercise in film marketing. Director John Duffell was even opposed to the title because it does not reflect the actual product. The film relies on terrific acting and a good story rather than gore to entertain. In fact, the film was originally passed with a grade acceptable for all audiences. The studio requested an X rating to give it a more violent allure. It is a similar situation to the film I previously reviewed: Horror Hotel (1960).
The haunted tours at the Strauss Mansion Museum this year were different. No script, no actors, no jump-scares or cheap thrills. Instead, we wanted to let our real ghosts do the talking. Myself along with other members of Ghosts on the Coast led five tours per night the last two weekends, approximately 45 minutes each. We started on the third floor in the Tower Room before working our way into the basement. Along the way, we told ghost stories and experiences which occurred in the museum over the years, reviewed evidence, and conducted SB-7 Spirit Box sessions to attempt to communicate with the ghosts. To say these were a success would be an understatement. We sold out every tour days in advance, and everyone appeared to leave happy. During the introduction at the beginning of the tour, I would mention how there are no guarantees of paranormal activity—that nothing was staged and sometimes we do not get anything no matter how hard we look. I also mentioned how I would rather we do these tours and find nothing than have someone hiding in a closet banging on the wall trying to scare people. I think they “got it” after that message. This was as close to a real paranormal investigation as we could make it, given the size of the groups and time constraints. But there were some experiences.