Five Films to Keep You Awake on Halloween Night

I’m back. Turns out I will be playing at two of six performances with my string quartet–originally a dectet. I’ll be filling in missing parts on guitar and forcing a student to play lead on every violin song. Sorry, kid, that’s show business.

Tonight’s the night when we have some fun (some fun-o some fun-o). Halloween, arguably the best holiday*, is today. Do you have your candy ready for the hordes of hyperactive children running up to your door? Did you shovel and salt the walkways if you’re trapped under a blanket of snow in the northeast? And did you buy enough cleaner to get all the rotten egg off of your house if you decide to shut off your lights and pretend you’re not home?

Regardless of how you celebrate the greatest night of the year, it’s important to have the proper entertainment lined up to get you through the evening. Sure, there’s the joy of gobbling down buckets of candy and drinking gallons of cider. That’s part of the territory.

I’m talking about horror films. Here is my 2011 guide to five films guaranteed to make your Halloween night memorable. They’re in order, tamest to most horrifying, after the jump.

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Be Back Soon

I’m thinking I can get back to posting on Monday. I have a lot of work to do for other people, plus the show I arranged the music for goes off in a few days and we’re still changing things day by day. I might even need to fill in for some parts while also conducting the music due to some strange circumstances.

The Ryan Murphy Effect, or, Why You Can’t Turn Away

If you followed the advice of Dustin over at Pajiba, you would have never tuned in to American Horror Story. This new horror/melodrama/camp series from the creators of Glee (though quite clearly mostly from Ryan Murphy) is teetering between genuinely suspenseful and so bad it’s good. I believe I even left a snarky little comment on Dustin’s review that went like this:

It’s Ryan Murphy doing horror. What did you expect beyond camp and regurgitated cliches? That’s what he does. It’s why his fans love him for Popular and hate him for Glee season 2.

An exaggeration of the facts, yes, but par for the course on a site with its own zombie apocalypse contingency plan and a many-tentacled deity.

All of Ryan Murphy’s TV series have taken a few weeks to hook the audience. Strange and stupid things happen right off the bat that stick with you for better or worse. Continue reading

Play It: Lab of the Dead

Lab of the Dead is an online zombie simulation/mystery game. You play as scientist Allen C. Tyler, a man who wound up in an underground military complex shortly before the zombie apocalypse escalated to nuclear destruction. He has tasked himself with discovering the cause and cure for transformation into a zombie.

The gameplay is strictly point and click. You have a series of items at your disposal to hand over, feed, or attack your zombie subject with. Your job is to quantify the reactions and alter the subject’s mood, hunger, and humanity to elicit different results. You also have to research upgrades to your facilities, new objects to test, new research methodologies, and what happened to the previous scientist examining the zombies.

As repetitive as the gameplay is, there is something compelling about this grotesque simulation game from Evil-Dog at Newgrounds. (warning: image of deteriorating zombie after the break) Continue reading

On Theater: It’s OK to Not Like Something

This is an idea that’s been floating in my head for quite some time. What pushed it back to the forefront was the Godspell preview thread over at BroadwayWorld. One user wrote a particularly scathing review of the new Broadway production after its first preview performance.

This is not a new phenomenon online. Remember the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark reviews and video footage of the big injury? What about the Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown reviews that suggested it was–based on its first ever performance in front of an audience–the single worst show to ever appear on Broadway?

What raised the Godspell thread to a new level was the anger in the response to a show that so few people had seen. The user was told he hated theater, had no write as a paying customer to discuss theater, and should be ashamed of forming a negative opinion about theater. In a new line of arguments, this user was also attacked for having the audacity to comment on a show that involves improvisation like Godspell after the first preview performance.

And you know what? That whole thread is fine. Continue reading

Chirpbug and Occupy the Street

Janine Ditullio is the head writer for SuperJail! on Adult Swim. She also works with coder Pat Rogan to develop technology she calls Chirpbug. It lets people interact with live events. It was originally designed for stand up comics to get feedback during performances (to fuck with the comic, naturally). You could rate the comic as they performed live and create messages for them to read if they looked down at the monitor. The comic could hear the pre-programmed laughter or jeering from speakers on her end of the live video feed.

Last week, Janine connected with the Occupy Wall Street movement to create Occupy The Street [From Your Couch]. Essentially, they have cameras filming the NYC protests. The cameras are connected to speakers and monitors. As their camera guy walks around and films the protests, you can interact live. You have your choice of four chants and can make your own sign to flash next to the camera.

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Theater Review: Speakeasy Dollhouse (NYC)

You are in downtown NYC. You walk up to a man on a poorly lit street standing in front of a short metal gate. You whisper “cannolis” into his ear and are led down a staircase into an alleyway filled with flickering lights. You knock on the big metal door at the top of the stairs and repeat the password through a peephole. The door swings open and you’re thrust into 1920s Prohibition Era Bronx.

Speakeasy Dollhouse is a piece of immersive theater created by Cynthia Von Buhler. Cynthia tried to unravel the mystery behind her grandfather’s death by creating scale model environments and figures representing everyone she knew was involved in the story. The results were collected in a book of the same name. She decided to turn the story into an interactive theatrical piece where guests would be invited to commingle with actors portraying her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the assorted Bronx locals she believed played a role in the murder.

As both a party and a piece of theater, Speakeasy Dollhouse is a success. Continue reading

Follow: Hashtag the Planet

Hashtag the Planet is a one pane webcomic from artist Ann Merritt. Meritt works in a very different style from a lot of other webcomic creators. Her comics are not narrative or sight gag driven. She develops an idea inspired by her life into simple representational text and imagery.

I had the chance to briefly meet the woman behind Hashtag the Planet at New York Comic Con last weekend. Her display was one of the more eye-catching ones in Artist Alley. The simple booth was framed with twin metal photography trees holding wrapped versions of her one pane comics. Her large black and white banner, candy-colored artwork, and bright demeanor were enough to draw a crowd for a very different style of art.

“I don’t have a set publishing schedule,” she said. “I try to get at least one a month, but sometimes can do one every two or three days. It really depends on if I’m inspired.”

Hashtag the Planet is, of all things, a product inspired by Twitter. Continue reading