Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010)

 After taking a couple of days off, I decided to jump back into the swing of things with another low budget, independent flick. This time I decided on The Possession of David O'Reilly (AKA The Torment) from 2010.

Plot/ Based on actual events, this is a terrifying supernatural shockumentary about a demonic presence in a young couple's home in London.

This low budget flick definitely has its moments. Yes, the plot seems sporadic and incoherent at times, really causing some head scratching moments and some of the cinematographic elements seemed a bit amateurish, but there were also a lot of good things about the film as well. The soundtrack is extremely eerie and definitely adds some depth to the creepy atmosphere, the acting is solid and there is a ton of potential. Unfortunately, that potential is offset by some choppy pacing, poor characterization and a frustrating ending that leaves a blah taste. Sure, I enjoyed it (yes, even the incoherent plot)  but I doubt I watch it again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Investigators Journal: The Jersey Devil

These are three case files of an ongoing investigation of the New Jersey Pinelands in search of the famed Jersey Devil.  

The Pinelands (Pine Barrens)

The Pinelands National Reserve is a vast paradise of nature. Created by Congress under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, the Pinelands National Reserve became the first nature preserve in the United States. Amazingly, this area encompasses approximately 1.1 million acres covering portions of seven counties and all or parts of 56 municipalities in the state of New Jersey, occupying 22% of New Jersey's land area. It is also said to be home to one of the most mysterious legends known to man.

The Legend
In 1735, a woman named Mother Leeds, who had already had 12 children, gave birth to a 13th child on a dark and stormy night. During labor she proclaimed, “May the Devil take this one,” and supposedly old Satan granted her wish. Much to the onlooker’s surprise, the baby turned into a monster with the head of a horse, the wings of a bat and cloven feet. The initial impression would be all they would see as the monster abruptly flew out up the chimney and disappeared into the dark wilderness of the Pine Barrens. To this day, no one has ever found Mother Leeds’ 13th child and it remains outside, haunting the Pine Barrens and terrorizing the local population for generations.

Case File I
Equipment Used:

Gateway DC-M42 Digital camera
Pentax Optio W10 Digital Camera

Leed’s Point
Leed’s Point was the center of our initial investigation because it is the birthplace of the legend. In this area, two foundations exist that claim to be the actual birthplace. This is the absolute ground zero point for Jersey Devil enthusiasts, and a location where many “devil hunts” begin. To us, this was a natural starting point. The area that we focused on was inside of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Much of that land borders a moist salt marsh and provides plenty of coverage and an ample food supply. Ironically, there was something that was mysteriously missing during our visit, as we didn’t find one sign of any normal animal life being present. 

Over the years, there have been 25 individual recorded sightings in and around the village since 1894. These reports vary from full sightings to mysterious chicken deaths in three different years. 

In all, we did not find much during that trip other that a variety of old bottles (thousands) littering the area deep within the refuse and the remains of a bird near a location referenced by a research team who discovered numerous remains in the same region during an earlier investigation.

Case File II
Equipment Used:

Gateway DC-M42 Digital camera
Pentax Optio W10 Digital Camera
Sony Handycam HDR/CX100

Batsto Village
Batsto Village is located in south-central Wharton State Forest. This small village was built on the site of a lake, which was formed by the creation of a dam in the late 1700's (not long after the legend of the Jersey Devil was born). Batsto River was used by boats to transport timber from the pines to the furnace at the village, which produced bog iron for the patriots in the battles against the British during the Revolutionary War. 

The state purchased the land inside of Batsto's borders in the 1950's, and the current residents were allowed to stay as long as they wished. The last house was vacated in 1989, and now the village remains a historical site. Batsto Village is located within the park and has had a number of sightings associated with it. Residing 12 miles from Leed’s Point, this area has great potential for the maintaining a habitat for the Jersey Devil, providing miles of coverage of uninhabited Pinelands and both a lake and a river. 

It is reported that there may be some relationship between Batsto and the Jersey Devil. The most widely held reason is a mysterious connection with fire. Historical accounts show that that the town was once destroyed by fire in 1874. Since 1963, there have been six individual recorded sightings in and around the village. These reports vary from full sightings to strange prints found in the loose sandy dirt that makes up the Pinelands. In all, we did not find any evidence during this. However, the mapping of the lake and outlying area may become useful during future investigations

Case File III

Equipment Used:

Gateway DC-M42 Digital camera
Pentax Optio W10 Digital Camera
Sony Handycam HDR/CX100

Leed’s Point
For this investigation we focused on the Southern portion of Leed’s Point into and around the salt marshes (an area we were not able to reach during our initial trip). This land has changed quite a bit since our earlier visit with signs of animal life all around. In fact, unlike the first time, we could here birds and other wildlife all around the area.

This trip also provided some interesting discoveries. One area deep within the land showed a natural tree circle with a vine wreath hanging off a tree in the center. This area struck all of us as a ritual circle, a unique coincidence considering that some of the more obscure Jersey Devil legends claim that Mother Leed’s dabbled into the dark arts.

There was also a great deal of visual paranormal activity recorded in our pictures of the area including orbs, mists and vortexes within strange tree formations that appeared built rather than natural, although no signs of building were present. These findings, especially the ones that came directly after the entire teams experienced a strange smell, have definitely added a new arena in which to explore during future visits to the site.
While we did not obtain any solid evidence, the sporadic pieces of evidence we did retrieve show signs of activity in the location. Our feeling is that it is only a matter of time before definitive proof is found at the site.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Plasterhead (2006)

With my Sci Fi / Steampunk thirst quenched this weekend, I decided to jump back into my comfort zone. My selection for yesterday evening was the 2006 low budget flick, Plasterhead.

Plot/ Every town has a local legend. Not all of them are deadly. Headed to Miami to celebrate winter break, a group of four college students from New Jersey take a detour into the bowels of rural West Virginia. There, the unwitting friends uncover a grotesque legend that stains the fabric of Rolling Glen, a sleepy backwoods town.

I absolutely love independent and low budget horror! Yes, there is usually a slew of problems that go with the flicks and this one is no different. The acting, pacing and storyline are all uneven, as are some of the locations that just do not fit. And yes, some of the make-up and effects suffer from the low budget. However, this film does boast some tremendous camera work, atmosphere and cinematographic excellence. Honestly, this is a beautifully shot flick. In the end, I doubt I sit through this one again. It had its moments, it definitely had potential and I have seen much worse, but there really wasn’t anything special. I honestly would have liked to see what could have been done with a bigger budget.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wild Wild West (1999)

After enjoying Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I was in the mood for something different. But, with the girls running in and out of the house, my choices are limited. In the end I decided to revisit 1999s Wild Wild West.

Plot/ The two best hired guns in the West must save President Grant from the clutches of a 19th century inventor-villain.

I remember the TV show, which was an interesting blend of the West and Sci Fi action, and it helped make my Saturday mornings before Super Host more interesting. Unfortunately, this movie did not do the same. Yes, watching it again now (11 or so years later), actually added some entertainment value with the Steampunk feel, but it is still a bad movie. Yes, there are some good points that boast solid acting and decent direction. However, the scripting and some of the performances really brought this flick down. Honestly, this may be one of the worst screenplays ever! All-in-all, it has entertaining moments, but if this is what you are craving, check out the original TV show or even The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr, they are so much better.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)

This morning my wife put on a short film for all of us to watch over breakfast. Not knowing much about it, I had mixed emotions (especially when she said it was a musical). Soon, I discovered that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was not your normal musical.

Plot/ Dr. Horrible, an aspiring supervillain with his own video blog, is attempting to join the prestigious Evil League of Evil, but his plans are usually foiled by the egotistical superhero Captain Hammer.

When I sat down to watch this short flick this morning, I had no idea what to expect. But, after laughing and humming along with the songs, I was blown away and left wanting more. This little movie has it all, laughs, drama, action; everything you could want wrapped up in one package. The music, songs, script, and acting are amazing (especially the stars Nathon Fillion, Felicia Day, and Neil Patrick Harris who work perfect together). In the end, this is a great flick that must be seen, if you have not watched it, you are missing 45 minutes of awesomeness.

Creep (2004)

Last night, I decided to get back into some horror movie enjoyment by hanging out on Netflix. After some time and debate, I decided on the British horror flick Creep from 2004.

Plot/ Trapped in a London subway station, a woman is being pursued by a potential attacker as she heads into the unknown labyrinth of tunnels beneath the city's streets.

When I saw this on Netflix, I could not put a finger on why I was not truly excited about watching this one. Now that I have seen Creep, I can understand my lack of excitement. This movie is not creepy at all; in fact other than the isolationism fear it creates, it lacks a gripping atmosphere. This linear, cliché driven storyline is decent and does feature a touch of violence. However, there is not much more to offer. The acting and script are only OK, and the ending does nothing. Really, there is nothing that makes this film stand-out in the crowded horror genre.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Halfway There!

We are halfway through the voting for the Blobfest 2011 Short Awards and Jillian's short film Blob Zombie  is holding it own with 32 percent of the votes. I want to Thank everyone who has voted for her! Anyone interested in voting can go to the Colonial Theatre website and vote for the Fans Choice Award. Voting will conclude on the 27th. Thanks again!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Captivity (2007)

While sitting back and looking for something to watch, I couldn’t find anything that I was truly in the mood for. Finally I sat down to Captivity from 2007.

Plot/ A man and a woman awaken to find themselves captured in a cellar. As their kidnapper drives them psychologically mad, the truth about their horrific abduction is revealed.

I was on the fence before watching this, really not sure on what to expect. What I found was a decent flick. Sure, it was rather cliché, but, it had a good feel throughout. Yes, there were flaws, yes, the editing was subpar, the plot had holes and the acting offered very little excitement. However, there was at least enough atmosphere and style to keep the film moving. Yes, this movie is far from perfect, but it is interesting and worth watching at least once.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Naked Witch (1961)

After taking a few days off from blogging, I decided to just back into it with something a little different. My selection was The Naked Witch from Something Weird Video.

Plot/ A student researching the German settlements of Central Texas unearths the grave of a reputed witch. The witch (who happens to be both beautiful and naked) rises from her grave and embarks on a campaign of seduction and murder against the descendants of her persecutors. It's up to the student to stop her bloody reign of terror-if he can resist the seductive powers of her evil beauty.

If you have read my blog, you know that I am a fan of weird and strange B Movies, and honestly, I find that Something Weird Video is awesome. However, this entry from their catalogue left a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good points (especially considering the budget) like the setting and some of the camera work, but that does little to make-up for the bad. The plot holes, acting and seriously over narrated plot/story definitely take a toll, even with a runtime of a little over an hour. If it were a documentary, I may have enjoyed it more, but it is not a documentary and it was not on the History Channel. Watch at your own risk.

Voting Now Open! Blobfest 2011 Shorty Awards.

Voting opened today and you can vote for daughter Jillian's short film Blob Zombie  for the 2011 Shorty Awards for Blobfest! Anyone interested in voting can go to the Colonial Theatre website and vote for the Fans Choice Award.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Collecting Haunted Items

In many ways, the paranormal boom of recent years has been a blessing. Not only has it brought a fringe science into the forefront of the adult collective, it has opened the eyes of many skeptics that once overlooked the spirit world that surrounded them. Research in the paranormal has also opened up a new hobby - paranormal collecting. Ironically, to many people, this pastime is nothing new. Collecting items of interest is something many people do to show off their personality. Personally, I have an affinity for hats, especially older hats that I find at estate sales and such. These sales now receive a boost in business from collectors looking to find the next addition to their collection.

Finding these collectibles is the fun part; for many of us, it is like a treasure hunt or a race, hoping to beat someone to that believed one-of-a-kind artifact that can set you apart. However, if you are a paranormal enthusiast, collecting paranormal items can be more challenging than collecting old hats; yet, it too can be a fun and rewarding experience. The biggest endeavor you must undertake if you are interested in this new arena is to understand the gravity of what you are doing.

People must look within themselves and determine whether they can properly care for an item, or if they would be a doorway for a malevolent spirit to manifest itself into. There are good points and bad points to starting a collection; every aspect must be dissected before any item is handled or purchased. Spirits can often become attached to objects through various rituals associated with witchcraft, or be attached to an object that is familiar to the spirit and may have been important to the spirit when the spirit was in human form. With that said, haunted artifacts can have negative energy attached to them, and they must be treated with the utmost care and respect.

In talking with my friend, Demonologist John Zaffis, who takes care of the Museum of the Paranormal in his home state of Connecticut, it is clear that the primary goal is not to be a collector, but to help those innocent victims that have dealt with the strange world that exists outside of the normal train of thought. After 20 years in the field, John has seen everything imaginable in the hundreds of cases he has been involved with as a paranormal researcher. During those years, he has collected hundreds of artifacts from cases of violent hauntings. Inside his museum there are hundreds of supposed haunted items, many of which had to be removed from homes following many unexplained and often negative phenomenon occurring. Fortunately, he is experienced in dealing with the energies that can exist, unlike many of the new collectors that are building their own personal museums today.

In researching this new phenomenon, I was amazed at how many different avenues can exist for budding collectors. A quick eBay search for the word “haunted” brought out over 5,000 auctions for supposedly haunted items. There was everything from jewelry to dolls to everyday household items. Incredibly, an internet search for “paranormal collecting” garners an amazing 2.5 million pages of information. With that in mind, I needed to take a deeper look at this and see what the fascination is.

I rapidly discovered three areas that people focused on. Those are collecting ghosts, haunted items, or paranormal souvenirs from their different ventures. Many of these collectors are paranormal enthusiasts that have taken refuge in this as way to be closer to something they enjoy doing. I also realized when I ventured into my research that many people might be paranormal collectors without even realizing it, and I will use myself as a perfect example of this. As many may know, I have been researching the legend of the Jersey Devil for some time and recently was able to venture into the Pinelands in search of this mythological creature. While conducting my first venture into the Leeds Point area, I discovered that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of discarded bottles littering this area. At first, I was amazed because of the diverse ages in the bottles that we found. Not thinking about the paranormal aspects that could be involved, I picked up a couple of them. At the time, I thought I was doing a public service by cleaning up the salt marsh, and I actually still feel that way. However, my approach to those bottles has changed after I viewed the pictures from my latest investigation into that area. In those pictures, there were numerous strange shadows, orbs and what appeared to be small vortexes appearing in multiple pictures. Of these, one shadow figure is a bit troubling because of the smell that we encountered in the area right before discovering a tree formation that looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project. Those pictures got me thinking, did those bottles have some kind of connection to them? Are they from the generations of interested bystanders that came to Leeds Point to find Mother Leeds’s son? So far, nothing strange has happened to me in the house, but then again, they are still in the backpack because I have not had a chance to do anything with them.

The idea of these bottles potentially having an energy attachment also brought out another interesting twist. It demonstrated how close the many of the fields of unexplained research are intertwined. My search for the Jersey Devil is more of a cryptozoological hunt and not a paranormal research outing. Yet, it demonstrates how unseen paranormal entities surround us at all times. Therefore, all of these precautions should be followed, regardless of the type of investigation a person is working on.

As I mentioned earlier, antique stores, estate sales and thrift stores often become battlegrounds for collectors of all types of items. It is quite possible that items purchased in these stores could have a spirit attachment that can be energized by the buyer. These often come as impulse buys where the purchaser is drawn to an item for some unknown reason. Maybe that was the case when I had to buy that antique wooden wheelchair at the Dusty Attic last year. Did I need it? No! Nevertheless, I had to have it (although, it did work really well as I used it to scare trick or treater’s on Halloween, so it served a purpose).

This happens because the spirit attached to an item may feel a kinship to the buyer, needing that relationship to stay alive. Items can sit for decades before coming to life if the right relationship is not present. People say that not all of these relationships are bad, and that items can actually lead to luck. Energies manifest in many ways, often providing feedback, guidance, wisdom, companionship, powers and even assistance to owners. However, people should be very careful when strange occurrences begin after bringing something into their house.

One of the most readily item available to people and one of the most collected haunted items are dolls. Sure, the appeal is easy to understand, as dolls take people back to their childhood. To me, I still remember the scene with the clown in Poltergeist and cannot fathom purchasing a haunted doll on purpose, but to many, they view these echoes from their childhood as families and children. Many of the dolls available come from owners who are frightened by the doll. Many people panic when paranormal phenomena is experienced near an item and just want to rid themselves of the burden. Ironically, many collectors search for active items, hoping that it was just a spirit trying to communicate with them. Their view is that the doll is a child, acting up or throwing a tantrum to gain attention.

Haunted jewelry may be even more popular than haunted dolls, as many people claim that one can experience everything from love to financial gain just by purchasing and wearing an item. These items supposedly contain energies, djinns, genies or demons and are powerful tools that can help in any facet the imagination can conceive. More importantly for collectors, both males and females can find these items just for them with warlock rings and or goddess pendants all available for the right price.

These are just some of the more popular items available on the internet, and realistically many of them are not haunted by any means. People collect the items during their hunts and those are the ones that can be the most troublesome and require the most care. There are over 5 million pages on the internet referencing some paranormal research organization. People form many of these organizations have limited or no experience in the field, or are just diving into a curiosity spawned by something they saw on television. These are also the ones who are in danger when they collect an item from a haunted area without understanding what can happen in some instances. For many investigators, the idea of gathering or collecting an item from a location is the furthest thing from their mind. They are focused on the scientific aspect of what they are doing and the only collecting that is taken place comes in the form of pictures and EVPs collected as evidence. However, this is not always the case. Items such as furniture, paintings, dolls, soil and even books are discovered at the center of a haunting or strange occurrence and gathered form the foundation of their new collection. Examples of this can be seen in movies such as The Exorcist, where the idol found during the excavation opened the door for the demon to walk in. Television shows have also shown the dark possibilities that exist with energy attachment with popular shows like The Twilight Zone or Friday the 13th the Series, raising the possibility of items possessing the ability to alter reality. Amazingly, many of the people who swear off items such as OUIJA Boards are the same ones who open their hands for a chance to own that strange painting of a castle.

Collecting items such as photographs and EVPs are a perfect way to be a paranormal collector. After all, the best collection a person can have is one that they made themselves. To do this, become a member of a paranormal research team and, after some training, go out and investigate. The evidence that you collect can make for some interesting conversation pieces and create a great atmosphere as decorations. There is nothing better to impress your friends than explaining your evening and then breaking out the evidence to back up your claims. Not only is this a fun way to collect the stuff you enjoy, it is also much safer than purchasing a haunted item that may introduce you to something more dangerous than you were looking for.

Many of the famed locations offer souvenirs that can let you remember the investigation and location. In these cases, go out and investigate, then pick-up a piece of history about the location. Places such as Gettysburg have extensive collections of items available that may hold a larger appreciation than a vial of dirt or a rock from a battlefield. Most importantly, they would be a great addition to any collection.

Paranormal memorabilia is also another great way of collecting paranormal related items. Many of today’s television shows or movies have items available such as pictures, hats, and other interesting finds that can become nice centerpieces to a collection. In addition, with the rise of investigation teams, many items can be found that are made available to help fund research. Purchasing this merchandise is a great way to build a collection while helping other people who are interested in discovering the truth that exists in the shadows.

These options provide great alternatives for creating a remarkable paranormal-related collection. In addition, with our economy in turmoil, they may also offer cheaper options as well. However, as history has shown, not everyone is willing to look at an alternative and many would rather push the limits with the spirit world. In these cases, these collectors need to realize the dangers involved. Like the old adage says, “be careful what you wish for, it may actually come true!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Behind the Scenes of Blob Zombie

Here are some random pictures from making Jillian's movie Blob Zombie for Blobfest! It is awesome that the girls did all the make-up and scripting. It was definitely a FUN project! Thanks to J.J. Abrams and Super 8 for showing kids that the can really make movies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jillian's Blobfest Video - Blob Zombie

The Shorty’s Contest is our way of paying homage to the late, great Shorty Yeaworth, Jr., director of The Blob. This year is our 5th annual contest and the films just keep getting better and better! To enter the contest just round up some willing victims, er friends and neighbors, and make a short film that is centered on The Blob, Blobfest, or sci-fi in general. Last year, I made a video for the contest (which won Fans Choice). This year, my daughter Jillian wanted to try her hand at filmmaking, and actually created a better flick than I did. Here is her movie Blob Zombie!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Child's Play 2 (1990)

After dinner I decided to kick back with the kids and watch Child’s Play 2. While I am not the biggest Chucky fan, for some reason the daughters enjoy him.

Plot/ Chucky's back as the doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, butchering all who stand in his way of possessing the body of a boy.

This film suffers like many sequels by lacking the elements that make the first of a series so much fun. Sure, that is not to say that this film is terrible, it just lacks the overall depth and originality of the original. The story is decent, the acting is solid and there is enough gore to go around. Plus, you have Chucky who has some hilarious moments that keep you wanting more. Unfortunately, in this case, the gore may be a bit too much, taking away from the atmosphere that made the Child’s Play so memorable. In the end, this is decently entertaining and a decent follow-up. If you are a fan of Chucky this can be a fun flick!