Post Halloween Recap with New Needle (2016)

This week the holiest of holidays came to an end, Halloween. It's been a busy few months for New Needle Productions. We completed (and released) our first in what will be an ongoing Halloween short series, which you can check out at the bottom of this post, along with being a part of this years Sexy Armpit Halloween special (also at the bottom.) Both were a blast to work on and We're planning more stuff like that in the future. We're also on the last legs of finishing the audio work on our Halloween-centric feature film Good Day and plan to have info on that soon. With all this busyness, writing just wasn't realistic. I was only able to knock out one review for my visit to Halloween Horror Nights, so here is a quick run through of some other great (and not so great) attractions I checked out this Halloween season. 

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30 Minutes of Horror: The Twilight Zone "Five Characters in Search Of An Exit" (1961)

I'm a huge fan of anthology television (It inspired my web-series Holidays of Terror). I love being able to sit down and watch a story unfold in front of me for 30 minutes, not having to commit to seasons worth of binge watching. I'm able to bounce around episodes, skipping the lame ones and going straight to the good stuff. In this ongoing series I'll delve into my favorite anthology shows. Also, occasionally I'll cheat and review episodes from series that run an hour long; but hey, those still count! 

I figured I'd start with a show almost everyone universally loves, The Twilight Zone (if not, something is wrong with you.)  The show, which first aired in 1959 and ran for five seasons, consisted of science fiction tales dealing with monsters, paranormal, and the Armageddon. The show's creator, Rod Sterling, would introduce each episode with an opening and closing monologue and would end with some sort of morality tale or twist. The show was way ahead of its' time to say the least. 

My first experience with The Twilight Zone was in the early nineties. Every New Year's eve WPIX 11, a channel here in New York, would run their annual New Year's Eve Twilight Zone marathon. While the adults partied, waiting for the ball to drop, I'd be in the other room mesmerized with what was on the TV. At this point, I was more involved with the marathon then Dick Clark's New Year's rockin' Eve. 

One of the first episodes I remember watching, during said marathon, was "Five Characters in Search of an Exit". The premise of this episode centers around five people; A Major, Ballerina, Clown, Bagpiper, and Tramp all mysteriously wake up inside of a room with no exits or windows. Also, a loud ringing noise erupts from time to time that is disorienting the group. Paranoia ensues and the five characters must band together to escape; along with figuring out the reason behind them being put into this room in the first place. Personally I always thought the acting in this episode was top notch. Both Murray Matheson (The clown) and William Windom (The General) steal the show. Each have their own characteristics foreshadow the somewhat depressing ending (I'll get into that in a sec.) The Clown, for the most part, seems unaffected by the scenario and tends to joke around constantly. He specifically annoys The General, who is determined to escape with the group, thinking of different ways they can escape the hell they are in. Even after failing in their first attempt, he continues to push them. 

Now the ending, whoa! It's great! You don't expect it coming, well I didn't when I initially watched it. It turns out the five characters are just that, characters. They are different toys to be donated to a girl's orphanage. The cylinder room is actually a barrel sitting in the middle of the street and the loud ringing is the bell the handler is using to get pedestrians attention,(like those salvation army bells you hear during the holidays.) The episode ends with the haunting images of the characters frozen faced and mannequin like. A single tear falls from the ballerina's eyes, she slowly moves and hold the majors hands as the scene fades. It's a very downbeat/depressing ending, but really effective. I'll never forget seeing it for the first time and feeling chills run down my spine. I watch the episode at least once a year and it continues to leave me with the same sensation. 

I'm sure I'll revisit "The Twilight Zone" again, considering how many episodes I love and it being one of my favorite shows that fits the anthology format. Check it out!

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Extinct Attractions: Vol # 1 {ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter}

I’ve been visiting amusement parks since I was a kid. Some of my fondest memories growing up were at Disney World, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and even old-fashioned county fairs. Something about these places always resonated with me; I loved the attention to detail, as well as the thrills they provided. Over time, some of these rides have been retired to make way for something new and exciting. This phasing out of old favorites usually sucks, but is sometimes—not always—worth it. I thought it would be fun to run through some memories of my favorites. This will be volume one of a continuing series. 

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Located at Disney's Magic Kingdom, in their "Tommorowland" area, the attraction ran from 1995 - 2003. The premise of the ride is: you're a guest at the "Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center" for a conference demonstrating new technology from the company  "X-S Tech." After a Robot named "S.I.R" demonstrates the company's new teleportation device on a cute little alien, you're led into a large chamber-like conference room. Once inside, you're prompted to take a seat. A harness is lowered on your shoulders which locks you in place. On a screen, two employees of X-S tell the audience that one guest will be teleported to the meeting with Clench (X-S's Chairman.) Clench then changes his mind and randomly tells the audience along with his employees that he wants to be teleported into the room himself. As with most attractions, something goes wrong and his sudden decision causes quite a mix-up. The X-S employees mistakenly send the teleportation signal to an unknown planet and bring a nasty alien amongst the audience instead of the chairman. Chaos ensues as you and the rest of the group have to survive being locked in with this creature. 
 

My first experience with this attraction was probably in 1995\96, so I would have been around 10 years old. I was heavily into horror films and loved almost anything involving monsters, but this ride still scared the bajeezus out of me! Keep in the mind the queue was a little deceiving with its cute alien sequence. When you finally get on the attraction, you're not expecting a man-eating alien to rampage through the audience. Needless to say, my first experience was a terrifying one. One of the most amazing aspects of this ride was the special effects and animatronic work. The "harness" you're wearing is actually an effects rig, similar to a harness on a roller coaster, but with speakers and other effects built into it. At one point, power in the room goes out and you can smell, feel, and hear the creature trying to remove you from your seat. By the time you actually got to see the creature, you were already terrified. Imagine, what looks like a giant 7 foot tall cockroach. That's the best way I can describe it. On later visits to Magic Kingdom (as I got older), the ride quickly grew to be my favorite (behind The Haunted Mansion.) Even knowing what was going to happen beforehand the ride still had a creep factor, which always made it awesome! 

From what I've read online, the ride was closed down due to it being a little too intense for children. What's strange is the attraction was operational for almost a decade, so I'm sure there is more to the story then we know. An interesting side note, the attraction was original supposed to be themed around the "Alien" franchise. Looking back at it, I can see how the creature could have easily been replaced with the famous "Xenomorph." That would have been awesome if they stuck with their original plan, even though an R-rated-franchise-themed attraction would have felt out of place next to cheery images of Mickey Mouse and his friends.

Unfortunately, in 2004 "Stitch's Escape" opened, replacing ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. The current attraction borrows heavily from its predecessor. A lot of the same effects and props from the original attraction are intact, but it has now been toned down for younger audiences. Instead of a man-eating-alien trying to have the audience as its main course, Stitch, from the animated Disney film, runs playfully amok. He jumps on your head, tickles you, and even burps in your face. The dark atmosphere has been replaced with silly jokes and kiddie humor. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy "Stitch's Escape;" it's really cute and has a certain charm to it, but man, do I miss the original attraction! 

Hopefully you enjoyed my first installment of "Extinct Attractions." Stay tuned for future installments!

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Tales from the Crypt: "Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas" (1994)

Horror and the holidays usually don't go together. Halloween is two months behind us, and sitting to watch a scary movie isn't something most people want to do. We horror fans have our usual go-to films ("Black Christmas", "Silent Night, Deadly Night", "Gremlins"... Etc), but when it comes to holiday music, we don't have many options, right?

Not necessarily. In 1994 Capital Records released "Tales from the Crypt: Have yourself a Scary Little Christmas." The album is a spoof of almost every Christmas song you can think of; "Jingle Bells", "The Twelve Days of Christmas", & "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" are all covered in a spooky/gruesome fashion by the Crypt-Keeper himself.  

I stumbled across a used copy at a record store many years later. When I was a kid, I was a huge Tales From the Crypt fan and attribute it to my love for horror in general, but don't ever recall seeing it in stores or even an advertisement on TV (The show was in its prime at the time.) Nonetheless, I play the album in heavy rotation during the holidays and get a kick out of it every time. Unfortunately it isn't the easiest to find, but can be purchased on Amazon and Ebay for a hefty price (Unless $36 dollars for a CD won't break your bank). On the plus side, if you do a  quick Google/YouTube search you'll find the album in its entirety.  

Here are some of my favorite tracks:

  • Juggle Bills is a parody of Jingle Bells, and describes Santa Claus being completely broke and not able to get everyone presents. It's sorta depressing and hilarious at the same time. Ho! Ho! Ho! 
  • Deck the Walls with Parts of Charlie. The Cryptkeeper goes into graphic detail on how he's going to decorate his home with the limbs and entrails of people. He specifies each person by their name and where he plans on placing their organs. Good stuff!!! 
  • Moe Teitlebaum, a gory take on Oh Christmas Tree, is about an embalmer who embalms the CryptKeeper's entire family while they are still alive. The best part is the name "Teitlebaum" is poking fun at the original German version “O Tannenbaum." 

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy the classic Christmas songs/albums like everyone else, but if you've got a morbid sense of humor and want to listen to something a little different, definitely check this out!  

Happy Holidays!!! 

 

Also Tales from the Crypt's Second episode from their first season titled "And all through the house" takes place on Christmas and involves a killer Santa Clause (Played by Larry Drake aka Dr. Giggles) and it's awesome! 

Don't forget to check out our own Christmas special titled "Something Special" now on YouTube.

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