Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Please...try the basketti: A review of "What We Do In The Shadows"

So, one day, my girl and I were cruising the local video store trying to find something fun to watch for with the kids for the weekend, when I passed a movie called "What We Do in the Shadows". The cover caught my attention, so I picked it up and read the back.  Little did I know that, at that moment, I was holding one of the greatest movies I have seen in a long time.

'What We Do in the Shadows' is filmed as a documentary, following four vampiric flatmates, sheds some light on their daily routines and their all-too-human struggles of living with roommates. Another fun dynamic of the movie is showing how 4 age-old vampires cope in the 21st century. I'll give you a hint...they really don't.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Interactivity in Haunt Set Design


Haunted Attractions are basically a form of interactive theater. They are a type of play in which the characters interact with the spectators. Patrons pay money that they worked hard to earn in order to be entertained by your cast, and bedazzled by your set construction and scenic design. No one likes to feel that they have wasted their money. Therefore, it is in your best interest to put in extra time to make your haunt stand out from your competitors. One of the best ways to do this is to integrate every element of a scene seamlessly. If this means that you spend two weeks building and dressing a scene that you could have finished in one week, then you should take the extra time.
In essence, we are selling the sense of realistic disconnection that a person feels when watching a good horror movie. With that being said, you should understand that the more realistic your sets look and feel, the better you are able to sell that sense of disconnection from reality. Plain black walls will not do this. Clean walls with no distressing or weathering will not do this. If you want true scary environs for your monsters, you have to strip away the clean fa├žade and show the grungy underbelly of the real world. People are inherently disturbed by things that are not clean and things that aren’t symmetrical. Everyone has some measure of automysophobia, which is an irrational fear of being dirty or coming into contact with dirty items. They also have a measure of assymetriphobia, which is an irrational fear of asymmetrical features. If you figure out how to tweak these two phobias, you’ll be one step closer to having a successful haunt.
I spend a lot of time studying the effect I want a scene to portray. To me, it is not enough to have it populated by a monster. I want the scene to be creepy enough that it will put my patron’s nerves on edge even if the monster is not in the scene. Imagine a person’s anxiety as a wave. When building a haunt, we want to find a level of anxiety and keep our patron’s in that “sweet spot” with peaks and troughs in their anxiety levels for as long as possible. But if you design the scenes right, the troughs become much shallower, causing the peaks to be that much higher when they hit them. You want to keep a person between complete calm and a psychotic break induced by fear. Scared to the point of damp or soiled undergarments is what most of us strive for. Scared to the point of loss of consciousness is generally taking it a little too far. I prefer to have my haunt come back to haunt them even after they’ve left the property, as in they remember the disturbed feeling that the scenes generated in their mind even a few days later.
I spend a lot of time on lighting as well. I like my scenes to be well lit, my lights to be well hidden, and my shadows to be eerie and disturbing. With the relative ease of concealment offered by LED lighting, it has become much easier to make a room look as if it is illuminated without revealing the source of illumination. This also makes it easier for me to insert contrast lighting, which allows a good palette of color, and makes my scenery much more interesting. This in turn allows more detail to catch a patron’s attention, which makes the scene more memorable. Battery operated LED lighting also allows for nice accent lighting to add that small extra push toward memorability. Now, my design goals are met, my actors can see where they are going, there is less heat generated, and my power bill stays lower. That is a win, in my book.
I know I harp on the same subjects in my articles. I do this because I see a lot of haunts that drop the ball on the same subjects, and it disturbs me. These are all fundamental things that should be addressed prior to beginning operations. I’m not saying that you can’t have ANY black walls in your haunt. I’m saying that you shouldn’t have ALL of your walls be black. I’m not saying to spend your entire budget on lighting and scene design. I’m saying to budget for those things, or you will begin having less of a budget to work with. For scene dressing, you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on brand new items. I dress most of our sets with items I find at garage sales, thrift stores, in dumpsters, or on the curb the day before the trash runs. I repurpose EVERYTHING! I don’t believe that my wife has been able to throw away a spray can cap in the entirety of our marriage. I build my LED floodlights from a tutorial I found on the internet, using 2 soda bottle caps and a piece of PVC pipe. This allows me to use my meager budget on the things I can’t build or make myself. This is the age of information. If you need something that you can’t afford to purchase through retail, you can search the internet to find a workaround or even a way to improvise what you need. Spend a little time searching during the months when you can’t work on your haunt, and you’ll be able to pick up the knowledge you need to make your haunt even better every year. Learn to repair your fog machines. It is a lot cheaper than purchasing new ones each year. When you look at an item, don’t see that item; see what you can make from that item. Develop and use your imagination, because it can take you farther than rehashing the same ideas that every other haunted attraction uses.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Beauty in Chaos: The Art of Shane Scare

Facebook is amazing.With it, you can connect to long-lost friends and even find new ones from all over the world. Sometimes though, you don't REALLY get to know them or what they are about for quite some time.  That is what happened with me, in the case of Shane Scare.

Looking back at my Facebook "history", Shane and I became friend back in August of 2013. I have seen his posts in my news feed and have commented back and forth from time to time but, we really never took the time to get to know each.  Just chilled in mutual admiration of horror and macabre arts.

Frighteningly Delicious: Cookies with a scary flair!

Now, I have never been a big "sweets" fan. The most adventurous I get with cookies are those delicious "No-Bake" cookies.  Other than that, I am strictly a plain, un-iced sugar cookie without the granulated sugar sprinkle coating kind of man.

Yeah, I know...I am a cookie square.

But then, one day, while perusing my LinkedIn dashboard, I noticed a post from a company called Whimzkulls, owned and operated by Briannaa Ariel, looking for a mention. I clicked on the article, glanced over it quickly and saw the cute little cookies she was making and was hoping to spread the word on. Life has kept me a bit occupied for a while now and I was LONG overdue for writing a post for Blog & Guts...so, I decided to drop her a line and offer to sample some cookies and do a little write up on them.

I'll admit...while the cookies looked cool...I could see all the icing...all the sprinkles...and other little accents that were on them and I was a bit worried.  Even the fact that they were a shortbread cookie made me nervous...I mean, to me...shortbread cookies were just a form of sugar cookie and sugar cookies come in two forms: The ones that are soft and chewy to the point that they are almost TOO soft and chewy...or the hard like small rock-hard disks of sugary goodness, that they NHL could use in case there was ever a puck shortage.  And of course, the icing...uggh, the icing!!!  Would it be the hardened variety that would crumble and fall apart as I bit into it...throwing my teeth into a tizzy?  Would the sprinkles contradict the textures of the rest of the cookie?  I was having a small cookie neurosis break down.

I got home from work one day and my youngest daughter came running out to me with a package,
declaring that I had gotten something in the mail and whining to know what it was.  My kids are ever so inquisitive about my packages because they tend to contain some rather cool things.  I looked at the box and realized it was the cookies. I took the package from her and my other two kids soon joined us, forming a parade behind me as I walked into the house and up to my room.

Opening the box, I was thrilled to find four cookies in there. That meant that I could have one AND also use all three of my children as guinea pigs in my evil cookie experiment.  The cookies looked awesome!   They won't ever hang in a museum next to the Michaelangelos, but they are not boring cookie-cutter cookies. Each one is, as advertised, hand-sculpted into the shape of a skull.  They aren't perfect...but, that's what makes them perfect! They have a crafty cuteness to them that makes them adorably cute (yes...I said adorably cute, deal with it!).

My kids instantly called dibs on the ones they wanted...the green zombie, the purple one...this skull...that skull.  I opened the little wrappers, handed them out and everyone took a bite. They were an instant success...all my kids loved them and devoured them fairly quickly. Now, these aren't small cookies either...I am a good sized man and each cookie was about the size of my hand from wrist to my longest finger tip.  My oldest daughter even said that they were "REALLY good!". Which, being that she is a pre-teen...is quite a feat to break through that "I hate everything" phase...lol.

I mentioned before that I was nervous, so...I cautiously bit into my cookie and was pleasantly surprised.  Hell, I was thrilled.  The cookie WAS delicious.  It wasn't too sweet...or too un-sweet, Briannaa had found that Goldilocks zone between the too that I really enjoyed and rarely ever found unless I made my own.  She seemed to find that for every aspect of the cookie.  It wasn't too hard or too chewy and just dissolved in my mouth.

Another plus for me was the icing.  It wasn't frosting and it wasn't that rock-hard layer of sugar...it was almost like a glaze that coated the cookie.  You couldn't really tell it was there, as far as texture goes, which my teeth were thankful for, and really complimented the cookie beneath it.  Same thing goes for the sprinkles...they just melted away with the rest of the cookie.

My misconception about shortbread cookies being a form of sugar cookie has forever been destroyed and I think I have found a new fav!

The only point of contention for me was the little candy spheres use for the eyeballs...they were pretty hard, but definitely worth it for the aesthetics of the cookie.

All in all...if you like cookies with a little flare of the macabre, I would highly recommend you orderly yourself a batch of these amazing (and adorably cute) cookies from Briannaa over at Whimzkulls. You can find them on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/whimzkulls .

You can also follow them on Facebook HERE.

Thursday, August 6, 2015



SCENIC DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS
By: James Wilson


Let me start this article by saying that these are my opinions and do not reflect the views or opinions of Blog and Guts. They are basic facts, but should not adversely affect the administration of Blog and Guts. Just things I have observed after almost 20 years working in the haunted attraction industry.

Now, with that said, let's get to the meat of the article. I'm going to say some things that are unequivocal, and other things that can be ambiguous. Someone who reads this article will get upset, but more people will get some information that they need to make their haunt better. So, let's begin.

First off, I can't say this enough: Black walls are BORING!! Add some color and depth and texture. Oops paint is cheap, and usually comes in functional colors. At the very least, use mistinted paint to provide a base coat that you use other paints to distress. But please, for the love of all that is haunted, don't leave the walls black. Texture can be obtained through sponge painting with a variety of objects, dry brushing, adding foreign objects to paint, etc. There are a million ways to learn texture painting, from youtube, pinterest, google and many other places. Do some research on a rainy day and come up with a new technique for your haunt arsenal.

Next, lighting. Too much washes out the effects, and not enough makes for a dark room with hidden scenery and effects. You might have to play around with the lighting, but with a little effort, you can find the sweet spot. Layer your lighting. Use a good overall color for ambient lighting, then a contrasting color for to make edges pop out. You can also play around with accent lighting to add more depth to your scene. Single color lighting worked great for many years, but times have changed. Add a touch of contrast to your scenes. Your patrons will thank you for it.

Spend a little time working one the details of each scene. The harder you try to make the scene look like your initial vision, the better it will look in the end. Study pictures of the distressing effect you want to look for. If you're unsure that you can duplicate it on the first try, find a piece of scrap lumber or cardboard and practice on that until you feel confident that you can do it. None of us started out being awesome at scene design, so in reality, we are all still learning. Who knows, you may learn a new technique to share with others.

As long as you continue to enjoy the hobby we have all chosen, you're doing it right. There is no wrong or right way to design haunt scenes. The limit to what can be done is only in your imagination, and haunters have some of the most active imaginations I have encountered in almost 20 years. Be creative, and make your haunt the best that you can make it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Night Visitor 1 and 2 Get A Distribution Deal

Back last year, we got the opportunity to review The Night Visitor from Blanc/Biehn Productions (which you can read HERE), and we broke the news about Night Visitor 2: Heather's Story being directed by Brianne Davis. Well now, Blanc/Biehn Productions and Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada have teamed up to bring them to the masses! So read on for the 411 on these cool flicks!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Divine Tragedies Is Coming

We normally don't write about movie trailers. But with this one, I felt that it needs to be on your radar. And with a cast starring Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Sean Whalen, Hannah Levien, Graham Denman, and Jon Kondelik, it definitely has piqued my interest! So join us as we unveil the trailer to the film, The Divine Tragedies!