HHN Editorial: What’s in an Icon? I Don’t Know Jack!

The Director, the only Icon that was semi-shared with Hollywood

On both coasts, Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights is all about one thing, the houses.  Usually,  the Hollywood and Orlando parks have some overlapping themes, like this year’s “The Shining,” but there is one thing that the parks have really never had in common.  Say it with me, “Hollywood always skimps out on an icon!!!”

Year after year, around this time before the season, I find myself refreshing the Horror Nights web page, and solving clues on Twitter for both parks, eager to get that next taste of what is to come.  Also, year after year, I see Orlando get a cool, new icon, or a re-vamped favorite like “Jack the Clown” or “The Caretaker,” while the Hollywood park chooses to go without an icon.

I have always wondered why Universal Hollywood just can’t seem to get this right.  Every year I see fans of the event plead for an icon, and every year, we are disappointed, even when HHN Hollywood makes an attempt at creating an icon.

I know, I sound like a spoiled child, but come on!  Universal aside from 2006 and

Photo Credit: Undercover Tourist; Hollywood Harry stalks guests on the backlot near Bates Motel.

2007 when you used “Jack the Clown” and “The Director” as mainly marketing devices, with little use in the actual event, you haven’t really given the fans much in the way of an icon.

At the 2016 event, there was a fine attempt to create an iconic character in “Hollywood Harry” in the month leading up to the event.  The entire Terror Tram was even themed around this character who was really, quite cool.  Sadly, the only place you could glimpse “Harry” was by waiting to board the Terror Tram, one of the park’s most popular attractions.  Even a scare zone with “Harry” would have at least created the guise of a mascot.

The scare zone tactic was tried in previous years with La Llorona as a scare zone theme, and the face of the 2010 event in most marketing campaigns.  She even came out to meet the press at the Eyegore Awards, but sadly, her scare zone was pretty sparse and seemed more like a sneak preview for the maze she would own the next two years at the event.

Eli Roth at The Eyegore Awards Photo Credit: Metroplague

Hollywood has been lucky enough to have iconic celebrities in horror sponsor mazes.  Some of them include Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper to start.  While these mazes were popular, it would have been interesting for at least one of them to create an icon in their name that would control the madness consuming the park.

This begs me to question, why hasn’t HHN Hollywood taken the steps that it’s bigger sibling in Orlando has?  Does it really cost that much more to create a new character, or even utilize characters from Orlando’s prior years in a larger scale way, OUTSIDE of the Terror Tram?  I personally feel like it would increase appeal for the event and make the event seem a little more streamlined and themed as a whole.

La Llorona meets and greets the press

Don’t get me wrong, I love my HHN Hollywood but with Orlando having original mazes on epic scales (that’s another topic), and awesome icons,  I feel like Hollywood is severely lacking in the unique aspect of its production value, especially when it shares mazes with big names like “The Exorcist” and “Krampus” with the Orlando crowd.  Where’s the reciprocation, Mike Aiello?

Orlando and Hollywood fans alike, I am dying to know what you think of the lack of icons in one park and the abundance of icons in the other.  Is there something that Hollywood has that evens out the scale for Orlando?  Let’s get a discussion going.

Blood Drive Episode Recap: Welcome to Pixie Swallow

Pixie Swallows, AZ…where the Corn Dogs are cut fresh.
Photo credit: Syfy

Last week was the bloody and brilliant premiere of Syfy’s latest television series “Blood Drive.”  Metroplague was thrilled to be introduced to gritty yet fun characters like Grace D’Argento, The Gentleman, Julian Slink, and The Scholar.  Other main characters like Arthur Bailey and Christopher Carson (Thomas Dominique) fell a bit short on the excitement scale; but luckily for Syfy, boring characters are in short supply in the world of “Blood Drive.”

Episode two, “Welcome to Pixie Swallow” opens up with the introduction of customers enjoying their meals at the hoppin’ Arizona food joint, Pixie Swallow Diner; a restaurant connected to the local motel.  An upbeat, attractive, blonde waitress is shown serving meat dishes, flirting with customers, and making out with the janitor before stepping into the diner’s backroom kitchen where the audience sees the chef, her father, grinding a human leg into a meat grinder (Not a spoiler, this was in the episode preview on the network).  It is now clear that viewers are in for the cannibal content that can only be enjoyed in a Grindhouse production setting.

After the credits, it is discovered that the competitors of the annual Blood Drive have deemed Pixie Swallow as the latest stopping point to “refuel,” relax and imbibe for the night.  With this introduction to the episode’s setting, our protagonists, Arthur and Grace step in for a bite to eat.  Arthur is still intent on exposing Heart Industries after finding out they are pulling the strings behind not only the Blood Drive but society itself.  Grace is still intent on winning the race prize money to help her sister Karma, who the audience still knows little about.  Despite their risque achievement during the “climax” of episode one, both characters are still at opposite ends of the moral spectrum.  Without any spoilers, very quickly madness and cannibalistic violence ensue, and our “heroes” are forced to step up and save another member of the Blood Drive after the family of cannibals has tampered with their vehicle.

This episode also included two subplots; one involving Julian Slink, the other, centers on the fate of Chris Carson, who was captured by a secret society at the end of episode one.  Both of these stories were among the weakest portions of the episode when there really could have been more focus on the Blood Drive competitors war with the cannibal clan.

Julian Slink, at your service, for better or worse.
Photo Credit: Syfy

Carson’s plot point was completely unnecessary and trivial, coming off as an attempt at the show’s creators to make a dull character more interesting.  Unless Carson’s misadventures in the secret lair of the baddies lead to a major turning point, it may have been better to just off the character in the previous episode.

Slink’s solo venture in the plot makes sense since he technically broke the rules and allowed Grace and Arthur to live after their loss during the first leg of the Blood Drive.  The meat of Slink’s portion of the episode involves him in Heart Industries waiting room where audiences get a comedic glimpse at the depths of depravity this character is willing to go in order to get his way.

The Good:

Chef Carl grinding up the latest Filet…
Photo Credit: Syfy

The entire portion of the episode involving Pixie Swallow and the inhabitants of the diner was highly entertaining and gave viewers the violent spectacle that was expected after the pilot episode.  There was also quite a bit of body humor (pun intended) that just worked for the plot and made a tense situation for the protagonists a good time.

The latter half of Slink’s storyline was also filled with dark humor and violence but unfortunately, the action came a little too late, but not by any fault of this sections plot.

One of the shining characters on the show is Grace D’Argento, played so slickly by Christina Ochoa.  In each scene she is in, Ochoa brings a presence that fans of Grindhouse cinema will clamor for in hopes for more.  With each one liner, innuendo, or kick-ass fight scene, Ochoa proves she was born for the genre.

The Bad:

While the pilot episode shined with a look that went beyond the average Syfy production, something about the camera quality and direction seemed different and off this episode.   It wasn’t terrible production quality, but it was obvious that more money was spent on the pilot episode than “Welcome to Pixie Swallow.”  Hopefully, this was just an episodic fluke and audiences will have the slick look of the pilot episode back in no time.

Another area that hurt the show every now and then was Arthur’s dialogue.  Yes, Grindhouse dialogue is meant to be cheesy, but it wasn’t the cheese that smelled bad, it was Ritchson’s delivery of his serious lines.

While this episode overall had quite a few low points, these bad marks should not be enough to bring the Blood Drive to a screeching halt.  Sure the transmission of the show stumbled a bit this episode, but audiences were promised a deeper look into Grace’s interesting past in episode three.

Look out for weekly recaps and thoughts from Metroplague as “Blood Drive” plays out its first season.  Be sure to catch the show on Syfy Wednesday nights at 10 PM EST/9 PM CST or on Syfy.com.

Editorial: Halloween Horror Nights 2017?Announced Mazes

I have been a long-time visitor to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights event in Hollywood, California.  I have never been to the Florida event but it is a “must do” on my bucket list.  Keep that in mind, since I will primarily be focusing on Hollywood’s upcoming event and will only sprinkle in some thoughts on Florida’s currently announced lineup. 

Trouble in Paradise?

That’s right, there was some big buzz on news feeds since the 2016 event that fans were certain to get a maze based on James Wan’s Conjuring series.  Well folks, it does not look like we are going to be getting that anytime soon.  Seeing as author of the book “The Demonologist,” Gerald Brittle is currently in a lawsuit with Warner Brothers Studios regarding the producers not having the rights to properly use the likeliness of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  This is a 900 million dollar issue that Universal surely avoided during their selection process and rights acquisitions for the 2017 season.  Yes, it really sucks, but I can’t blame them for not wanting to get thrown into WB’s quicksand.  

The rumored Hollywood replacement for this maze is said to be a haunt based on horror “it” man Jason Blum’s productions.  Think of this as an anthology house that could include Get Out, Insidious, Lights Out,  Split, Sinister….the list goes on.  This house, based on which films it chooses to portray could either be amazing or complete trash if they opt to re-hash old Purge scenes that we have seen on the streets of Sunset Boulevard and on the backlot for the last four years of HHN.  Time will only tell.

Announced Maze: The Shining

After HHN ringleader John Murray finally obtained the rights to his crown jewel intellectual prouduct The Exorcist, it only seems right that fans get to step inside of another classic.  

Personally, I’m surprised that Murdy did not opt to use The Exorcist again, especially after the success of he maze which had wait times that exceeded 2 1/2 hours. So, it’s out with the old, in with the new and I am loving it!  Yes, The Shining is a slow burn of a movie with maybe 3-5 scenes that could be considered straight horror, but I feel like Murdy is going to be able to pull this one off.  Muddy describes the maze as a glimpse into going insane, and as one of the most difficult mazes to pull off.  

My predictions are we will be seeing the hallway twins in both living and dead forms, the bathroom scene, and of course, Jackie Boy going nuts on the audience with his axe through a simulated hedge maze.  I would love to see the bloody elevator scene happen, but I can’t fathom how they would pull it off without making guests wear rain boots throughout the attraction.  However, something tells me that such an iconic scene in horror will not go unnoticed by the HHN creative team.

Both parks have announced that The Shining will appear at the 2017 event.

Maze Announcement: American Horror Story: Your Roanoke Nightmare

Last year, AHS made its debut at Horror Nights where it essentially showcased three mini-houses for the Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel (my personal favorite) seasons.  I had a gut feeling that AHS would return this year showcasing Coven, Asylum and Roanoke, and I was both right and wrong in my predictions.

Recently it was announced that Orlando would get all three seasons in one house, and Hollywood would be a solo venture into the most recent season, My Roanoke Nightmare.

Roanoke promo art. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Let me preface my next statements by saying that I absolutely LOATHED My Roanoke Nightmare.  It was poorly written, played its plot too close to Murder House and Hotel, and it played with some formatting choices that just came off as a cheap gimmick.

However, while the show was a mess, I can confidently say there was enough content in the season to merit a solo house.  While I thoroughly enjoy Asylum and Coven, I’m eager to see what a solo AHS house can put out for guests of the event.

I would look forward to a scene that portrays being lost in the woods, a basement attack by the witch of the woods or Shelby, a Cannibal scene, and even an appearance by the murderous sister nurses.  Just please, don’t let it be a constant slew of Butcher characters bursting through the walls yelling unintelligible Irish slurs or us being hunted down by the damned Pig Man.  Sadly, judging by promotional pictures, Pig Man is front and center. Yaaaaaaay….

Keep your eyes peeled for more HHN 2017 announcements as the news is released on my end. Until next time, Plague Rats!

-RR

The Haunted Armory Bringing Scares that Care (Gallery Inside)

Angie Stephens poses with one of her many creations that benefit The Haunted Armory.
The love of all things creepy goes hand-in-hand with most of the personalities in the Goth community.  In Metroplague’s opinion, the best way to celebrate the creepiness in life is to visit all of the local haunted attractions of an area during the Halloween season.

However, while many haunted attractions around the nation are very large-scale, for-profit businesses,  DFW is lucky to have a community of haunters that take their businesses to the next level and bring the profits up for a better community. Continue reading “The Haunted Armory Bringing Scares that Care (Gallery Inside)”

999 Happy Haunts, but Always Room for 1,000

Photo Credit: Marc Davis, Walt Disney Studios

Disneyland and Disney World are the places of dreams for children and adults alike.  With happy-go-lucky vibes around, it is hard to pinpoint an ounce of sorrow behind any aspect of a Disney park…that is unless you’re the one fronting the bill. OR you are one of the unfortunate souls to remain in the park after your visit.

From ghostly shopkeepers to ashes spread where no ashes should fall, Disney does have its fair share of stories with a major creep factor.  Yes, the story about the crying boy in the haunted mansion, or the Small World suicide are all fun urban legends to joke about, but according to past cast members,  there are some very freaky happenings that go on behind the scenes (And we aren’t talking about Prince Eric and Belle, either).

As a short extra for you all, and a prelude to my Haunted Mansion history series in August,  I’ve provided a few videos that feature Disney ghost stories, famous Disney deaths, and my personal favorite Disney CreepyPasta.  Grab your Mouse Ears and make a homemade Dole Whip (Recipe HERE) before sitting down to this ghastly hour.  Until Monday, Plague Rats, enjoy.

 

This Ain’t Your Childhood Mummy Movie

 

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Metroplague was lucky enough to catch a late night advanced screening of Universal’s “first” foray into their Dark Universe, The Mummy.  Going into this movie we had seen critics and other fans alike jump all over this movie like a plague of locusts.  Based on the buzz, we thought it was going to be bad and went in with the lowest expectations possible for the latest reimagining of the classic story.   Continue reading “This Ain’t Your Childhood Mummy Movie”

Ghosts, Cults and Murderous Legends of Proctor Valley Road, CA

Photo Credit: World News
When thinking of San Diego, California, most outsiders quickly imagine lush beaches, palm trees, the sun, and an alternative rock playlist that seems to serve as a permanent soundtrack to the lives of the comfortable citizens of the landscape.

Sure, those things are technically there, you don’t have to look farther than your nearest billboard off of the 805 freeway to find the way to that type of scenery.  However, if you look past the beaches and pristine streets, you will quickly find the grime and crust of urban legends and violent pasts that stain the outwardly immaculate body of my beloved hometown.

As in all towns, there was the standard haunted house at the end of the darkest street, or the restaurant that was occupied by supposed demonic entities; but none of these tales could hold a candle to the fear that Proctor Valley Road could place into a child’s soul.

From hitchhiking figures to occult and Klan sightings, there were plenty of reasons to be dubious about Proctor Valley Road, and fortunately for me, I spent most of my life on a ranch in the suburb of Bonita that rested right at the entrance of this eerie hollow.

As a kid, my Uncle “C” used to tell me stories of how he would go out to Proctor Valley in the 70s and party with his friends at a well-lit bonfire.  However, one story always stood out to me.

“I was at the fire with my friends, you know, drinking booze and flirting with ‘chicks,’ then one of my friends started screaming in the distance.  We all ditched the fire and went towards the screams.  We found him about 50 yards out, near a tree where he had been taking a piss.  A young girl in a white dress could be seen hanging by a rope from a nearby branch.”

Now, he never went beyond what happened next.  Did they go to the police?  Was she a spirit?  Was she just “hanging” around the bonfire waiting for a drink?  We never knew.  I honestly think this story was one told to keep ill-behaved children on the right side of the tracks.  But his story is not the only story of murder on the road.  Proctor Valley was notorious as a place for local denizens of the underbelly to stash the bodies of their robbed victims, so who knows…maybe my uncle was onto something.  I sure know my Aunt “D” was with this next story.

“One dusk evening your cousins & I drove down the dirt road to get to Eastlake ( before the road was paved) on Procter Valley. We came across a young man walking & talking on his phone. My first thought was to ask him if he was lost but I had my 3 kids in the car & just moved on.  As we drove by him slowly he had a hooded jacket covering his face so we weren’t able to see him. The next day he was on the news with a covered blanket over his upper body. To make a long story short we were the last to see him alive….” she said.

There are also rumored KKK sightings and occult offerings made on the vast dirt road in the middle of nowhere, but really all it seems to be is stories, and the only thing I’ve personally found out there was childish pentagram graffiti on dilapidated farm houses.  But is it the real danger that kept us away from the road?  Oh no, my dear Plague Rats.  On that road, there were plenty of “Monsters” lurking in the shadows.

*The most popular monster myth on this road is the Proctor Valley Monster.  This is something that has so many versions of the story that I’ll provide you with a link to a great article from the San Diego Reader here.

La Llorona Photo Credit: Universal HHN
Of course, for any Hispanic child, the story of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) is one that is sure to keep them in line.  Yes, there is a version of La Llorona on Proctor Valley Road.  Legend has it, there is an older lady who wanders the dirt roads crying out for her children…..best hope she doesn’t catch you, for according to legend if she does, it’s curtains for you.

Another mysterious woman is the Lady in Blue.  According to tall tales, she crouches down in the middle of the road and cries out for help as drivers roll by.  Should you pick her up, she will “surely” kill the driver before the car reaches its destination.  Should you leave her, your act of cruelty will also result in your death before reaching your destination.  Cheesy, I know, but there are some stories that only the witnesses can comprehend.

My Aunt was kind enough to provide another story of PVR.  While this is not the women that I discussed previously, this story is honestly a completely terrifying one and is enough to keep me off of PVR at the age of 30!

“My dear friend Marcia and I used to carpool, and she’d take the short cut daily to pick me up. One night after dropping me off she saw a lady in a white long dress with no face appear in front of her car. As she slowed down not knowing who or what she was the lady looked at her with no face and glided off! Marcia never took that road again at night!”

It’s a wild story, so believe it or not.  I just know in all my years my Aunt hasn’t lied to me.

The final legend and the one that I am most curious about is the story of Haven  Bakery.  This eatery used to reside in Jamul, CA, where PVR ended.  I believe it was demolished in 2008 to be replaced by something corporate.  As my dear friend Amy says, no matter how dirty the history, it’s a damn shame to see it replaced with a Walgreens.

The Haven Restaurant and Bakery
Photo Credit: thisissandiego.tumblr.com
According to legend, Haven was run by a father who one day discovered his daughter hanging from a noose in the basement, dead.  Wild with rage, the father is rumored to have killed all of the workers in the restaurant and leaving the bodies in the bathroom to rot before killing himself.  This building used to be a large haunt for teens and amateur ghost hunters to get into mischief, and it is no surprise that the bathroom and basement areas are deemed the most haunted based on the story.

I haven’t been able to find any factual evidence of a massacre, but it does make for a fun story to frighten oneself with while exploring a run down property.  Here is a video of the bakery from Vegas13adventure’s YouTube Channel.

Although there isn’t evidence of the actual murder taking place, there is a handful of proven accidental deaths on the property.

For some REALLY creepy first-hand Haven Bakery stories check out this Sub-Reddit!

Keep in mind that there are tons of stories based around PVR, and this post didn’t even scratch the surface. 

*In Rod Serling voice*  So, next time you find yourself in San Diego, California at night.  Take a chance and take a drive down that long dirt path at the end of Sweetwater Road.  Keep your headlights on and your wits about you, or you may just find yourself a permanent resident of….Proctor Valley Road.

If you have a PVR in your hometown, Metroplague wants to hear all about it in the comments section below.  Please subscribe to us so that we can continue to be DFW’s number one source for Horror and Goth culture.  Look out for our review of The Mummy on Friday!