Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Incident In Lake County: Alien Abduction - A Cornucopia of Other Worldly Fright

Alien Abduction:  Incident in Lake County
Directed by Dean Alioto
Written by Dean Alioto & Paul Chitlik
Starring Benz Antione, Kristian Ayer & Gillian Barber\
Unrated  -  Approx 93 Min.


Alternate Titles:
Incident in Lake County - US Alternative Title
Extrañas criaturas (Strange Creatures) - Argentina
Alien Abduction - Australia
Estranhas Criaturas (Strange Creatures) - Brazil 

Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape - UK

Back in the 90's there was a resurgence in the fascination of aliens and UFO's.  You couldn't change the channel without hitting on a show about UFO sightings, reports of abductions, specials about Area 51, Groom Lake and Alien Autopsies.  It was a pretty awesome time to be a UFO enthusiast!  It was toward the end of this extra-terrestrial boom that we were treated to this little slice of found footage terror.  About a year before The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm, Incident at Lake County quietly aired in people's home via cable channel UPN and promptly freaked out people like me.

Just your typical dysfunction family Thanksgiving!

The brothers go to check the fuse.  

If you read this blog at all, then you know I'm freaked out by aliens.  Fire in the Sky nearly killed me when I saw if for the first time.  Shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings routinely kept me cautiously looking skyward when driving down a lonely country road by myself at night.  Then this came along.  It was presented the same as the Alien Autopsy special, in that a preamble states that the authenticity of the video is up to the viewer to decide, yadda know the drill.

We are introduced to a family getting ready to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.  (Ah HA!  It's a Thanksgiving themed movie!  BRILLIANT!  They've fused aliens with my favorite food based holiday.  Those diabolical bastards!).  Young Matthew is playing around with a video camera and decides that he'll film the festivities.  Like pretty much any family, this one is dysfunctional.  Mom's alcoholic, the oldest son is a bit of a douchebag.....another teenage son is having naked time with his girlfriend get the idea.  As the turkey is being carved, there's a bright flash of light and the power goes out.  The three boys go out to check the fuses.  That's when they stumble across a landed UFO and aliens slicing open cows with a laser beam.  The aliens spot the boys and follow them back to the house, launching a campaign of terror upon the household.

It's hard to make out, but that's an alien cutting up a cow with a laser beam.  

It seems a little odd that the aliens would dick with these people for half the night instead of just abducting them or whatever they're going to do....but then again, for all I know, aliens are a bunch of douche-nuggets who get off on scaring humans.  Bunch of jerks.

I've got nothing.

Renee ain't lookin' so good.....

Anyway, aliens appear in the house, outside the house, etc in a series of fairly disturbing and poorly lit encounters.  Remember this whole thing is being shot via camcorder (with a light attachment).   The electricity in the house has been knocked out so we're pretty much seeing everything through flashlights and candles.  While it can be a bit frustrating sometimes, it certainly adds to the doom laden atmosphere that this film generates.  All in all, it's a pretty solid entry into the found footage genre that is worth a look.  Especially  if you're like me and equally fascinated and terrified by aliens.

That right there is Nightmare Fuel for a person like me.  Thanks alot!

Midnight Cinephile Tally

Death Toll:  One for sure.....the hot chick.  Why is it always the hot chick.  I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that they all get abducted....after all it's in the title.  What became of them?  Who knows....maybe they're all dead and laying mutilated in a field somewhere.

Nude O Meter:  Well, technically there's one set of boobs.  However, they are pixilated.  Damn, gypped again.

Things That Go Bump In The Night:  Call them what you want.  Aliens, Greys, etc....these evil little bastards are definitely not just looking to phone home.  Fucking aliens, man.   They creep me out.

Final Thoughts
This definitely has to take the award for strangest Thanksgiving themed horror movie that I've ever seen.  Just the whole merging of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and alien abductions seems SO wrong to me on so many levels.  Oh well, at least it wasn't Christmas!

Final Rating

Three out of Five Pizza Rolls

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sun Shines At Midnight....

Say what?

Is that supposed to be some kinda James Bond code?

Are you supposed to respond with something hokey like
"In London, April is a Spring month?"


I am quite pleased to announce that I have been the recipient of the Sunshine Award!

It's not the acceptance letter into the Evil League of Evil that I've been waiting on forever, but it's pretty damn spiffy and I shall display it with pride!  A HUGE thank you to Warden Stokely from Warden Stokely's Horrorzine for the nomination.  It was an incredible surprise and it is quite and honor!  If you haven't been over to her corner of the blogosphere, I suggest you do so immediately.  Sure....she doesn't like Halloween III, but I forgive her....none of us are perfect.  ;-)

And so, in the spirit of thankfulness and fellowship I shall uphold the sacred duty of a Sunshine Award recipient and I will spread the love.  How does it work?  So glad you asked!

The Rules...because in horror movies....ya GOTTA have rules!

1. Include the award's logo in a post or on your blog
2. Link to the person who nominated you
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself (You can either use these questions or make up your own to answer!  I've used some of Warden's and some of my own....)
4. Nominate 10 Bloggers
5. Link your nominees to th we post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated

1.)  How long have you been doing this?  When did you launch?
Well, I first launched this blog under the title The Wizard of Vestron on February 28, 2010.  It was originally going to be a slightly wider scoped blog that covered video games, TV, movies, music, books, comics and anything else that I damn well pleased.  I even posted a review of the short lived Dorito's Late Night - All Nighter Cheeseburger flavored chips!  Yeah.....not my proudest moment....but I was still feeling my way around.

Then on March 31, 2012 I changed the look of the blog and changed it's title to Midnight Cinephile, with the ultimate goal of transitioning to a full fledged website.  Which.....still has not happened.

Finally on October 28, 2013 the very Midnight Cinephile Podcast was released.  You can listen to the current episode streaming on the blog, or you can download it from LibSyn or iTunes!

2.)  Most pleasant blogging surprise?
By far the most pleasant surprise that I've had is meeting a wide variety of new people and making friends in unexpected places.  Without Midnight Cinephile, I never would have had the pleasure of meeting and befriend Ms.Mija Lou....a gorgeous Danish Pin Up model with a love of horror movies.  I also never would have never met my brother in horror movie arms, Mr. Travis Love who co-hosts the podcast with me.
Dan from 3D Monster also a good friend of mine that I never would have met without my spooky little corner of the blogosphere.  I could sit here all day....but I'm sure you want to read some more of the questions....

3.)  Most hard won blogging wisdom?
Blogging takes work!  Visitors don't just magically've got to constantly and actively seek out people to read your mad ramblings.  It's downright exhausting sometimes and other times it's even disheartening when you think that no one reads your stuff.  Then one day someone shows up with a Sunshine Awards and it makes it all worth it!

4.)  Favorite Post?
I've got a few posts that I'm pretty proud of:
Movie Sequels: Roman Numerals vs. Natural Numbers was (I thought) an interesting and humorous look at the difference using Roman Numerals makes in movie sequels.
Attack of the Video Clips was my homage to the great shows like TNT Monstervision and USA Up All Night that fueled my youth.
Tales From The Darkside - Hush what I had originally intended to simply be a review of one of my favorite Tales from the Darkside episodes turned into walk down memory lane and allowed the reader to join me on a Friday night from my youth.  Heavy doses of warm nostalgia are sprinkled throughout the piece and it's also the post which lead to the adoption of Pizza Rolls as my rating form!

5.) Favorite movie to suggest to folks looking for obscure horror?
This one is a no brainer!  It is of course the ultra-wonky Track of the Moon Beast.  My god, the movie is just amazing.  It's basically a werewolf tale but instead of a werewolf, we get a were.....erm.....iguana.  Or something like that.  After a guy gets struck in the head with a meteor, he starts to change with the full moon.  This one was once covered on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I enjoy the straight version.  The band singing "California Lady" is the cherry on the sundae.

6.)  Favorite non-horror film?
Wow, that's a hard one.  Why would I ask myself such a hard question?  Why am I talking to myself like this?  This is going nowhere.  Okay....well, much like horror, I don't have a single favorite, so if it's okay with you guys, I will just go ahead and break it down be category with my current favorite.  Though if you were to ask me again in an hour, you'd get a completely different set of films.

Comedy:  Step Brothers!  Yes, it's juvenile and it's ridiculous and that is what I love about it.  I quote the film at least 12 bajillion times a day.

Action:  Man of Steel.  I love Superman and this film absolutely did it for me on every level.  

Adventure:  Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Holy treasures....expansive desertscapes and melting nazis!  This film's got it all!

Musical:  The Pirate with Danny Kaye......what a great friggin film that is.  If.   you haven't seen it, please do so immediately.  If you are a fan of musical cinema, I assure will not be disappointed.

I've also got a major weakness for all comic book movies.......

7.) What genre film did you like the least this year?
Hands down, without a doubt, World War Z.  I seem to be in the minority on this one and I'm okay with that.....I'm kinda used to it.  I don't care HOW well it works as an action/adventure flick.  It's supposed to be a friggin zombie epic and they turned it into a soulless cash grab full of the most ridiculous "zombies" I've ever seen.  Don't even get me started on the fact that there was no gore.  Seriously?  The zombies give you a love nibble and then you become a member of an insect like swarm of the undead with ridiculous speed and a snobby attitude to towards sickly meat. 

8.)  Favorite movie to subject straights to even though I know they won't enjoy it?
Killer Klowns From Outer Space.  Man.....I just love watching peoples faces when they see that flick for the first time.

9.)  Best bad movie?
Another easy one!  Invasion of the Blood Farmers!  It's such a terrible, no budget wonky trashterpiece that only certain people will understand how amazingly awesome it is.  If you want to see some of the worst acting in cinematic history, then you may look no further than this flick.  Of course.....any Don Dohler film will give you about the same quality acting.

10.) What do you do besides blog about horror movies?
Well, I work full time as a 911 dispatcher in a busy metropolitan area as well as communications for Life Flight and quite suitably I work the graveyard shift.  I am an EMT...though I haven't been on an ambulance in a while.  But enough of the boring day to day stuff....I'm sure you're much more interested to hear about what makes a dude like me tick, eh?

Well, in my 20's I was a semi-professional magician for a number of years.  I've been in several bands (though none of them went anywhere) and I've also appeared in a couple of independent films.  I still enjoy playing the guitar and would love to start a music club of sorts to just hang out and jam with fellow musicians.
I'm a video game fan.  I've been playing video games since the Atari 2600 and I love retro games.  I also run a severely neglected video game blog called The Space Dungeon of Vestron.  The most traffic on the site comes from a post that compiled all of the Mega Man box art from the US and Europe.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to spruce it up and give it more attention.  Then I realized that I neglect Midnight Cinephile too and I feel bad about myself and start to stress eat.

I also have another blog with really functions as just a silly off shoot blog that either gets updated (or doesn't) per my whim.  The House of the Atomic Rangoon is just a place for me to be my goofy ol' self and not really care what traffic is coming in.

So that's me in a nutshell!  And now, I give to you.....MY nominees for The Sunshine Award!

Dan from 3D Monster
Jayson from The Basement of Ghoulish Delights
Shonen from Black Sun
Chris & Paul from Temple of Schlock
Eegah and Tabonga from Dwrayger Dungeon
Stacie from Final Girl
Johnny from Midnite Media
Karswell from The Horrors of it All
Dave from The 2,500 Movie Challenge
W.B. from Microbrew Reviews

Congratulations to you all!

Turkeys Away! Morbid Thanksgiving Humor Courtesy of WKRP.....In Cincinnati!

It's time to hit the "Wayback" button on the ol' time machine and revisit one of my all time favorite Thanksgiving treats!  It's the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP...In Cincinnati!  It's really the last 5 minutes or so that make this episode such a standout classic, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The episode begins with Mr. Carlson, the station manager, feeling rather out of place and useless after the station's change of format to rock & roll.  He decides to put on a large publicity stunt for Thanksgiving, though he won't tell anyone what he's up to.  All they know is that he's sent Herb to get 20 live turkeys.

Jennifer doesn't take dictation or get coffee.....

One of the few....if not the only time you'll hear Pink Floyd's "Dogs" on a sitcom on CBS!

The day before Thanksgiving, Les is sent out to the shopping plaza to cover the event and what unfolds is absolutely hysterical.  Mr. Carlson and Herb arrive in a helicopter flying a banner behind then reading "HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM WKRP".  Carlson then proceeds to start throwing turkeys out of the helicopter, which then in turn start to plummet to the earth, hitting the ground like "bags of wet cement" as Les puts it.  Chaos in the parking lot ensues and the feed is lost.

Venus Flytrap and Les Nessman complain about Carlson

What makes that scene so hilarious is the fact that we don't see any of it.  We are simply watching Les reporting from in front of a store and his reactions to what is going on.  Hands down, it truly is one of the funniest moments in TV history.

Just watching Les' reaction and listening to his commentary on the turkeys dropping is priceless 
The rest of the gang at the station listen....mortified!

The final scene in the show finds Carlson and Herb get back to the station looking like they've been in a major tussle.  The gang tries to cheer up Carlson, to no avail.  When Les shows up, we get the rest of the story:  Carlson tried to land the helicopter and toss out the rest of the turkeys to "save the day", but the turkeys organized themselves and seemingly mounted a counter attack!  Of course this is after a man and his two children try to kill Les and he narrowly escapes with his life by jamming himself in a phone booth.  Again, we never actually get to see any of this, but it's the  way that Les describes it that truly makes it funny.

Also a fun side note, we get to hear an excerpt from Pink Floyd's "Dogs" during the show.

"As God as my witness....I thought turkeys could fly!"

A Fistful of Turkeys - A Turkey Slaying Boardgame

It's been a while since I've covered a boardgame here on Midnight Cinephile, but when I came across this little slice of Thanksgiving weirdness, I just couldn't resist sharing it with you.  Now I don't own this game and I've never played it, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because, much like Thanksgiving themed horror movies, Thanksgiving themed boardgames are hard to come by......let alone Thanksgiving themed boardgames with a macabre twist.  As a matter of fact, this may be the only one!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you.......

A Fistful of Turkeys

The story reads as follows:

Billy hated turkeys.  He hated everything they stood for.  The doctors all said he was crazy, but Billy knew the turkeys were planning to overthrow human society - and he, alone in necessary, would foil their fowl plan;  for now, Billy's hatred had been unleashed.  That's right, Billy had caught . . . TURKEY FEVER!

A Fistful of Turkeys is a hex and counter game (much like many of the war games available).  The goal of the game is for Billy to SPLAT six turkeys in less than ten turns.  Now the game is listed as a two player game.  I'm not sure if that means that one person plays as Billy and the other player controls the turkeys (that would be amazing if that is the case), or if both players are competing to SPLAT six turkeys first (which is still pretty awesome!).  

Let's take a look at the photos I was able to find on Board Game Geek:

This would appear to be the first page of the instructions....which gives the little story and a little blurb about the fictitious designer of the game, Some Turkey.  Heh, heh.  Obviously this whole thing is meant as a parody and was made as a joke.....but hey.....we got a picture of Billy (who looks like Clint Eastwood)  strangling that's something!

Here's the game board provided.  Interesting.  Looks like there's only one way in or out.....I wonder if turkeys can escape during the game?  Perhaps if there is a TURKEY player, their goal is to sneak away from Billy and escape the Turkey Hatch?  Either way, it's gonna be a gory fight!

And finally, here are some of the counters used in the game.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with boardgames of this sort, a counter functions as your game pieces that you move around the board.  Their movement is determined usually by various stats that will be displayed on the counter or explained in the instructions.  There are various types of counters....some represent the players, others represent obstacles or even items that might help you in the game.  I like the names they gave the turkeys.   Clark Gobble....heh heh heh.....the younger readers might not get that....but trust's funny.


Well, that's about it, my friends.  I truly wish that I had a copy of this game to play so I could properly review if for you (plus I just really want to play a game where I get to mercilessly slaughter paper turkeys....) but alas, this is the best I could do.  I hope you've enjoyed taking a look at this wonky and obscure little game.  Sometimes it's fun to step away from the movies for a bit and enjoy the other awesome geekery that life provides!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blood Rage - The Bad Seed Psychotronic Style

Blood Rage
Directed by  John Grissmer
Written by Bruce Rubin
Starring  Louise Lasser, Mark Soper & Marianne Kanter 

Rated R - Approx.  84 Min.

 -  Not all the evil is on Elm Street ...
 - Every hooker's greatest fear is that the next one will be a sicko

Alternate Titles:
Nightmare at Shadow Woods - USA Alternative Title

"That's not cranberry sauce, Artie.......that's not cranberry sauce."
                                                                                                         - Terry

Wow.  That is just a really, really red screen.

Yet another entry in the incredibly small Thanksgiving Horror sub-genre, Blood Rage is a slasher film wrapped up in an evil twin motif.  The film starts with the two said twin boys (Todd and Terry) at the drive-in.  Mom and her boyfriend are busy making out in the front seat and don't notice the two boys slip out of the car.  As they wonder around, Terry finds and ax and decides to hack up a guy having sex in the back of his car.  Before the crowd starts to gather, Terry smears some blood on Todd's face and puts the ax in the terrified young boy's hands.  Todd is blamed for the murder and sent to a mental institution.

"Here Todd, hold this for me....."

Fast forward 10 years or so and Terry is living the good life with his mother and her new fiancee.  As they are sitting down with friends to Thanksgiving dinner, Terry's mother receives a phone call telling her that Todd has escaped the mental hospital.  Thus begins a night of gore and dismemberment and fun!  As everyone is on the lookout for Todd, Terry makes use of this time to slash up pretty much everyone one in the apartment complex, of course blaming all of his carnage on Todd.

This right here.  This is why this is a Thanksgiving Horror movie!

The gore quotient in this flick is definitely higher than it was in Home Sweet Home.  For the price of admission this time around you get an arm amputation, a severed head and (my personal favorite) transverse separation of the torso via machete!  The effects are quite good, with plenty of spurting blood and viscera to keep the gorehounds happy.  The acting is, predictably, pretty cheeseball.....but that's all part of what makes this film so great.  If you're looking for classically trained actors spouting of poetic lines, you've definitely crashed the wrong party....but if you're looking for over the top violent stalking and slashing, well then you've come to the right place, my friend.

Perhaps you should wait until AFTER dinner to watch this one!

I think it would have played a bit better if they hadn't shown us in the beginning that the wrong twin was blamed for the drive-in murder.  Having the additional element of not knowing which twin we were currently watching would have made for some more tension, I think.  Plus, it's pretty obvious that Terry has got a few screws loose and it's a bit hard to believe that NOBODY suspects him....especially his mother....since Todd has been professing his innocence and his psychiatrist believes him.  Oh well.....that's movie logic for ya!

"Hi, I'm Todd!"

Midnight Cinephile Tally

Death  Toll:  TEN!  We're up one from the last flick.  Huzzah!  As I previously mentioned, the kills in the one are great.  The doc getting hacked in  half by the machete is priceless.

Nude-O-Meter:  Why you dirty little perv!  Yes, there's some nudity on display here.  Mutliple breasts, some bare bottoms and we even get to see a little 80's bush!

Things That Go Bump In The Night:  Well ,  we've got Terry.....

Final Thoughts
While this movie doesn't really have a specific Thanksgiving feel to it (there's a quiet scene where they're sitting down to a turkey dinner....but that's about all the reference.  Still, not bad at all for a quickie slasher flick.

Final Rating
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Home Sweet Home - Typtophan and PCP

Home Sweet Home
Directed by Nettie Peña
Written by Thomas Bush
Starring  Jake Steinfeld, Vinessa Shaw & Peter De Paula

Rated R - Approx. 85 Minutes

 - This year, it's not the turkey being carved for Thanksgiving

 - Be it ever so humble, there's no place to HIDE
 - The Bradleys Won't Be Leaving Home.  EVER.

Alternative Titles:
Slasher In The House - US Alternative Title
La nuit du saigneur (The Night of the Bloodletter) - France
Bloodparty - West Germany

"Oh wow!  My lucky day!  Two for the price of one!"
                                                                                  - Mistake

Not sure if this is supposed to be a tattoo...looks more like a nightclub stamp.

While Home Sweet Home is part of the 80's so called "Slasher Boom", it also belongs to a much more rare family of films:  Thanksgiving Horror.  A search on the internet will yield you about 8 results typically.  Sure there are films that you can watch that certainly lend themselves to the holiday.  It's long been tradition around these parts to watch Children of the Corn around this time of year.  Why?  I dunno....corn....harvesting....reminds us of Thanksgiving kinda.....totally getting off track here.  So, the point is that there are about 8 films that directly take place on or around Thanksgiving.

Mistake......doing what he does best.

Home Sweet Home tells the tale of an escaped mental patient (natch) who, after killing a man drinking beer in his station wagon and stealing it, runs down an old woman crossing the road and heads for the country.  As it just so happens, a group of friends (or's not really clear on that.  It's an odd group of people to be sure) is having Thanksgiving at a ranch out in the middle of nowhere.

After the psycho takes out the guy in the station wagon and the old lady crossing the street, it's about half an hour before the killings start up again.  You don't really notice too much of a lag though because it's rather amusing watching these strange characters interact.  By far the most intriguing is an odd guy they call Mistake.  Wearing white make up and perpetually playing his electric guitar through an amplifier backback, Mistake generally makes a nuisance of himself, but you can't help but like the kid.  After all, he does a pretty good magic routine halfway through the flick.

Just a normal Thanksgiving on the ranch......

For the most part, the kills are not very imaginative and the killer himself looks like Lou Ferrigno and Joe Piscapo had a love child (!).  The whole thing functions on this wonky, off-beat charm and I like that quite a bit.  I will say, however that the third act really lags in some places....but if you can get past that, all in all this is a fun little slasher flick that you can watch while chompin' on some homemade pumpkin pie!


Midnight Cinephile Tally

Death Toll - We got Nine deaths total here.  As mentioned before most of the killings aren't very imaginative, but there is a nifty electrocution and another dude gets crushed under the hood of a car.

Nude-O-Meter - We're on the low end of the meter tonight.  We get one quick glimpse of breasts.

Things That Go Bump In The Night - Once again, the human monster is on display.  A jacked up mental patient on PCP with one of the most annoying and out of place laughs I've heard in a long time.

Final Thoughts
The Thanksgiving Horror genre is an incredibly small one, so if you're looking for holiday themed scares you aren't going to have much of a selection.  However, I think this is a pretty good place to start.  Though it's got a respectable body count, the gore quotient is pretty low, so you won't have to worry about losing your turkey dinner while watching it.  The whole film has a strange, wonky vibe to it that I really dug.  This will definitely have a place in my November movie cycle from now on.

Final Rating
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hallowmas Has Come and Gone

There is a trend that has been slowly building over the past few years and quite frankly, it disturbs me.  There is a subset group of people who are actively trying to ban Halloween and essentially "make it go away".  They state that Halloween is  a celebration of the profane.    They say that Halloween is a celebration of evil and that everything about it opposes God.  These people are gravely mistaken.  Before I go any further, I want to state up front that this is not a rant and people are certainly allowed to believe what they want, but I will not stand for the outright lies that these people perpetrate about the holiday. I will talk a little about All Saints Day and All Souls Day....but these days are not under fire so we're not going to go into too much detail other than to show how it all ties together.  Let's begin.....

Let's start with the words etymology.  The word was first seen around the year 1745 and is, in fact of Christian origin.  The word literally means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening".   So how did All Hallows Eve become Halloween?  This comes from Scotland.  In Scots, the word "eve" is "even" and is contracted to "e'en" or "een".  Henceforth All Hallows Even.....Halloween, or Holy Evening.

Now that we've established that we are in fact looking into the evolution of a CHRISTIAN HOLY HOLIDAY, let's dig a bit deeper, shall we?

Halloween is celebrated in a good many countries on October 31st.  The Hallowed Evening is named such as that is is the night before The Feast of All Hallows Day, which is also known as All Saint's Day.  It is also the the initiation of the triduum (a religious observance lasting three days) of Hallowmas.  It is part of the Christian Church's Liturgical Year, also known as the Church Year, which is a cycle that determines when feast days, which includes the celebration of saints, are observed and also dictates what portions of Scripture are to be read.  Easter is another of these triduums, which includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  

So now that we've established that not only is Halloween a Christian Holy Holiday, but it is in fact part of a three day celebration known as Hallowmas, let's take a look at the whole thing to really get some perspective on it shall we?  I give to you, a Midnight Cinephile look at Hallowmas.  Let's break this Holy Celebration down day by day.


These days Halloween is putting up spooky decorations and passing out candy to the kiddies as they dress up in costumes, both scary and cute.  It's a time when the older kids get a bit mischievous and toilet paper your yard, or if you are unlucky enough to have REALLY mean kids in your neighborhood, you might get some egg on your house.  A lot of people watch horror movies to enhance the spooky spirit.  There are also a good many people that throw big old Halloween parties for friends and family.  But WHERE did this come from?  How did it all start?  You may be surprised....much of what is perceived as a celebration of evil is actually and evolution of the very practices and rituals that were designed to PROTECT us from evil.

Well, like everything else in this great melting pot of a country, Halloween as changed and mutated over the centuries as different cultures and customs have blended together.  Perhaps the oldest of these customs is the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or Sah-win, depending on your accent).  Samhain, which literally means "Summer's End", marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year (which is how they often referred to winter).  It was believed that around this time the Aos Si (spirits or fairies) could more easily access our world and were more active.  The Aos Si were feared and respected.  Offerings of food, drink and crops were left as a way to ensure that the people and crops would survive the winter.  It was also said that the souls of the dead would visit their earthly homes at this time and places were set at the table and home fires were built to welcome them.  Bonfires were lit as a symbol of the sun and were meant to hold back the darkness and evil forces.

There is also a pronounced Christian influence on the holiday.  As earlier stated Halloween is the evening before All Hallows' Day on November 1st and All Souls' Day on November 2nd.  Collectively known as Hallowmas or Hallowtide, these days are a time for honoring saints and praying for the recently departed.  More on the next two days later.

By the 12th Century, it was customary for town criers to dress in black, ring bells and call on the Christian people to pray for the "poor souls".  A custom known as "Souling" was customary as far back as the 15th century, in which small pastries known as Soul Cakes (also known as Harcakes in some places) were baked and then given to the poor and children as they went from door to door, singing and saying prayers for the dead.  The folks who went door to door were known as "Soulers" and each Soul Cake they ate was to represent a soul being freed from Purgatory.  Sounds a bit like trick or treating doesn't it?  As far as the actual Phrase "Trick or Treat?"  The earliest use of the phrase came from Canada in 1927 in Alberta.  Trick or treating did not catch on in the U.S until 1934.

Dressing up in costumes is nothing new to the holiday however.  As mentioned earlier, it was believed that on this night the dead could return.  That's all fine and dandy if ya wanna see Uncle Larry once more, but unfortunately the gates didn't just open to the good souls who wanted to see loved ones.  Souls looking for vengeance also walked the streets.  To help protect themselves from any vengeance minded spirits, people would don masks and costumes to disguise themselves from harmful spirits.  In the Middle Ages, churches would often display the relics of martyred saints.  If a parish was too poor to to afford relics, the parishioners would instead dress up as saints.  As I mentioned in the paragraph above, dressing up as monsters and going house to house saying "trick or treat" didn't start in the U.S until the 1930's.

It was believed that the dead in the churchyards would rise for the night as well and would dance on their graves.  This was known as Danse Macabre, or the Dance of Death.  It is depicted quite commonly as church decorations in cathedrals, monasteries and of course graveyards.  The Danse Macabre was recreated by Christian children in villages who celebrated the vigil of All Saints.  I think that this is one of the most important aspects.  Why?  Because death is the great equalizer, is it not?  Regardless of what you believe on a spiritual level, two hundred years from now you and I will be exactly the same:  D E A D.  Whether ash or bone, we will be no more than a memory (if we're lucky) to those who have inherited the Earth.  I will die.  You will die.  We ALL will die.  No one gets off this merry-go-round alive.

One of the many Danse Macabre pieces of art

These are just a few of the MANY different customs and beliefs that fuel what we now know as Halloween.  It is in fact, NOT a time of evil, deceit, witchcraft and devil worship.  It is a Holy night when the dead can visit the living, be that good or bad.  It is a time to honor the dead.  It is a time for prayer and a time for preparation of the coming winter months....and of course it is All Hallows' Eve.....which leads us to:

All Hallows Day:

Also known as All Saints' Day, Solemnity of All Saints and The Feast of All Saints, it is a day to honor all saints known and unknown.  The second day of Hallowmas begins at sunrise and ends at sundown.

All Saints day originated somewhere around 609 AD.  Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  Ever since The Feast of the Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated in Rome.  The holiday was originally celebrated on May 13th, but was moved to November 1st by Pope Gregory III when he founded an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics of saints, martyrs and apostles.  Coincidentally, the beginning of Samhain falls on the same day.

In Mexico, All Saints' Day coincides with the second day of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festival.  This particular day is known as Dia de los Inocentes, or Day of the Innocents and it honors deceased children and infants.

In the Phillippines,  it is known both as "Todos los Santos"  (All Saints) and "Araw nl mga Patay" (Day of the Dead).  Families will visit the graves of loved ones to clean and repair them.  Offerings of prayer, flowers, candles and food are made.  In modern times many families hold reunions at gravesites and play music and even sing karaoke!  

All Souls Day:

Also known as The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and The Feast of All Souls.  It is the third day of Hallowmas and is celebrated on November 2nd.  

As All Saints' Day honors all the saints, All Souls' Day is reserved for the rest of the dead and meant as a day to help those who have not attained the Beatific Vision in Heaven.  Meaning, they ain't perfect and are stuck in Purgatory.  On All Souls' Day, these souls may be helped along with prayer and the sacrifice of the Mass.  

How do we help these fine dead folk along?  Time to circle back, folks! 

Ringing Bells  - Remember the town criers we talk about earlier?  Bingo.  The ringing of the bells was believed to sooth and comfort the souls in their cleansing period in Purgatory.

Soul Cakes - Remember those tasty little trinkets that were passed out on All Hallows Eve?  Each one eaten allows a soul to ascend to Heaven from Purgatory.  

Lighting Candles - Remember the bon fires and candles?  These are to help souls lost in the darkness.

Leaving Food At The Table - Again, as already mentioned in the Halloween section, food is left out for deceased family members.  As they make the journey from Purgatory to Heaven, they may need something to eat.

Visiting Graveyards - Many people visit the graves of family and loved ones.  They leave flowers and food and prayers and all manner of offerings.  Some people spend the entire day and night at the graveyard.  It is to honor those that have passed on

That is Hallowmas, in a nutshell.  I could have written an academic dissertation that would have filled up about twenty volumes, but I really wanted people to read this, so I thoughtfully kept the word count down to the low thousands.  Aren't I nice?

I hope that a good many people get to read this and I hope that maybe I've been able to change a few people's minds about Halloween.  Yes, in the year 2013, it is a completely commercialized holiday that is specifically engineered to push product and boost candy sales.  Before you ultra religious fanatics get on your high horses about that, let me remind you that Christmas and Easter are also now HIGHLY commercialized. 

Look, the point is this:  Halloween is, was and will always be a special time of year.  How you celebrate it is up to you....or you can choose not to celebrate it.  Hey, everybody has a right to Scrooge out on whatever holiday they want!  However, when you start to form campaigns of lies and deceit against a holiday that you don't even fully understand, that's when I start to get pissed.  Enough is enough.  You don't like Halloween?  Don't celebrate it, but keep your mouth shut because I don't want MY celebration ruined by a loud mouth zealot who has nothing better to do than spread self righteous blasphemy.  And if you think that the denouncement of Halloween ISN'T blasphemy, then my friend you are living in a delusion.