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Oct 282011

One type of setting that really sets the mood on Halloween is a haunted house. I’m not referring to the places featured on shows like Ghost Hunters. Sure they’re intense, but not as enjoyable to watch in my opinion. The ones I’m talking about are more up front with added suspense. Here are my top ten favorite haunted houses from movies, TV shows, video games, etc.

#10) Ketchum House from The Amityville Horror (1979 version): This classic house has a demonic curse because it was built on ground that was used for Devil worship and sacrifice many years ago. The house terrorizes anyone who lives there with a series of hauntings, which could be anything from doors and windows slamming, to fly infestation, to even bleeding walls and toilets. The demonic presence is both slow and tricky. Over a span of 20 days the terror occurs in pieces at a time. Even though certain others can easily sense the evil, it’s not enough to convince anyone else about it. Don’t you just hate that?

#9) The Haunted House from Haunted House (Atari and Nintendo Wii): This was one of the first spooky titles for the Atari back in the early 80s. It wasn’t much since the inside is real simple as it is dark and filled with bats, spiders, and ghosts, all four floors of it.

Thirty years later, the Nintendo Wii released a new and improved remake of Haunted House with an actual story line behind it. Siblings Jacob and Silvia Silverspring head to Silver Bay in a mansion to search for objects all around. The basic spooks are the same. However, the thrills and chills are more graphical and intensified, but still at a young level. Light sources are more limited than before and the quest is more difficult to figure out because there’s more to it compared to the Atari version. I must admit though, this modern take on the old standard is brilliant.

#8) Possessed house from Night of the Demons (80s version): Ghosts possess most haunted houses, but this house is more unique because it’s haunted by demons. If you think it’s all the same, think again. The house was once a funeral parlor, but every year on Halloween night, anyone who enters becomes a victim to these demons. Luckily, they can’t cross running water, which explains the underground stream that surrounds the property. The tough part is escaping and/or surviving before sunrise because anything can happen.

#7) Nebbercracker’s house from Monster House: Years ago, this house was possessed by the ghost of Constance the giantess. Now it’s a dangerous monster that lures children over and eats them along with anyone else who comes by. The house is also clever not to draw too much attention while doing so. Of course the real excitement is from what goes on inside the place while the children explore. The video games feature it more than the movie does.

#6) Haunted Mansion from Disney’s Haunted Mansion: Who could forget the old mansion that’s haunted by 999 ghosts? It starts with a gallery of portraits that stretch, a creepy hallway, a séance with Madame Leota, and ghosts of many kinds that are both inside and outside in the private graveyard. Isn’t it strange that these ghosts start out scary, but later on they’re more festive?

#5) Castle Hellsubus from Elvira’s Haunted Hills: It may appear cozy at points, but this place is haunted by a family curse. All who share the Hellsubus family bloodline end up doing murderous things. This castle also has plenty of surprises like a torture chamber in the basement and a giant crack that runs all throughout the floor and walls. Each night as the castle settles, it seems like the crack gets longer. Is it the curse, or just poor workmanship?

#4) Haunted House Party from Crashbox: This was one of my most favorite segments on that show. Inside the house is a fancy cocktail party that can only be viewed from the windows outside. It’s a creative way to learn about historical figures by observing their conversations. Usually it’s with a British butler or a classy lady. Sometimes it makes me wonder who they are, even if it is all shadow puppets.

#3) Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual from Shivers (CD-ROM): Even though this isn’t a haunted residence per se, it has plenty of haunts lurking all over. As you explore the museum, it’s not only the evil Ixupi you’ll run into, but the ghosts of their victims as well. At least they’re friendly ghosts and they move on once they’re freed from the Ixupi pots.

#2) Hauntquarters from Ghostbusters (1986 version): This creepy castle is the home of Prime Evil and his ghostly minions, which appears to be isolated in an eerie ghost dimension. The source of its power is Prime Evil’s bone troller organ that he uses to send ghosts to the mortal world on evil missions. As far as the haunting there, I would guess that exploring Hauntquarters would be as dangerous as exploring Snake Mountain, the evil lair of Skeletor.

#1) The Haunted house from A Night in a Haunted House/A Night in a Graveyard: Since this is from a CD, you don’t get to actually see the haunted house beyond what’s on the album cover. However, the tracks contain plenty of exciting stories and sound effects to make it feel like you’re actually there. Narrator Jack Dorsey sure makes it sound like poetry, describing the house and everything inside.

May 202011

“Aarrgh!” With the premiere of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, I decided to post a list of my top ten favorite pirates in pop culture, who have all left their marks as top plunderers of the sea.

#10) Pirate Ghosts from Garfield’s Halloween Adventure: Very little is known about these characters, only that they buried their treasure inside a house and vowed to return in 100 years to retrieve it. The pirates did come for the treasure and chase Garfield and Odie because they witnessed it. Those pirates were never seen or heard from again after that.

#9) Divatox (Hilary Shepard Turner) from Power Rangers Turbo: This female pirate and her crew come from outer space to raid riches and reign terror on the galaxy. Divatox’s pirate ship is actually a submarine with torpedoes that are used to make her henchmonsters giant-sized, which is a signature tactic with every Power Rangers arch villain. Divatox is highly emotional. Whatever the outcome of her evil plans, she gets very angry, very joyful, or very smug. Divatox never fights her own battles, but she has her ways.

#8) Black Jackson the pirate (Glenda Jackson) from The Muppet Show: In season five when Glenda Jackson made a guest appearance, she somehow becomes a pirate captain who takes over the theater. With the help of her pirate crew, Black Jackson turns it into a ship and they search for buried treasure. While out at sea, Black Jackson and her crew also like to sing and dance, even while battling with cannons.

#7) Long John Silver (Tim Curry) from Muppet Treasure Island: He was a ship cook, who befriends Jim Hawkins throughout the voyage to Treasure Island, only to find out that he is a dangerous pirate. Yet, Long John has a soft spot for young Jim, which makes him a pirate with honor.

#6) Captain James Hook from Peter Pan: There are quite a few versions of this pirate that I remember well. On Disney’s Peter Pan, Hook is as suave as he is wicked. What really stands out is his fear of the crocodile that loves the taste of him after Peter Pan fed Hook’s hand to it. Hook really freaks out whenever that crocodile arrives for a handout. In the sequel Return to Neverland, an octopus craves him. What is Hook flavored with, that sea creatures love so much?

Then in Peter Pan and the Pirates, I thought Tim Curry did a great job voicing the role of Peter Pan’s arch foe. This is also the only version of Hook who would use Shakespearean references to express his emotions.

Shortly afterward came Dustin Hoffman’s version on Hook, who is more merciless than ever. He kidnaps Peter Pan’s children for his own and he actually kills those who oppose him. How low can a pirate get?

And lastly on Shrek the Third, Hook is a piano player at a tavern called The Poison Apple. He has a pirate crew, but they prefer to attack on land instead of the sea, equipped with cannons and a piano that the captain plays while the crew fights.

#5) Captain Bones from Crashbox: Normally pirate captains, even dead ones, would have a crew but this one is a loner on a ship that’s been marooned for a long time. Captain Bones doesn’t haunt the ship. He merely tries to occupy his time by making math puzzles out of his own bones. As Captain Bones presents them, he insults those who can’t figure them out. Now there’s a pirate who has to pull himself together frequently.

#4) Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3: The name “Davy Jones” is often mentioned among pirates and sailors alike as a term for drowning at sea. In this franchise, Davy Jones is a cursed pirate captain that’s half-man and half-squid. He’s a soul collector, who likes to play the organ with the tentacles on his face. Now I understand the term better, which includes Davy Jones’s locker. Pirates don’t come any creepier than this character.

#3) Long John Scarechrome from Ghostbusters (1986 version): This pirate ghost is known as the sailor of the seven galaxies. Unlike other pirates, Long John is crafty with his high-tech weapons in his walking stick and steel leg. Even his ghost ship has satellites on the sails, laser cannons, and rockets to travel through space. It makes you wonder what kind of pirate Long John was when he was alive.

#2) Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Pirates of the Caribbean: Here’s a pirate who is like no other. He is both roguish and charming, despite that the ladies keep slapping him. Jack pillages and plunders, but he also has honor and a sense of humor. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which side he’s on, but you gotta love this guy.

#1) Morgan Adams (Geena Davis) from Cutthroat Island: This resourceful pirate is my most favorite. She is highly skilled and knows how to take charge, like a warrior woman. Morgan is also witty, even in a dangerous situation. She has killed many pirates in battle, but Morgan is tougher than most and fights with honor. It would’ve been nice to see this classic heroine on some of her other adventures, as great as she is.

Jun 192010

I remember when my sister and I used to watch Brain Games on HBO back in the 80s when we were kids. Crashbox (1999-2000) is a more updated version with more advanced games than before. Each half-hour show has seven games of amazing variety, all run together by a bunch of mini robot workers. You just never know which game will come up next.

Some of my favorite segments include “Mug Shots” where Detective Varity hears testimonies from four suspects and only one of them tells the truth, “Haunted House Party” where mystery historical figures have conversations with other ghosts in a haunted house, “Ear We Are” where two ears play a “guess the sound” game, and “10 Seconds” where you guess word puzzles.

Even though this is a kids show, there were some other segments that I would still find difficult. For instance, “Distraction News” has correspondent Dora Smarmy talk about a subject of importance, but it also has a bunch of things popping in and out as a way to keep you from listening. “Lens McCracken” is another tough game. The mystery photos featured are tough to identify because they’re all extreme close ups. Then there’s “Word Shake” where a chef mixes two or three words together to make a whole new word. For example, put “Hand” and “Chin” together and you get “Engine”. I never would’ve thought of that. It must be related to texting, which I have never been into.

Sometimes even the math puzzles on “Captain Bones” can be tough to figure out. Of course it doesn’t help when Captain Bones keeps insulting the viewers. Does that ever make you wonder, “Am I really smarter than a fifth grader”?

There are also a couple of interesting games about the animal kingdom. “Poop or Scoop” features true or false questions that are hosted by Danny Wells (who I remember best as Luigi from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show) and “Eddie Bull” who is a little guy that all zoo animals love to eat. As he goes through the animal’s digestive system, Eddie describes it and comes back in one piece ready for another animal to eat him up. Now just to set the record straight, Eddie Bull always says that he’s at the Walla Walla, Washington Zoo. Well, I used to live in Walla Walla, Washington and there never was a zoo there. Not even like the one he’s at.

The “Riddle Snake” is a cool character with that turban, playing that flute. Then a guy comes out of the basket under its control. At least the snake doesn’t try to bite him.

I must say though, one segment this show could have totally done without was “The Revolting Slob”. Who can stand to watch that gross guy? Not me.

This is a very creative educational series. It’s never been available on DVD. In fact, neither has Brain Games.