The Phantom Gazette – LouisvilleHalloween.com News
Haunt Super Fan, Lindsay Bacon, Gives Louisville Halloween the Fan Perspective on the Local Horror Biz!
From late September to early November, Lindsay Bacon plans her life around the regional haunt schedule, visiting 14 different attractions in 2014 (many of them more than once). We’ve interviewed many haunters over the last few years, but this time we thought it would be interesting to hear from a fan. Not just any fan, but a Haunt Super Fan!
A couple of years ago I was on assignment covering a “Lights Out” special event at the Haunted Hotel on South 4th Street, and it was still technically early in the evening, probably around 8PM. This particular event involved signing a waiver and promised a fairly intense experience, under 18 years of age not allowed.
I was standing in line waiting for the assault on my nervous system when up walks this tiny little girl all by herself. I kept waiting for either her boyfriend, BFF or parent (!) to line up next to her.
“You here all by yourself?”
Indeed, she was. Intentionally!
After talking to her for five or ten minutes about the local haunt scene, I knew this girl was no average thrill seeker. She had probably visited more haunt houses that year than I had. She was a Haunt Super Fan.
Since I like a sounding board for my haunt reviews, I invited her to join me for a dark trip through the Haunted Hotel and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I can’t even tell you the number of times I bumped into her at various haunts over the last couple of years.
Louisville haunt fans, meet Lindsay Bacon.
“First, tell us a little about yourself and your earliest memories of Halloween.”
I was born in Louisville. Shortly after, my family moved across the river to Floyds Knobs, which has been my home for most of my life. For work, I do customer service and order management for a grill company at their service center in Jeffersonville. I have been enjoying haunted attractions for over 11 years.
My earliest memories of Halloween date back to childhood and my first few years in school. The rest of my family weren’t big fans of the holiday and I can’t remember them participating often, but my dad and I would always celebrate. We had traditions we enjoyed every year, like filling up those Halloween leaf bags and setting them out in the front yard, putting up decorations on the porch, painting and carving the pumpkins we’d picked out earlier that month… and of course, every kid’s favorite part: going trick or treating! I can still remember scurrying through the chilly night from door to door with a bulging bag of candy, admiring all the different costumes along the way, my path lit by the flickering glow of the jack-o-lanterns on the porches. One time, after we returned for the night (I was a witch that year), I remember my dad taking me over to the kitchen window and we watched the sky for a while to see if a real witch would fly past on her broom. It’s random, but it’s one of my favorite memories. Halloween had a magic back then that is not lost on me as an adult, but it is different now.
“Do you remember the first movie, book or Halloween event that really impressed you?”
That’s a hard one. Growing up, I always loved the fun side of Halloween, but I wasn’t big on being scared. I did spend many nights watching Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” on TV, and I read most of the scary children’s book series that were released in the 90s. (It’s funny, I enjoyed R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street” series, but Goosebumps was a no-no because that ventriloquist dummy was terrifying!) My love of horror didn’t blossom until my late teenage years, and I can’t remember anything in particular kick starting it. It was just something that I came to enjoy.
“Do you remember the first haunted house that you ever experienced? Tell us about that.”
I don’t think I will ever forget it! Sometime in the 90s, when I was a preteen, I went to Brandenburg’s Nightmare Forest with my friends. I had seen commercials for haunted houses on TV and had some idea of what they were about, but my friends, who were far braver than I, and already budding horror fans, didn’t really emphasize the scary part and kept going on like, “Oh it’s so cool, they have Jurassic Park and stuff!” Oh yes, they had dinosaurs… and they also had Freddy Krueger on the bus sticking his blades in your FACE, Jason coming out of the water and an immense Leatherface swinging a chainsaw around your head. I hated it… I was bawling my eyes out and begging to leave. It would be years before I was brave enough to make it through another haunt.
(Not long after that wonderful experience, my friends decided to try again with the Culbertson Mansion. I didn’t get past the front door.)
“Approximately how many haunted attractions did you attend last season, and how many do you attend during a normal haunt season?”
I visited 14 different haunted attractions last season. The number I attend each season varies depending on my budget and work schedule. I always try to fit in as many as possible, but regardless, I have a great time and it is the highlight of my year.
“How many do you plan to experience this season?”
At the time of writing, I am planning on at least 8 for 2015. There will most likely be more, but it depends on what the season brings.
“I know there are some haunts you visit more than once per season. What keeps you coming back to those particular attractions?”
They each have an aspect of their show that is unique to them that I really enjoy. A number of different things could grab my attention and have me itching for a return visit. I do prefer haunts that have original and interactive characters, a lengthy duration and high intensity… so if you have any or all of the above, I will probably be back before the season ends.
“What’s the best haunted attraction you’ve ever experienced?”
Hands down, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida. This thing is in a league of its own. With the detail they put into their haunted houses, the original characters they come up with and the storylines they write to tie everything together, it’s like stepping into another world.
“What’s your favorite regional haunted attraction currently?”
Three years ago, Brandenburg’s Field of Screams stole my heart. I don’t think I’ll be getting it back anytime soon.
“What kinds of themes, characters, props and scares have you seen in recent years that really blew you away?”
Themes: Culbertson Mansion did some “scary toys” and “classic monsters” themes in the last few years that were very cool. Everyone goes on about how intense the Haunted Hotel’s show is, but if you take a moment to really check out the rooms and familiarize yourself with the characters, you’ll see that the hotel theme is carried throughout the haunt and there is some amazing set design in there. Zombies have been done to death, but I love the way they do them at Asylum’s Zombie City. Great mix of humor, scares, and audience interaction. Of course, I can’t leave out Fear Fair and their incredible movie scenes. I’ve had a prejudice against movie monsters for the longest time because so many haunts use them without putting in the effort to make you feel like you are in the movie. Fear Fair made me see them in a whole new light. I would also like to give a nod to Grim Trails. Their fairy tale themed haunt is a breath of fresh air in the Louisville haunt scene.
If I may include a few haunts that are a little farther away, Indy Screampark up in Anderson, IN recently added Brickmore Asylum to their lineup, and it is the best asylum themed haunt I’ve ever experienced. It was a little bare on actors, but it felt realistic enough to make my skin crawl. I’ve also visited the Dent Schoolhouse and USS Nightmare over the last two seasons. With the exception of a couple of random scenes in USS, both of them did a terrific job of sticking to their respective themes throughout. I couldn’t get over how much detail Dent packed into every single room of the house, they blew anything I’d seen at Horror Nights out of the water.
Props and Scares: I will confess that unless a haunt is heavily detailed, I don’t pay that much attention to fancy props and animatronics. Yeah, they’re neat to look at, but adherence to the theme or storyline (if it has one) and actor performance are much more important to me. If I had to pick something, the giant “actormatronics” would have to be my favorite. I don’t encounter them often, but it’s always a treat (and a shock) to have one come lurching out of the dark!
Specific scares… locally, Asylum has a couple that come to mind. The floor drop in Zombie City never fails to startle, and Darkness Falls’ church scene is magnificent. The Devil’s Attic has a disorienting SAW maze that can set you up for some terrific scares from their Pigface actor if you can’t figure out which way to go. Field of Screams’ Hayride to Hell has a drop scare that I did not expect, and has continued to startle me even after several visits. Branching further out, Indianapolis’ Fright Manor has a great misdirection scare in their Friday the 13th scene involving a static Jason prop and a live actor. Haunted Angelus House, also located in Indy, has an awesome Michael Myers surprise at the end that sent me running out of the house!
I would also like to throw in my favorite scare from Universal’s Horror Nights event. In 2012, they had a black and white house based on the Universal classic monsters titled “Universal’s House of Horrors“. In the Frankenstein scene, there was a corridor off to the side that had boards going through it, and led to the laboratory where the monster was. He was lying on the slab, and as you walked through, he would thrash against his bonds and break free, jumping up to smash through the boards as he charged at you. It seemed like he was really far away, but this was actually a trick with mirrors- so in a matter of seconds, this HUGE actor would nearly be on top of you. People went down like bowling pins!
Characters: Oh wow… a haunt’s characters are so important to me. If I named every character I loved, even the most recent ones, I could easily fill a whole page. I will say that whenever someone gives me a memorable scare or interaction, or even just puts on a great performance, I try to remember to hit up their haunt’s Facebook page or Twitter and give them a shout. It is my way, as a fan, of giving something back to them.
Something I didn’t see mentioned here was events. I have noticed an increasing trend with haunts having a special night or two during the season where they go “lights out” and send guests through the haunt in the dark, or they might have an “extreme night” where the rules are bent beyond how they would normally scare guests. I have attended events of this nature at Fear Fair, Haunted Hotel and 7th Street Haunt, and they are so much fun. I would love to see this kind of stuff become more popular in the future.
“What are some of the things you frequently see in haunted houses that you could do without? Is there anything you really hate?”
Zombies, movie monsters, creepy little girls, hillbillies, clowns. Do these right or don’t do them at all. Any variation of “Play with me,” or “What are you doing in my _____?,” and of course “Get out!” I hate actors breaking character when it’s not necessary.
“Do you participate in any particular online haunt fan communities, chat rooms or websites?”
“Outside of haunted houses, do you also get involved in other Halloween rituals and events? Parades, pumpkin patches, parties, etc.?”
It’s not exactly Halloween related, but I attend the Harvest Homecoming Festival in New Albany just about every year. I visited the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in Iroquois Park last season and that was wonderful. It will definitely become an October tradition for me.
“I know you enjoy attending special haunt events outside the Halloween season, like Christmas nights, Valentines weekends and Friday the 13th nights? In your opinion, what’s the best off-season event you’ve been to?”
No contest: Bloody Christmas at the Haunted Hotel. I have never seen the cast go as wild as they did on those two nights. It was fantastic.
Louisville’s Favorite Horror & Heavy Metal Artist, Jeff Gaither, Creates Two Art Horse Monstrosities for Gallopalooza 2015!
We visit Jeff Gaither in the Derby Festival’s downtown studio stable to get a sneak peek at his two Gallopalooza horse designs set to be unleashed on the city the weekend of April 17-19th!
Greetings, undead Derby fans, it’s the Phantom of the Ville coming to you from the Gallopalooza stable where dozens of life sized, fiberglass horse statues (and a few giant mint julep cups) are being brought to vivid life by a small army of local artists. When completed, these equestrian marvels will haunt the businesses and city sidewalks of their sponsors throughout 2015.
You may know Jeff Gaither’s trademark style by his work with Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, Testament, the Accused and the Misfits. Last year we were treated to a visit to his haunted castle on South 3rd Street (http://www.louisvillehalloween.com/the-house-of-gaither-investigating-the-criminally-insane-art-of-jeff-gaither/ ) where we got a look at some of his latest work. This week I got a chance to watch the artist at work putting the finishing touches on one of two horses he was hired to design for the 2015 Gallopalooza project.
How did the self-proclaimed “Artist for the Criminally Insane” become involved in one of the city’s most visible events in the Kentucky Derby Festival?
“I submitted two designs for horses this year,” says Gaither, “neither of which they used.”
“Instead,” he continues, “I brought my portfolio with me to a meet-and-greet event with the sponsors looking for an artist to design their horse. There were designs all over the walls, like an art gallery, and business owners were walking around looking at them.”
“The owners of Masterson’s Catering seemed interested in my style, but not the designs I had created for the event,” Gaither admits. “Instead, they were flipping through my portfolio and said, ‘That’s it!’ and pointed to something I had done earlier this year that had nothing to do with Gallopalooza.”
The design that floored the owners of Masterson’s was actually a vinyl action figure that Jeff had painted for the Munny Art Show at Ultra Pop! (https://www.facebook.com/UltraPopShop?fref=ts), a local art and designer vinyl toys collectibles shop.
Munny is a blank vinyl toy made by an American toy company called Kidrobot. The Munny figures are made to be designed and painted by the purchaser, and have become popular as commissioned pieces of art by famous artists across the country.
“Kerry Caufield of Caufield’s Novelty built and helped install the steel wings,” says Gaither who has a longstanding working relationship with the legendary novelty company. In fact, in a Louisville Halloween EXCLUSIVE, Jeff revealed to us that he and Kerry Caufield are working on a series of six vacuform, vintage style Halloween masks this summer for release later this year. These masks will be original Gaither designs that pay homage to the classic Halloween masks made by Collegeville and Ben Cooper from the 1950’s through the 1980’s.
Jeff promised us that we would be the first to see and publish the mask designs once completed!
When it came to completing the first horse, James “Snook” Gray of SK Kustoms body shop helped with information and materials for installing the wings on the horse body.
“It just came out of my head,” says Gaither about the Masterson’s horse design. “It took about two months to complete, working almost every day. That’s all I’ve done for the last two months is work, paint and sleep.”
The second horse Gaither also worked on was a collaboration with local artist, Jeremy Slaven, for Tom Hirsch/Raymond James Financial. That horse is an American eagle themed creation meant to inspire the rebounding American economy.
Jeff wanted us to give his thanks to Girard’s Hardware on South 3rd Street for helping him find the right supplies and materials as well as for providing helpful instructions on how to use them for a project of this scale. He also wants to express his thanks to Porter Paints at Iroquois Manor for suggesting the right primers and paints for both the fiberglass and the steel parts of both horses.
This year, Gallopalooza is partnering with the Waterfront Development Corporation and part of the funds raised from the sponsorship and sale of the art horses will go towards funding the LED lighting project on the Big Four Bridge. Gallopalooza also continues its partnership with Brightside and their efforts to create a “Ninth Street Gateway” into Louisville.
You can come downtown and see Jeff Gaither’s amazing horses in person on the weekend of April 17-19 at the public unveiling event sponsored by Computershare. The event will take place at 708 W Magazine Street at the corner of 8th and Magazine Streets. Tickets are $5 at the door and children 3 years old and under are FREE. Friday evening hours are 5 – 9 PM. Saturday hours are from 9 AM to 4 PM which is the same day as Thunder over Louisville, so make sure to stop in before the fireworks. Sunday hours are 1 – 5 PM, and Jeff will be there with his Tom Hirsch/Raymond James Financial sponsors to talk about the project, meet the public and sign autographs.
We’ll update you on the status of those Jeff Gaither/Kerry Caufield vintage style, vacuform Halloween masks later this summer. Until then, I’ll be back soon with much more news of the strange and unusual as it comes in from throughout the Derby City.
In the mid 1980’s, WHAS-11 attempted to revive the concept of the locally produced late night horror program for a new generation. Join us as we dig up the bones of a lost but not forgotten classic!
My first memories of experiencing fear and the resulting jolt of adrenaline that follows are forever linked to Saturday nights at my grandparent’s house watching WDRB TV-41’s “Fright Night” horror movie program hosted by the sinister, but dry witted Fearmonger, who was played by Louisville actor, Charles Kissinger.
Kissinger’s low lit face would hover mysteriously across my grandparent’s television set below the rabbit ears antenna as spooky music played in the background. The Fearmonger would appear at 7 PM every Saturday night from 1971 to 1975 to host a double feature of classic, black-and-white chillers featuring Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Frankenstein Monster amid a licensed package of schlocky science-fiction films and forgotten thrillers.
“Fright Night” was the gateway drug that started me down the lifelong path of loving, reading about and collecting monsters and all things creepy.
Unfortunately, none of the locally produced segments of “Fright Night” and the Fearmonger were saved for posterity, as the show was considered low budget “time filler” and not historically significant to the burgeoning local channel. It wouldn’t be until many years later that the legacy of “Fright Night” would become apparent in a whole generation of Louisville Monster Kids raised on the program.
The audience share drawn by “Fright Night” under such low budgetary constraints did not go unnoticed however, and by the mid 1980’s regional horror hosted programs like “Elvira’s Movie Macabre” were becoming popular with both kids and college students. WHAS-11 decided to try their hand at the horror business with the nostalgically titled “Memories of Monsters.”
It was just over a year ago that I reached out to 33 year veteran WHAS Director, Jim Ghrist, for any information he could provide about “Memories of Monsters,” thus beginning an exhaustive search of the archives at WHAS. After several weeks of searching the video archives and inquires put out to all of the appropriate longtime staff at the channel, it began to look like nothing from “Memories of Monsters” was saved for the sake of history.
It was the “Fright Night” curse all over again.
People have been asking me about “Memories of Monsters” since I started writing this column, and I’ve always wanted to provide some information about its history, but my own memories of the program were just too fuzzy to hold up to standards. If I had nothing to show to go along with my research, I felt there really was no point in going forward with the article.
The story would have ended there if not for a chance conversation that took place in the Facebook thread of a local film fan, but I’ll get to that in just a bit.
WHAS director, Jim Ghrist, remembers the “Memories of Monsters” production very well.
“Memories of Monsters was produced by Louisville Productions, which was the commercial production arm of WHAS-TV in the 80’s,” says Ghrist. “They did some fine work. They disappeared about the same time that the Bingham’s sold off all their media properties in the mid 1980’s.”
“The shoot was at night at the Brennan House, which is located on Fifth Street just a block from WHAS.”
The Ronald-Brennan House, just across the street from the Courier Journal parking lot and just around the corner from the Louisville Palace, was built in 1868 by tobacco merchant Francis Ronald and sold to Thomas Brennan in 1885. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
“At that time, Louisville Productions used in-house made fog machines that were essentially fifty gallon drums with water and dry ice inside and a hose affixed to the side,” says Ghrist. “A handle on top pushed the lid downward and forced the fog out in great quantities.”
“The wonderful voice overs were done, I’m pretty sure, by an actor named Ray Fry who was Scrooge in Actor’s Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’,” remembers Ghrist.
Indeed it was Actors Theatre’s 24 year company veteran, Ray Fry, who played the mysterious host in the opening segments of “Memories of Monsters.” Fry, who passed away at the age of 86 in 2009, became a local holiday icon in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a role he played for a full ten years.
That brings us to the EXCLUSIVE “Memories of Monsters” footage you see here today, possibly the only surviving footage of the late night horror program that exists, saved on VHS for nearly 30 years not by WHAS-11, but by a fan.
Beau Kaelin, former Manager and Midnight Movie Programmer at the Baxter Avenue Theatres in the Highlands and current Biology and Science Teacher at Bullitt Central High School, was baptized into the world of terror by “Memories of Monsters” in the same way my generation was thunderstruck by “Fright Night” a decade earlier.
“I was six or seven when the program began airing,” relates Kaelin. “My Saturday morning ritual as a kid was not the typical one,” he explains.
“My mother would tape ‘Memories of Monsters’ for me on Friday nights because she didn’t permit me to stay up until the time it aired. On Saturday mornings, after breakfast, I would go to the basement, turn out the lights, draw the curtains to the tiny windows, and watch the episode she’d programmed the VCR to record. I would time it so that I’d be finished with it by the time Super Scary Saturday (hosted by Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis) came on TBS at 12:05.”
“Afterwards,” Kaelin continues, “I would spend Saturday afternoon hanging out with the neighborhood kids, three of them who also had parents that did the same thing for them. We’d all talk horror movies and about what creeped us out, etc.”
“My introduction to and love of the Universal Monsters is due to the series,” Kaelin admits. “My recollection is that ‘Memories of Monsters’ focused more on classic horror while Grandpa on ‘Super Scary Saturday’ would show schlock.”
One of Kaelin’s most vivid memories is of an episode that featured “The Blob” (1958) starring Steve McQueen.
“It was aired during the summer, and on summer nights my mother would leave the windows to the home open,” he recalls. “I would sit in the dark and my mind’s eye would cringe at the thought of the Blob squeezing through the screen on the window. In fact, one of the most frequently reoccurring nightmares I have to this day is going back to that house in Fairdale, walking down into the basement and ending up as the Blob’s victim!”
“As time went on, I found less and less people in town knew what the hell I was talking about when I mentioned the show,” Kaelin admits. “It surprises me that it has gone on so unrecognized in town when to me, it was my world every Saturday morning for the years it ran. I’d say it’s safe to say that had it not existed, I’d likely not be the horror fan I am today.”
The footage provided here isn’t complete. It’s missing the opening exterior shots and it cuts off before the closing sequence is over, but it’s very likely the only footage that still exists of this haunted piece of Louisville broadcasting history. Included for your nostalgic viewing pleasure are the opening sequence, bits of that nights’ feature film, “Tarantula,” the local “Memories of Monsters” bumpers, the closing sequence and all the vintage 80’s commercials that aired during this particular episode.
Louisville Halloween and I, The Phantom of the Ville, would like to thank everyone who made this bit of time travel into local horror history possible: Jim Ghrist at WHAS-11 for the local broadcasting history lesson; Beau Kaelin for not only providing the footage and his expert testimony, but for the time spent editing this lost treasure for our enjoyment; Antonio Pantoja for his video expertise and hosting assistance; and last, but certainly not least, Beau Kaelin’s mom for loving and understanding us Monster Kids enough to tape “Memories of Monsters” every Friday night.
“Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” FINALLY Makes Its Digital Debut 38 Years after Its Theatrical Release, and It’s Still Not Only the Best Peanuts Movie, but One of the Greatest G-Rated Films of All Time!
1977 made its mark of the psyche of a whole generations of kids. “Star Wars” changed the cinematic landscape forever and, along with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” forged the Movie Geek Generation.
It was a great year to be still be young enough to buy a children’s ticket at the theater. Ray Harryhausen released his third and final Arabian Knights adventure, “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger,” and Peanuts TV and theatrical producer/director, Bill Melendez, released the big screen Peanuts summer camp adventure, “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.” This was the same guy who gave us the TV classics “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and dozens of others.
The TV specials, sponsored by Dolly Madison snack cakes, were big deals to us back then. They would pop up during prime time to get us excited about each upcoming holiday and often mark the start of each new school season. Occasionally the Peanuts would hit the big screen for extended, event type adventures and “Race for Your Life Charlie Brown” was the biggest and best of them all.
It was actually the third big screen Peanuts adventure, following “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969) and “Snoopy, Come Home” (1972) and followed by “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!”) (1980), which would be the last Peanuts big screen event picture until “The Peanuts Movie” hits theaters in November 2015.
Charles Schulz often wrote about Charlie Brown and his friend’s misadventures at summer camp in the newspaper strips and there was actually a TV special called “It was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown” (1969) that was kind of the prototype for what would be extended into the feature length summer camp adventure released in 1977.
“Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” was released on VHS in the early 80s and was actually the first title release on RCA’s SelectaVision VideoDisc. It was reissued on VHS in 1995 and then disappeared from home video availability for 20 years. FINALLY, on February 10, it was digitally restored and released on proper widescreen, anamorphic DVD. For some reason Paramount has chosen not to issue an accompanying Blu-ray Disc, and they should be ashamed of themselves for it, but I can’t really complain about the DVD transfer we got.
Finally properly framed and restored, the colors are brighter and more vibrant than I’ve ever seen the movie look before on TV broadcasts and VHS versions. This release is cause for Peanuts fans to celebrate, even though Paramount quietly tossed it to Walmart’s kid’s section shelves with little fanfare or advertising.
“Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” follows the Peanuts gang on a bus ride to Camp Remote, followed by Snoopy and Woodstock on motorcycle, “Easy Rider” style. Almost any kid at that time, or even today, could relate to the summer camp experience. For most, it meant being away from your parents for the first time for an extended period of time. The movie recreates the “rough” conditions, the terrible food and the brutal competitive sporting events that pitted cabin against cabin in survival of the fittest contests.
Bullying was as much of an issue then as it is today and was the theme of many kid’s films from that generation including “My Bodyguard” (1980) and “The Karate Kid” (1984). Here, Charlie Brown and his friends must confront a cabin full of nasty punks and their spike collared cat who’ve been the “number one” cabin in every sporting event for the last couple of years and who will stop at nothing to be number one again this year. Fair play is off the table for these little bastards.
The centerpiece of the movie is an epic boat race that will take place over several days and nights alone in the wilderness without adult supervision. The kids have to build their own rafts and hope that they will be sea worthy enough to navigate multiple life and death challenges including construction blast zones scheduled to operate DURING the boat race, dangerous wild animals, severe weather and even a deadly waterfall towards the end of the course. Armed with only dry cereal to eat over several days and only their wits to battle Mother Nature and each other, this is clearly the most incompetent and irresponsible summer camp ever devised. It’s “Lord of the Flies” in cell animation.
In other words, Camp Remote is AWESOME!
In true Peanuts fashion, the characters deal with a lot of adult issues from a kid’s perspective. The girls’ cabin and its self-appointed leader, Peppermint Patty, decide to make all decisions by casting secret ballets, skewering our own Democratic system and its many faults.
As I watched the film for the first time in at least 20 years, I must admit fighting back tears on several occasions probably as much out of the nostalgia for my own lost innocence as due to the power of the film itself, but there are moments that truly speak to the child inside all of us.
At one point, Snoopy and Woodstock get lost and separated from each other. Left alone to face the cruelty of nature, they both suffer physically and emotionally without their best friend at their side. Their ultimate reunion could surely melt the heart of even the grumpiest adult.
I won’t spoil the ending regarding who ultimately wins the boat race for those of you who’ve never seen the movie, but I will say the finale is clever, unexpected and completely brilliant. I still get a “stand up and cheer” shot of adrenaline when Snoopy totally cold cocks that evil bastard cat — TWICE!
I remember the review of this movie in the local paper, a backhanded compliment from a cynical adult critic, who said the movie was the kind of product made for parents to drop off their kids at the cinema for an hour and a half of unencumbered shopping or peace on Saturday afternoon. He did relent in his three star review, however, that if parents absolutely had to sit through “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown,” that they may actually end up enjoying the ride.
As the credits role, Charlie Brown rides off into the sunset on Snoopy’s hog to psychedelic colors and strange editing, as if they had all taken a hit of acid for the road. Like I said, Camp Remote is AWESOME!
Master of Horror, John Carpenter, presents “Lost Themes,” an original sonic odyssey into films made only in the imagination.
At 67 years old, legendary horror film director and ex-Kentuckian, John Carpenter, has released his first original solo album. Well, his first non-film score album anyway. Sacred Bones Records (www.sacredbonesrecords.com) has released “Lost Themes” on CD and special edition vinyl and in old school “record” tradition, even the CD case lists the nine tracks as separated on Side A and Side B.
Fans of Carpenter’s mesmerizing, pulsating synthesizer scores from films like “Halloween,” “The Fog,” “Assault on Precinct 13,” “Escape from New York,” “They Live” and “Prince of Darkness” are in for a very special treat. “Lost Themes” recalls fleeting moments from some of those scores, occasional familiar effects and beats, but it’s also very much its own animal.
It’s something old, something new, something retro and somehow futuristic at the same time, sort of like Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.
Raised in Bowling Green, KY where his father was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University, Carpenter was a student of music long before he left Kentucky to attend USC film school in Los Angeles. When he made his first low budget, independent films, “Dark Star,” Assault on Precinct 13” and “Halloween,” his skills as a musician came in handy. The budgets were so low, he would compose the film scores himself on a synthesizer to save the expense of having to hire a composer and an orchestra.
His scores quickly became so iconic that even when he would hire someone else to score his movie, like he did when he hired one of the greatest film composers of all time, Ennio Morricone, to score “The Thing,” Morricone would ultimately turn in a soundtrack that sounded pretty much like a John Carpenter score!
Carpenter’s films are just meant to sound a certain way.
In the past, Carpenter has humbly compared his job as a film composer to a carpet layer who comes in after the home is built and lays down the carpet which makes the house look nice and brings it all together. While it might be true that Carpenter’s often repetitive synthetic rhythms are musically simplistic tools built to add mood and tone to his filmic images, I think most of his fans will agree that his scores amount to much more than just so much shag interior.
There’s something in Carpenters style that just exudes COOL.
For “Lost Themes,” Carpenter has kept the music in the family, working with his son, Cody, and his godson, Daniel Davies, to create a pulsating soundscape that is at times sinister and at other times exhilarating.
In the included liner notes Carpenter says, “Lost Themes was all about having fun. It can be both great and bad to score over images, which is what I’m used to. Here there were no pressures. No actors asking me what they’re supposed to do. No crew waiting. No cutting room to go to. No release pending. It’s just fun.”
“Lost Themes” opens with the majestically cool, “Vortex,” which in many ways recalls both the shadowy street violence of “Assault on Precinct 13” and the dystopian future nightmare depicted in “Escape from New York.”
The next track, “Obsidian,” also conjures images of dark sci-fi noir-scapes and the discovery of lost Lovecraftian cities, but segues into something that feels like New Age romanticism. As with most of the tracks included, if you don’t like the first couple of minutes, stick around because there will likely be several tempo and mood changes before the end.
In the next couple of tracks, “Fallen” and “Domain,” you begin to hear Carpenter’s Rock n Roll influences come to the surface. In the mid 1970’s, Carpenter formed his own rock band, The Coupe de Villes, and some of his scores, like “Escape from LA” and “Ghosts of Mars,” have incorporated guitar driven tracks laid down by rockers like Anthrax, Steve Vai and Buckethead.
“Mystery” and “Abyss” might, at points, remind listeners of both Tubular Bells (“The Exorcist”) and Goblin’s score for “Susperia,” which I believe Carpenter himself approximated in his score for “The Fog.”
The next two tracks, “Wraith” and “Purgatory,” are probably my least favorite tracks on the album. It’s only at this point do things start to blur together, at least to my ears, but thankfully Carpenter has saved one of his best tracks, “Night,” for the album’s closer.
“Night” is pure, classic Carpenter. Rhythmic, methodical and mysterious, it’s the perfect bookend for “Vortex.”
John Carpenter’s “Lost Tracks” is the perfect soundtrack for night driving. Pop this synth odyssey into your car CD player for cruising down rain slicked streets through neon cities of both the real and the imagined. Get your copy now at www.sacredbonesrecords.com.