Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dreaming of a White Christmas...

Tonight is one of those nights. It's cold. It's raining. I slow cooked chili earlier in the day and am on my third bowl as I type this post right now. Folks, it feels like Christmastime!

I know... I should be taking advantage of this dreary September evening and plunking away on this seasons Halloween Countdown with some obscure horror flick playing off in the background. Partaking in the current seasons devilish delights, but I cannot help it tonight we are going to look forward and see what Santa Claus has in store for 2013!

By most accounts the coming Christmas Season isn't really coming any longer. It's practically already here! I could easily go off on some Charlie Brown inspired rant about the commercialization of the holidays and how "Halloween should have its turn!" but for as frustrating as mistletoe and holly decorating storefronts in September may be, I not so secretly enjoy every last bit of it!

With a season as broad as Christmas it is basically impossible to pinpoint exactly what seasonal items come first in the... season? If this paragraph makes it past the final edit just assume I've passed out from eating to much chili.

2013 Christmas Countdown!
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The point I'm eventually trying to make is that when new holiday items start showing up on store shelves, Winter Collection Glade Air Freshener's are always among the first to arrive.

Part of the reason why I am choosing to write about them now rather than later is that it's easy to overlook something as simple as Glade Air Freshener's when the snow is flying and holiday lights are flashing. And you really shouldn't!

Glade does a top notch job with these little scented wonders each and every year. This season's efforts range from the traditional (Sparkling Spruce and Apple Cinnamon Cheer) to the mysterious (Frosted Berry Kiss?) and ends with one that smells like Vanilla, because everyone runs out of good ideas eventually. Even the folks who work at Glade's scent department.

I suggest going out and purchasing one of each whenever you got the opportunity. They are a great way to get an early taste of the holiday season without outright decorating your house in red and green. Besides, having something that smells like the holidays is equally as important as covering half your house in colored lights. They may be small, but Glade's Winter Collection is one of those things that ties together the entire mood of a season!

I hate closing paragraphs. So here is a link to a YouTube clip of the Sleeping Bag Kill from Friday the 13th: Part 7. And with that I promise the next entry will be a return to all things spooky and creepy here at The Lounge! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms + Bewitching Tic Tac's!

A few days ago I made a trip to Target to scout out the Halloween Section and was honestly surprised to see that for the most part it was still Back to School Central.

This bummed me out. The Halloween Season seemed like it was poised to come earlier than ever this year and then all of a sudden... it's like everything got put on hold. Perhaps its because we've known about what General Mill's has up its sleeves for a few weeks now, and the anticipation of that event makes everything else seem a little less exciting.

Whatever the case may be... by most accounts every major retailer is slacking off so far this season. My local Target didn't have anything in the way of props or costumes yet but what they did have was a 'work in progress' selection of different candies and beverages.

This was good enough for me. The older I get the more I've come to terms with the fact that 90% of the decorations sold around Halloween-time are overpriced and kind of crappy. You get that sense of instant gratification walking down the isles, looking at $80 severed heads and $20 tombstones. But the real fun comes with the strange limited edition flavors, sights, and sounds, released this time of year.

If you are looking for Candy Corn Oreo's ... those have returned in full force for 2013. Ghoul-Aid has also made a comeback for the 3rd season now. Each was a heavy hitter from a previous season. Each ready and willing to delight new customers this Halloween Season.

Bewitching Tic Tac's!
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2013 has some big surprises in store. And while I'm not sure if Tic Tac's and M&M's can compete on the same size or scale with some of the other stuff I picked up at Target... they are each worthy of written tribute in their own spooky little way.

Pumpkin Spice M&M's are an exclusive to Target for the 2013 season. I know because I spotted this half falling over sign that told me so. It makes me wonder if Wal-Mart will have an exclusive flavor of M&M or if this promotion is yet another thing that's been limited to just Target.

Regardless, I can say without a shadow of doubt that Pumpkin Spice M&M's are hands down the most horrific thing I have ever ate. And I don't mean that in some sort of ironic way for the Halloween Season. These suckers are down right horrible. 

Pumpkin Spice M&M's taste exactly like eating a Glade Scented Candle. They are bad, bad, bad. Even for a limited edition seasonal item, they are all kinds of awful. Words almost cannot describe the experience.

Avoid Pumpkin Spice M&M's at all costs! Unless the idea of taking a big ol' bite out of the side of a candle sounds intriguing to you, then by all means go out and purchase a bag. Everyone else... just avoid them!

Bewitching Tic Tac's!
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On the flip side we have Bewitching Tic Tac's. Out of all the companies to get down with the devil for Halloween it never really crossed my mind that Tic Tac's would eventually dress themselves in purple and black and go all Wiccan for the season.

I've literally no idea what the market for Halloween themed Tic Tac's are... but am I ever happy that they exist. It's like a little portable version of Halloween that I can carry around in my pocket and eat whenever I need a seasonal pick-me-up.

Or at least it could have been had I not dumped mine into a bowl full of Pumpkin Spice M&M's for that photograph up above. In terms of decisions that I almost immediately regret, that one ranks in my top two or three.

Because it turns out Bewitching Tic Tac's are really quite good. The flavors consist of orange and apple, which really have nothing to do with the Halloween Season but after the debacle that was Pumpkin Spice M&M's I'm perfectly fine settling for something that tastes good as opposed to something horrible wrapped in a seasonal disguise.

At the end of the day Bewitching Tic Tac's are not the biggest nor the best item of the 2013 Halloween Season ... heck I don't even know if they are new for this year or not. But what they are is clearly the most sincere Halloween item you are likely to find.

They exist because they can and not because they should. And for that I hold them in the highest regard! Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go throw up those Pumpkin Spice M&M's that I just ate.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

VHS Artwork Roundup! -- Leif Jonker's DARKNESS

For our second entry in the VHS Artwork Roundup series I wanted to pick out a film that had the most over the top gross out artwork in my collection. And it didn't take a hell of a long time for me to figure out which film best fit that description...

Behold! Leif Jonker's DARKNESS! A movie that may or may not be about vampires and is most notable for being bat-shit fucking insane. Don't believe me? Just watch this trailer:

DARKNESS is one of those films that, while not particularly good, I feel like every horror movie fan should track down and see. It is literally a love letter to the genera. Complete with more gross out effects than I had previously thought possible for a single film. At it's best every scene is like that melting guy getting ran over at the end of RoboCop. Basically just take that and multiply it to the length of a major motion picture and you've got DARKNESS.

Yes the acting is rough. The plot is inconsistent. And it looks like it was shot on a shoestring budget. But none of that matters. What's important to remember is that this picture came out during a time (1993) when horror flicks was considered dead... and did so in a way that clearly gave zero fucks if it offended anyone. And for that fact alone, we must praise DARKNESS.

Vampire Horror!
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And the VHS tape? I don't even think it could be displayed on the shelf of your local video store... even if someone wanted to. It's literally that intense of a cover. Just look at it. Can you imagine that sucker out for rent at 'Mom and Pops: Video USA' with a case like that? There is absolutely no way that one would fly with the general public.

Which is exactly why I love it so much! Despite it's flaws this movie has balls. It went places that most major films won't even dare think of. For as much as we all love Freddy and Jason by the time the later flicks in the series came about they had been commercialized the holy hell out of.  They were still horror movies but horror movies that had to sell a lot of outside promotional material.

Vampire Horror!
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And that meant a certain amount of restrain had to be shown to these once dominant slashers. DARKNESS earns points on top of bloody points for simply not giving a fuck. It is what it is and you are either enough of a genera fan to love it or you'll be completely offended by it. There is no middle ground with this one. Which is the way horror movies should be!

All in all Leif Jonker's DARKNESS is another fantastically underrated piece of VHS artwork and one that I proudly display year round. Just waiting to offend anyone who dare gazes upon its unholy cover!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Halloween Lunchables with GHOUL-AID JAMMERS!

All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy... but I am fairly confident that if Jack was given a Halloween Lunchable with GHOUL-AID JAMMERS every now and then, he probably wouldn't murder his entire family.

As we reach the midway point in September I think it is absolutely imperative that everyone stops and spends the time right now to appreciate all the smaller spooktacular releases we've seen so far this Halloween Season.

October is the month best spent dabbling in the devil's best delights. October is Halloween and that is when all the heavy hitters come out to play. Chances are you'll be on sensory overload by then and if you wait too late into the season it becomes very easy to overlook something as simple as a Halloween Lunchable.

And this is not something you want to do!

The Halloween Lunchable quietly made its debut in 2012, late in the season and not to much fanfare. Last years model was basically just your average run of the mill Lunchable with a few cobwebs and bats on the front of the box. The big twist was the inclusion of Halloween Oreo's as the included snack.

Ghoul-Aid Jammers
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It was a modest first effort even if it went largely unnoticed by the masses. For the 2013 Halloween Season it looks like Lunchables learned from its mistakes and went all out in creating the creepiest portable lunch substitute this side of those old Kid Cuisine TV dinners from years ago.

And it's all made possible by the inclusion of one extra spooky component... GHOUL-AID JAMMERS! A true gift from the horror gods of Halloween! If you are somehow not familiar with Scary Blackberry Ghoul-Aid I suggest you check out this article I wrote a couple Halloween Seasons ago. It'll give you a complete history of the beverage as well as it's unexpected revival from a few years back.

Ghoul-Aid Jammers
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Let's not kid ourselves here, it's the inclusion of these Jammers that really pushes Halloween Lunchables from a thing that exists this Halloween to an absolute must have item of the season!

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Halloween, whatever the time of year it may be I know a season defining item when I see it. And folks, Ghoul-Aid Jammers is just that. Season defining.

You can currently find Jammers available in a big multipack box of about ten... so while the might not be exclusive to Halloween Lunchables I think the best way to enjoy them is right here. Packaged with a chocolate witch and some vaguely defined pizza ingredients. Quality over quantity. I squirm with delight at the prospect of owning an entire fridge full of Ghoul-Aid but it seems extra special when you only have the one to look forward to.

Ghoul-Aid Jammers
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Speaking of which... I'm sure you've noticed the Milk Chocolate Witch also included in the box. Had it not been for the Ghoul-Aid this little orange package of wonder would be the clear cut center of attention. Instead she must settle for second place, but trust me it is a very close second place.

Often times it's the little details such as this that'll shove an item from simply being alright into the realm of outstanding. Milk Chocolate Witch is exactly the kind of tipping point that Halloween Lunchables needed to push it over the edge. Ghoul-Aid and discombobulated chocolate witch heads tend to do just that.

Ghoul-Aid Jammers!
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It's also one of the rare occasions in which the chocolate bar inside the wrapper looks exactly like the picture on the outside. These chocolate-candy characters are generally pretty hit or miss... most times falling on the miss side of things. I've got to give Halloween Lunchables mad props for pulling this one off!

And not only is it a good execution but it's also a well thought out design. I don't think that can be understated enough. It doesn't matter how well the candy pressing turns out, if the design it is based off of sucks in the first place... whats the point?

Thankfully that's not the case. I really like this witch. And I am not even a fan of witches in general. In regards to spooky Halloween decor they rank just below Tim Curry in drag and slightly above generic clipart spiders in terms of dumb shit that I never want to see again.

For my final score I'm going to give Halloween Lunchables ... 9 Tim Curry's Dressed in Drag out of a possible 10. A completely meaningless and made up point scale that I just thought of. Ultimately I had to deduct one point because the actual pizza aspect of this kit was hands down the single worst thing I've eaten this week.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

McDonalds Treat Bags from 1990!

Coming at you straight from the year 1990 is a set of three vinyl trick or treat bags presented by none other than McDonald's. I was three when these suckers first debuted so while I cannot say I remember them specifically I do know that at some point in my early childhood I must have owned a couple of them. They are far to familiar looking for me not to have.

A bit of backstory seems in order before we dive into the logistics of the vinyl bags. Specifically, the McBoo Pail. Pretty much everyone remembers those old McBoo Pails from around the same period of time. And everyone has fond memories of them. Rightfully so as the McBoo Pail wasn't just a festive fall substitution to the traditional Happy Meal formula. Once in your possession the McBoo Pail became a thing you'd utilize year round.

It collected candy when you went trick or treating. It housed loose pens, pencils, and crayons during Christmas vacation. After that it made the perfect home for extra Lego's or HotWheels cars. I can remember converting one of my McBoo Pails into a makeshift piggy-bank that sat on top of my dresser for years. Collecting bits of loose change and lord knows what else.

Vintage Halloween Decoration
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Needless to say the McBoo Pail was the stuff of legend. Vinyl trick or treat bags... not so much. At least not at the time. In retrospect these things are pretty freaking awesome. But back then everyone cried foul when McDonalds attempted to shift away from the traditional pail formula.

While not as versatile as the McBoo Pail these vinyl bags have inherently much more charm and pizazz built into them. Surely they serve the intended function of being a trick or treat bag considerably better than the smallish pail counterparts. Even if they are not as versatile for the remainder of the year, I don't think it can be underestimated just how much better they serve their intended purpose than the McBoo Pail.

Besides, these treat bags do something extra special. They glow in the dark! But before we get to see that let's break down each one individually and see how they rank!

Vintage Halloween Decoration
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Lets kick things off with the Purple Boo Bag, who sort of looks like a cross between Casper the Friendly Ghost and Boo Berry. I feel like this was the character that McDonalds felt was the most franchiseable of the trio. Drawing clear inspiration from the original McBoo Pail. This ghost was clearly supposed to represent that only in a more literal form.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for stupid looking ghost decorations and the Purple Boo Bag does a fine job of scratching that itch, despite the corny looking over-sized bow-tie.

It's a solid effort. Even if it is not the most memorable one of the bunch, no kid would shed many tears if they got stuck with Purple Boo Bag on Halloween night!

Vintage Halloween Decoration
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Next up is the Green Witch, who fills the obligatory 'item made specifically for little girls' quota that tends to come with promotional releases such as these. I wouldn't say she is the worst of the group... honestly none of them are that intrusive. But Green Witch is clearly the one I'd like to spend the least amount of time with on a Saturday night.

I've never been a fan of witches in general and the lime green seems better suited for the Christmas Season than dancing with the devil on All Hallow's Eve. Besides, the pink skin tone annoys me in ways you couldn't possibly imagine. Let's move on shall we.

Vintage Halloween Decoration
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I saved my favorite for last, Orange Funk-enstein! On paper a cartoon carbon-copy of Frankenstein dressed in a red jumpsuit with a neon pink sports coat and matching shoes sounds like the worst idea ever. Yet somehow the artists employed by McDonalds was able to pull it off in a big, big way.

In my humble opinion Orange Funk-enstein is the clear cut leader of the group. Best in show. Greatest costume. The most sincere pumpkin of them all. And it all starts off with the holiest of color choices... orange.

Orange belongs to the Halloween Season and no other holiday can come close to touching it. Being the only orange bag in the set basically ensures an automatic win but Funk-enstein has so much more going for him than simply his outlining color.

Frankenstein is among my top two or three movie monsters of all time. Any incarnation of him, cartoon or otherwise, is a big deal in my department. Despite obviously being aimed at a younger audience this variation of Frankentein's Monster hits home in all the right departments. From the flat top haircut and neck bolts (which in this case have been morphed into head bolts) to the green skin tone, this is actually a pretty good characterization of one of my personal favorite monsters.

What shoves this creation over the top has to be the inclusion of Funk-enstein's pink and red colored clothing. It makes him look like he belongs on the dance floor of a bad 1970's era disco. It's completely outrageous and somehow works!

I could spend another 18 paragraphs talking about why I like Orange Funk-enstein the best but we have other bridges to burn. Chiefly, the fact that these bags glow in the dark! Don't you dare think I forgot about that little detail!

Vintage Halloween Decorations
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Eeeekkk!!!! Joy! I am a complete sucker for anything that glows in the dark. It may be the oldest trick in the book but I'll be damned if its not my favorite trick! And for some 23 year old bags, they all still glow surprisingly well despite my set being a little beat up and worse for wear.

As per the norm with items that glow in the dark, the ghost is the best of the bunch. Proving my theory that he was the one McDonalds banked as being the best. The witch kind of sucks but one was half expected and nothing will ever deter my love of that Funk-enstein bag, even if all the wrong parts glow.

... and you know what, this isn't even everything these old treat bags can do. I saved one final trick for last! It turns out the back of each bag features almost as much detail as the front. Behold!

Vintage Halloween Decorations
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It's like the gift that keeps on giving! The back side of each vinyl bag features a unique spooky themed animal to accompany each monster. The ghost has an awesome blue bat, Funk-enstein sports a pair of mice, and the witch has a corny cat lounging about on her hat.

Clearly someone put a lot of attention to detail into each one of these bags. Three unique characters. Different front and back sides. Bonus glow in the dark sections. It all adds up to a considerably more rounded out package than the McBoo Pail could ever deliver... and yet nobody talks about about these treat bags from 1990.

Why? I have no real answer. Everyone was so caught up in McBoo-madness that anything other than those pail's just wouldn't make due. Even if ultimately that other thing is considerably better than what came before it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Retro Root Beer Bottles!

Not really Halloween but all around awesome, I wanted to spend a few moments talking about these fantastic looking Retro Root Beer Bottles that came into my possession the other day. While on a small road trip I stumbled across this smallish looking local hardware store. And when I find places such as these I have to stop!

I'm sure you know the kind of location. Tucked away in the middle of Main Street, USA. Surviving off the sale of lord-knows-what. There dusty corners often neglected and long forgotten. Over the years morphed from simple power tools and nails to housing little bits of everything and nothing in particular.

And each store is always completely different, you never quite know what you'll find. This particular store had a gigantic shelf of strange retro themed soda bottles. Why? Because logic serves no purpose in these mom and pop establishments.

The shelf was a thing of beauty, too Featuring probably twenty different themed flavors of root beer and other generic brands of cola. I'd never heard of any of them but somehow each bottle was more amazing than the next!

I wanted to purchase them all but at three-something a piece they were priced at least double what they probably should have been. So after much deliberation I settled upon my two favorites of the entire bunch. Here is a quick rundown of each:

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Frostie Root Beer caught my attention first, because I'm a sucker for anything with a winter theme. If these were available during the holiday season I'd buy them in the masses... regardless of price.

I'm particularly fond of the little Frostie mascot guy. Kind of looking like a cross between an Elf and the Old Man from the Legend of Zelda games. You know the one. The first time you seen him lurking about in that cave you tried to kill him, then ran in horror as those seemingly innocent lighted pillars shot flames directly at your face.

Now I will be the first to admit, I probably should have split this into two different entries and saved Frostie Root Beer for the coming holiday season. The bottle would no doubt look fantastic sitting outside in a hefty pile of snow, and does seem a little out of place here in the 2013 Halloween Countdown. But... the chances of me being motivated enough to write about root beer for a second time in a couple months are slim.

So you get Frostie now rather than later. It's not like half the retail stores don't currently have Christmas Decorations up already anyhow!

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Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer was the other bottle that I picked up and man alive is it ever the current coolest thing that I own. It's also the bottle that gives us just enough of a spooky design to consider this a Halloween Countdown entry.

Each time I pick out my favorite aspect of this bottle I find like seventeen other things that peak my interest even more. Let's start with the obvious one first. The awesome motherfucking pirate logo!

Looking like something directly lifted from set production on The Goonies, I don't think I have ever seen a logo that I want to get tattooed on my arm more than this one. Pirate skulls are pretty badass as is, this one in particular goes above and beyond the call of duty by having an eyepatch and a headband... a headband with a drawing of another skull on it! That's skull on skull action, folks. Even more bonus points are awarded for the bloodshot eyeball.

Taglines come up next. Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer has more of them than any one single product probably should. Each somehow stranger than the next. "Third time available in 420 Years" is easily the most normal phrase of the bunch. I'm a sucker for completely outrageous claims such as these, imagining that if I was ten years old again that I would have completely bought into this statement. To the point that I'd probably have treated Jack Black's like some sort of fine wine and saved it for a special occasion

"Once you've had Jack black you'll never go back!" is a second tagline, this time without the extra capitalization on the word "black" ... which sort of brings to point what exactly the name of this drink is supposed to mean.

Is it a play on Jack Black the famous actor / comedian? Perhaps it pure coincidence that it share the name of a recognizable Hollywood star. Then again it could have been done on purpose. If so, why did they write it differently in the smaller text than the main logo? If Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer was a major motion picture, we'd need a sequel just to get the answer to all these questions!

"Better DEAD RED than just plain DEAD!" is yet another tagline found on this label and may be my personal favorite of the bunch. It's one of those statements that sort of makes sense but only if you don't really think about it. Why the hell is it better to be DEAD RED as opposed to just flat out DEAD? I've no idea. It would make an awesome inscription on a tombstone, however.

The last phrase is found on the rim of the bottlecap, "Once you've JACKED BLACK you'll never go back!" is like a fantastic alternative take on one of the bottles other catchphrases. One that I highly enjoy, if for no other reason than the vaguely implied sexual innuendo it suggests you have with Jack Black... either the comedian or this bottle. I've no idea what's going on anymore.

All in all for a couple random bottles that I found in some stupid hardware store, these things turned out quite interesting. I've no real motivation to open either of them up and drink them. If I had to guess... root beer is root beer and both of them probably taste exactly the same.

Either way these bottles were not built for drinking ... they were bought for sticking on a shelf and glancing at once every six months. It's the best almost seven dollars I've ever spent on two soft drinks, if I do say so myself!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

VHS Artwork Roundup! -- Revenge of the Zombie

VHS Artwork Roundup is a new series that I'll be posting from now until the end of the Halloween Season in which we will take a look at some kick-ass artwork found on the covers of old VHS-era horror movies.

If you are lucky to have grown up in the era when brick and mortar video stores were still a thing that existed then you already know what this article is about. You see back in the day before Netflix and internet enabled smart phones existed we selected our horror movies on gut instincts and whichever film had the most creatively gruesome cover.

VHS Artwork
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VHS Artwork Roundup is a celebration of these lost pieces of artwork in all there gory glory. From now until October 31st I will be periodically posting the best covers that I own. To kick things off we are going to start with 1988's REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIE!

"Beth and Michael are twins, very strange ones at that. Their widowed father keeps them away from other people because of their strange and unusual psychic powers. When he is killed by a gun-crazy biker gang, the twins decide to re-animate his dead corpse. Their creation is a blood thirsty zombie who does their bidding with a vengeance!"

I picked this particular film because it encapsulates everything that makes these old VHS covers so awesome. The above paragraph is the description found on the back of the box. It sounds like a fantastically cluttered film involving many different subplots that have absolutely nothing to do with the front artwork.

Revenge of the Zombie's cover is obviously a promotional still shot on either a small sound stage or (more likely) an extra stall in someones garage. This is a clear cut case of arranging a few miscellaneous Halloween props mixed with a torso that's (probably) from the film and calling the end result good enough to stick on the VHS box.

Isn't it great! I'm particularly fond of the font and color choices for the main logo. Pink and green? Sure why not! It's very reminiscent of a 1980's heavy metal band logo with a clear 'White Zombie' influence tossed in for good measures.

Revenge of the Zombie is my favorite kind of low budget material because you can tell that whoever made this was obviously trying to take things seriously and come up with a genuinely good piece of artwork. It is sort of like the Great Pumpkin of crappy video tape covers. Revenge of the Zombie is just sincere enough to work on every level, despite having low production values. And for that... we salute you!

VHS Artwork