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Event Report: Screams Halloween Theme Park

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Screams has been around for over 20 years now down in Waxahachie, just south of Dallas, TX.  Built on the same ground as the Scarborough Faire renaissance festival every Halloween, Screams is not your average haunt.  Dallas is a mecca of sorts for haunts, but Screams is even unique among the rest of the “haunted theme park” style haunts in the area.

Screams entry gate with fire geyser.

With five mazes and a plethora of other activities for one low entrance fee, Screams is all about getting the biggest bang for your buck.  They aren’t as high tech or detailed as many of the other local haunts, but for the low 2017 entree fee of $30 per person, you can go through the mazes as many times as park hours allow and take part of much of the other entertainment for no additional charge.  Even the carnival games and booths aren’t priced badly, averaging around $3 a turn to throw some hatchets, shoot a zombie, or get executed.

More on that in a minute.

Accompanied by DC’s other DFW denizen, Freddy Ruiz, I hit Screams on the first Friday in October.  Haunt tip: early Fridays are a GREAT time to hit haunts.  Crowds are down, lines are short, but the show is the same.  Such was the case at Screams, with only one wait hitting close to half an hour all night long.  Another great thing about Screams is that their fast pass option is only an additional $15.  $45 for the whole package as well as fast pass entry?  That’s an amazing bargain given standalone haunts elsewhere in the region can go for nearly $30 a person for a single entry without a fast pass to skip the line.

Screams ticket booth.

The mazes at Screams are the star attraction, and like the rest of the haunt, they’re more or less outdoors or at least without climate control.  In the warmer early-October night, that was only an issue at Pirates of Peril Point.  That one got a bit…musky…in places.  Hey, pirates aren’t known for their hygiene, and they’re pretty active in there, so at least it attains the funk honestly.  Just be prepared when visiting Screams that this is definitely a climate-dependent attraction: if it’s hot, it’ll be hot. If it’s cold, it’ll be cold.  If it’s raining, it’ll be wet.

Out of the five mazes, Freddy and I were torn on which was the best.  It was a dead heat (no pun intended) between the Zombie Wasteland and Carnevil Clown Maze.  I preferred the zombies, despite my overall zombie fatigue.  The actors in this one were really, really on point.  Some incredible energy and performances going on over there.  The outdoor setting fit the haunt perfectly and gave the zombies plenty of room to work.

Freddy preferred the clowns, partially because of the performers (who I agree are excellent) and partly because of the format.  Carnevil is a true maze.  It’s free form.  Theming is limited, the scares come solely from the clowns roving the maze.  You could theoretically wander around in there for hours.  We honestly had a hard time finding our way out, and the constant interference of the clowns (THE CLOWNS LIE) didn’t help.  We saw groups just getting nailed in Carnevil by the clowns.  Not literally.  I think.  But absolutely terrified, intentionally split up into smaller groups to enhance the terror, working the environment to hit the same group again and again, just some fine haunt work. I’ve been a spook, and these folks knew their stuff.

Clown + chainsaw = Carnevil

The Castle Of The Doomed and Hotel Of Horror were in the middle.  Castle has the best setting of all the haunts: an actual castle, complete with huge fire plumes at the entrance.  It’s the most traditional of the haunts, is mostly indoors, and has some excellent decor.  However, maybe due to when we went or the time we passed through, the whole thing seemed a little sparsely populated.  We definitely didn’t get the energy we saw in the first two mazes.  This is also an extremely horny maze (you’re welcome, Steve) with loud horns going off throughout.  I get that it matches the war-based theme of the maze, but it was more annoying than unnerving.

The Castle Of The Doomed with 30-ft fire geysers…these guys get HOT.

Hotel is also mostly indoors, but suffers from a little confusion in theme.  It’s the Hotel of Horrors, but really seemed more themed to a restaurant than a hotel other than a bed here or there.  There’s a definitely Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe here, and your host out front is a mad chef. This just reinforces the twisted cannibal theme as opposed to a hotel.  The back third of the house or so is a little odd as well.  After 2/3 of heavily themed, high energy haunt, the back third is really just a black maze with some music.  A bit puzzling.

Both of those mazes, however, are a good time, don’t get me wrong.  They could be better, but they’re certainly a hoot.  The Castle’s theming and sets make it a worthy stop, and Hotel’s gruesome intensity adds a nice touch of gore to the other less-bloody mazes.

The only real dud of the set is Pirates of Peril Point, the 3D maze.  If you haven’t been through a 3D haunt, they’re painted in specific day-glow colors and you’re given polarized glasses.  This makes some colors jump out in 3D, leading to a weird, psychadelic effect.  They’re used often, everywhere from Knott’s Scary Farm to DFW’s own Thrillvania.  Here, to be honest, the effect isn’t used that well.  The 3D is never spectacular, and they don’t use many of the tactics 3D gives you, such as “blackout” costumes with 3D elements allowing a spook to completely disappear into a background for perfect scare opportunities.  The maze is small and tight, leading to the musky funk I mentioned earlier, but it also doesn’t give the actors much room to work.  While they appeared in all mazes, Pirates featured just an awful lot of what Freddy termed the “blowsplosions”: air cannons that go off as you pass with a loud noise, usually near your feet.  They’re a fine effect, but overused here.

Pirates needs a rethink, but it’s still worth one pass through.  That’s the beauty of Screams: if you don’t like an attraction, move on to the next, or do your favorite multiple times.  The problem with traditional haunts is that if you don’t dig it, oh well, that was that.  It’s not the case here; have a beverage, take a break, and head back to your favorite maze three or four more times before they close things up.

Some of the food stalls at Screams.

It also must be said that the acting throughout the park is top notch.  These guys and gals put it all out there and do a great job.

That’s something else well worth mentioning: Screams is brought to you by the same people that bring you Scarborough, so much of the same food and drink service is available.  It’s rare you find a haunt with a full bar, or sausage on a stick.  (And if they do, you don’t want the sausage…I’m looking at you, Carl Cleaver.)  They also have a full service (?!?) bar and restaurant, the Full Moon Cafe.  Freddy and I took a snack break there.  We got the Stuffed Potato Kegs, huge tater tots with baked potato toppings built right in.  They were very good, reasonably priced, and went down great with our hard ciders poured cold from the tap.  Sandwiches and other pub grub are available.  The service was also excellent thanks to the lovely and talented future vendor of costumery, Myranda.

Why, there’s Myranda on the right!

That’s really the feel of Screams and the entire selling point: it’s a ren faire from hell.  Take all the fun stuff from a ren fest, replace the knights and jousting with killer clowns and haunts, and put it after dark.  Voila, instant fun.  Karaoke contests, rock climbing walls, games of skill, shops and vendors, and yes, even an electric chair that will give you the buzz for a $3 fee.

Get executed…just $3!

This will sound like an insult, but it isn’t: Screams is the Wal-Mart of haunts.  Everything under one roof for a really great price.  There’s nothing wrong with that and everything great about it.  Even trucking along at a good pace and skipping most of the extra entertainment, we were still there for nearly four hours.  That’s a hell of a bargain at $30 a ticket.

Screams is open Fridays and Saturdays between now and October 28th.  Tickets are available via their website now, including Fast Pass and Group packages!

Screams hearse

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KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!

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Dynamite Entertainment just announced that they are planning to bring two of their bestselling brands together in “KISS/Army of Darkness #1”. The new comic book series will unite the rock band with none other than Ash for some Deadite ass kicking.

The series will be written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims and illustrated by Ruairi Coleman. And the debut issue of “KISS/Army of Darkness” features three art covers from Kyle Strahm, Goni Montes, and Ken Haeser.

You can find all three covers below along with quotes from the creative team. After looking through all of that make sure to hit us up and let us know how excited you are about this new hybrid comic series in the comments below or on social media!

With Ash vs. The Army of Darkness, Chris and I were given kind of carte blanche to do whatever we wanted to the world of AOD, and we went for broke,” Co-writer Chad Bowers says. “We introduced some new characters and concepts, and built a legacy for Ash’s comics adventures that I’m immensely proud of, but not in a million years could I have guessed we’d get to continue that momentum with the added bonus of tossing the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band into the mix! I’ve been in the tank for KISS since I was in middle school. I remember buying the KISS tribute album, KISS My Ass for the Lemonheads (they covered Plaster Caster), which lead to me picking up Greatest Hits, and so on. But when I found out there was a KISS comic with blood in it, I signed up for life! Of course, I adore the songs (literally listening to Do You Love Me right now), but I’m just as obsessed with the way KISS transcends the music to become something of a genre themselves. It’s something I think about a lot, honestly, so no surprise, it’s a big part of our story too!”

“When it comes to Army of Darkness, I guess you could say that Ash is a bit of a gambler, but he’s nobody’s fool,” Co-writer Chris Sims says. “And since our first story was set back at Alan Shepard High, we’re looking forward to showing him some things that you can’t learn in school. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the deep-cut lyrics now, but for real — if you thought Deadites at Homecoming and the Supernatural Military-Adjacent Response Team were taking Ash in a new direction, just wait until you see how we team him up with the Starchild, Space Ace, the Demon, and the Catman. In the grand tradition of the film, we’re tearing up the entire space-time continuum and if you think you know how weird this is gonna get… well, you sure know somethin’!”

“Having done some work for Dynamite in the past, I’ve really been wanting to get my foot in the door here for a long time so I can play in the sandbox of the amazing licenses they have,” Artist Ruairi Coleman says. “Chief among those, and high up on my bucket list, is Army of Darkness: Hail to the king, baby! So, when I was offered the job of drawing the KISS/Army of Darkness crossover, I couldn’t believe my luck! The concept is totally bonkers, but in a way, that would make complete sense in the world of Army of Darkness. Thinking about it, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already and I’m honored (and more than a little intimidated) to be the guy who draws it.”

“After a more than 40-year career, KISS continues to be one of rock’s most celebrated bands, while Army of Darkness continues to be a staple in the comic book industry. We’re both honored to have the opportunity to work so closely with Gene and Paul to bring their world-renowned alter-egos to comics alongside our very own Ashy Slashy,” says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. “The raging guitar chords and pyrotechnic spectacle of their stage shows could have come straight from the pages of the Necronomicon, and this epic battle between The Demon and Deadites will appeal to the hellions in all of us!”

Issue #1 will be available on digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, Madefire, and Dark Horse Digital.

The KISS/Army of Darkness miniseries event hits February 2018.

Synopsis:

KISS is on top of the world and rocking faces until the night disciples of The Destroyer show up and the band disappears. With the tour canceled, a young Ash misses one of the most important events of his life that will change his destiny. Now the Chosen One has to get back on the right path and join the KISS ARMY OF DARKNESS!

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Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong

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One of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th series is director ‘s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The mixture of old-school gothic horror and comedy is always a welcome treat around these parts.

But why wasn’t McLoughlin asked to write and direct the follow-up?

Actually, it turns out he was asked to follow up Jason Lives, McLoughlin recently told Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast.

But his pitch – Jason vs Cheech and Chong – didn’t go over so well…

“[Frank Mancuso Jr.] wanted me to do another film after we did Jason,” McLoughlin says. “And I said, ‘What are you thinking? I don’t know what it could be now.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think about Freddy (Krueger) and Jason?’ And I go, ‘But Freddy’s at New Line and the guys at Paramount have [Jason].’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to try and see if we can work something out.’ So, I started thinking about that, going, It doesn’t make sense. I mean he lives in one realm and — you know, I take this stuff very seriously, what realm a monster’s supposed to stay in. And he came back, he goes, ‘Eh, forget it, it’s not going to work anyway.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You guys own Cheech and Chong. What if we do Cheech and Chong-meets-Jason? They’re like camp counselors or something. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I saw Jason out there.’ ‘No, man, that’s a myth.’ But he said, ‘You know what? No.’”

Too bad. While I don’t know how well a Cheech and Chong/Friday the 13th flick would go, with McLoughlin at the helm, the film would have at least been funny as hell.

Plus we already got these two knuckleheads in Part III.

Are you upset we never got Tom McLoughlin’s Jason vs Cheech and Chong? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

You can buy Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives on Blu-ray HERE.

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Blade Runner 2049’s Lackluster Box-Office Still a Mystery to Director Denis Villeneuve

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This past summer we were hit by director Denis Villeneuve’s stunning sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. While a hit with the critics and the audience that saw it, the film didn’t pull in quite the money the studio hoped for. Especially considering its budget.

With a budget of $150 million Blade Runner 2049 only managed to gather $89 million at the domestic box-office and $163 million worldwide.

Why didn’t the film make more cash? Well, director Denis Villeneuve has a few theories that he recently shared with Cinema Blend.

“I’m still digesting it,” he told the site. “I think because maybe people were not familiar enough with the universe. And the fact that the movie’s long [2 hours, 44 minutes run time]. I don’t know. It’s still a mystery to me. I make movies — I don’t sell them.”

Why do you think Blade Runner 2049 didn’t pull in more cash at the domestic box-office? Let us know in the comments below!

Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve from a script by Hampton Fancher (who wrote the original) and Michael Green. The script is based off a story by Hampton Fancher, which is in turn based on the original film’s source material “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick.

The film stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Edward James Olmos, David Dastmalchian, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi, Sylvia Hoeks, Hiam Abbass, Carla Juri, David Benson, Ellie Wright, and Kingston Taylor.

Synopsis:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

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