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Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built – We Visit the Home with Directors the Spierig Brothers

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On an isolated stretch of land fifty miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, it is a structure that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant 24-hour a day, 7-day a week mania for decades, it stands 7 stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness.

But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook), or for her physician (Jason Clarke). No… She is assembling a prison, an asylum for a legion of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters and their legacy of bullets and death.

Based on a true story, Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built is set for release in February of 2018. But we, along with a select group of genre sites and channels, got to visit “the mystery house” – the real Winchester Mansion, and were treated to a sneak peek at what fans will see in the film.

We were given a guided tour by the directors, Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (Undead, Daybreakers, Jigsaw), not once – but twice! The first walk through took place in the amber light of late afternoon, then we returned in the dead of dark for a spooky candlelight expedition complete with recreation actors and eerie things going bump in the night.

Check out our exclusive photos, taken mostly during the day (we’re not kidding when we say the night time tour was in the dark!).

It’s really a stunning structure, and deserving of its Historical Landmark status. Before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 toppled the top two floors, it stood 7-stories tall. Even now, it’s quite the trek from basement to belfry, with lots of stairs, twists, and turns.

When it comes to the more delicate bits of interior design, a lot of thought went in. Sarah was fascinated with the number 13 and worked the number into the house: There are 13 bathrooms, windows have 13 panes, chandeliers have 13 candles, etc. There are also dozens of daisies worked into the décor. The daisy was special to Sarah for two reasons. First, it symbolizes the initiate to spiritual awakening. Second, it is nature’s finest examples of the “hidden” number 13. Many varieties of the daisy have 13 petals. What’s more, most daisy plants have 13 branches growing out of their stalks.

The richness of history is lush and deep, begging further investigation. But for now, let’s focus on the film.

Dread Central: It seems like there would be a lot of difficult and painstaking things involved with bringing the very first Winchester major motion picture to life. Even though it’s not really a standard biopic and more about the supernatural, what was the hardest part in making it real?

The Spierig Brothers: Well, we haven’t finished it yet so the hardest part might still be coming! The shoot is always hard, you try and do a lot and the budget wasn’t that high. But really, the hardest part is crossing over to a period film. You’re trying to get that accurate and right. You can’t just go and shoot on the street. You have to get every element – costume design, production, vehicles, whatever it may be, right and when you shoot a real place, like just out here you can’t even do an aerial shot and just drop it in the movie. You have to do the aerial shot with a ton of visual effects, because the mall doesn’t exist in 1906. So the period element is really complicated part of making the movie.

DC: Since this house is so old and historic and shrouded in mystery, you must have had a hard time deciding what to fit into the runtime.

TSB: Yes. There’s a couple of things that didn’t fit into the story. If there was a sequel we’d throw them in. The Door to Nowhere is in the film, but it’s just sort of in the background. We’d love to use that some more. With a sequel, we can play with that one. But we tried to incorporate just about everything we could in the house. Even things we didn’t quite show, there’s cupboards that open up to rooms and stuff like that we’d play on that quite a bit as well. You open a closet door and it’s a window into another room and there’s things like that that are really trippy.

DC: Did you work all the staircases into the story?

TSB: Yeah. There’s the stairs that go to the ceiling that you see in the trailer. There’s certain things that are true stories in the house that you saw on the tour. But we found more doing a bit more research – that’s in the movie so I won’t spoil it for you – but there’s things that are real that we didn’t invent for the film. They’re actually part of the history of the house and Sarah Winchester. The hard thing is the house [now] doesn’t have all the rooms and stories it did before the earthquake. We don’t actually know what a lot of the rooms were for back in that time period because they were torn down, so you can assume certain things, but it was a much bigger house a hundred years ago. So much was built and torn down and rebuilt.

DC: The people who do the Winchester House tours are so great. They really get into character.

TSB: We also used some of the employees in the film, so they are actually in the movie. When we shot here at the house we put them in period costumes and got them to play maids. A lot of these people are theatre actors.

DC: You also built a set of the house in Australia. So, how much was actually filmed here in the house itself?

TSB: There’s maybe 10% at the actual house. But that 10% goes a long way because there’s a lot of big wide shots. We shot the grand ballroom, we shot a lot of the hallways. In the trailer you can shots where there’s a maid opening up the door inside that’s looking straight up [and that’s here]. There’s lots of little pieces that we put into it that we shot at the actual house and integrated it into the film. There’s gonna be a point where we forget what we actually built and what was at the house.

DC: Who from real life, aside from Sarah Winchester, do we see in the movie?

TSB: The foreman, John Hanson, is in the film and her niece Marian I. Marriott. There were a lot of gardeners and maids, aside from the construction workers. It’s interesting because when she died, no one ever said a bad thing about her. I don’t think she was ever this mean old lady. I think she was very nice and I think she really cared for her employees. We tried to make that a part of the film, that she cared for them.

The film stars Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester along with Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson, and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey. Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig directed and co-wrote the script with Tom Vaughan. Tim McGahan and Brett Tomberlin produced for CBS Films.

Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built comes out February 2, 2018.

Synopsis:
Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren), heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms.

To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook), or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke), whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters

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New Insidious: The Last Key Trailer Speaks Softly But Carries a Big Whistle

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The last word we brought you guys on the fourth installment in the Insidious franchise was when we let you know the new film had snagged a PG-13 rating from the MPAA for “disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language”.

Today we have a new trailer/TV spot for Insidious: The Last Key, and if you aren’t already on board for a fourth round of spooky shite courtesy of screenwriter Leigh Whannel, maybe this quick trailer will do the trick.

You can check out the new trailer below; then let us know how excited you are for Insidious: The Last Key!

I’m digging what I’ve seen from the new film thus far, and this new trailer only strengthens that. Plus I’m excited to see what director Adam Robitel can do with this series after his fucking terrifying previous film The Taking of Deborah Logan.

The film is directed by Adam Robitel from a script by Leigh Whannell and stars Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, Kirk Acevedo, Javier Botet, Bruce Davison, Spencer Locke, Tessa Ferrer, Ava Kolker, and Marcus Henderson.

Insidious: The Last Key hits theaters January 5, 2018.

Synopsis:

Parapsychologist Elise Rainier and her team travel to Five Keys, N.M., to investigate a man’s claim of a haunting. Terror soon strikes when Rainier realizes that the house he lives in was her family’s old home.

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Luke Genton’s The Bone Box Trailer Proves Not All Graves Are Quiet

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Sometimes a fright flick comes along that sells me on the logline itself. And writer-director Luke Genton’s upcoming supernatural horror movie The Bone Box has just such a premise.

The film follows the story of a grave robber who comes to believe he’s being haunted by those he stole from. And if that premise doesn’t sell you on at least checking out the film’s trailer, I don’t know what to do for you.

Speaking of the trailer, you can check it out below. Then let us know what you think below!

The film stars Gareth Koorzen (The Black That Follows), Michelle Krusiec (The Invitation), and Maria Olsen (Starry Eyes), Jamie Bernadette (I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu), David Chokachi (Baywatch), Aaron Schwartz (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Tess Bellomo (Liked).

Look for updates on Facebook HERE and the Director’s Instagram: @lukegenton.

The Bone Box is currently in post-production. It is scheduled to be completed by November 2017 and is seeking distribution.

Synopsis:

Depressed and reeling from the recent death of his wife, Tom (Koorzen) has built up quite a gambling debt. He goes to stay with his wealthy Aunt Florence (Olsen) in hopes that she will write him into her will. When a nasty creditor makes it clear that Tom is out of time, he devises a plan with Elodie (Krusiec), the undertaker’s daughter, to rob the graves of the rich townspeople buried in the cemetery across the road. After plundering the graves, Tom begins hearing and seeing strange things that seem to coincide with the deaths of the people he robbed. Even more disconcerting… he appears to be the only one sensing the occurrences. One question lingers: Is Tom’s conscience playing a trick on him… or is he really being haunted by those he stole from?

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Last Meeple Standing

H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game, Overview and Review – Last Meeple Standing

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Yeah, I know. I’ve said it before, and I will scream it to the heavens again: There is an abysmal glut of Lovecraft Mythos games out there (and still streaming into the market). For a while there, it was vampire games (wanna take a sparkly guess why?). Then, it was zombie games (only Robert Kirkman knows why). Now it is Lovecraft games, and it is a LOT of them. Shambling, fish-headed masses of them, weighing down the game shop shelves like heavily laden buckets of freshly shorn tentacles (calm down, hentai fans). It’s true, and a lot of them seem to be sad doppelgangers of other games, just skinned with a rotting coat of Elder God goo.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

For that reason, it is nice to run across a Lovecraft-themed game that is GOOD. H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game is one of those… it’s good, but it’s not great (for ONE painful reason). But, for our nefarious purposes today, that’s good enough. The stars are PARTIALLY in alignment. There is one little detail to get out of the way before we wade into the spawn-infested miasma of this game: it is the hellish offspring of an earlier, more complex game called (you guessed it) H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival the board game. Much has been said about the relationship between these two games and many comparisons have been made, but since I neither own the board game nor have I played it, let’s leave it to fester in cold, barren space all by its lonesome for now. I’m sure its time will come…when the stars are right (rolling his eyes).

COMPONENTS:
It is RARE (like fresh Deep One filets) that the components of a game are as nice as the gameplay, but there are two elements of Kingsport Festival: TCG that really make it shine. The first is the titular cards that make up the bulk of the game. The artwork on the tarot-sized cards depicting the various gods, lesser gods, demons, and evil corgis (I kid) from the Mythos is dark and shows off the creatures to good/evil effect. I have to admit that these are some of my favorite depictions of the creatures from Lovecraft’s mind I’ve seen. They really look threatening here. The portraits on the cards presenting the investigators/evil cultists look dignified, a little creepy, and mysterious, as is only right for nogoodniks taking on Cthulhu’s worst. The graphic design is really classy with easily interpreted iconography and border artwork. Equal care has been taken with the backs of the cards, which have appropriately aged and Victorian elements. The only parts to this game are the cards and the dice. Wait, this is a card game, right?

Well, yes and no.

Although cards make up the lion’s share of the game, there is a heavy dice aspect as well, and these are some NICE dice. I’m a SUCKER for custom dice, and Kingsport Festival: TCG comes loaded with them. There are three types of dice: a white d10 with a clock icon on one face, brain-pink (a nice touch) d12 dice representing the player’s sanity with a Sanity icon on one face, and grey Domain d6 dice with three types of domain faces: purple Evil, black Death, and red Destruction. All of the dice are high-quality and engraved, not printed, with easily recognizable faces for ease of play and match up nicely with the icons on the game’s cards. Squee! Wonderfully evil custom dice!

SETUP:
Set up is pretty basic. All of the cards depicting the horrid gods are displayed in order of their power in six rows within reach of all of the players. The total number of copies of each type of god card is dictated by how many people are playing, so the number varies. Each player gets one of the brain-ilicious d12s with which to track their sanity and sets it to 10. All players white timer die, with the high roller taking the role of the starting player. Then each player sets their Sanity die to 10 (yes, the value can be increased up to 12 through game effects. That player takes the white d10 and sets it to the clock face. Players can pick an investigator card, but I suggest dealing them out at random to each player to liven things up (before they get driven insane, of course).

GAMEPLAY:
Gameplay is equally simple, yet strangely engaging. The first player takes the white timer d10, passes it to the next player to their left, who turns it to the number 1, effectively creating a timer that will count up from 1 to 10, ending the game. That player becomes the starting player. Once the white die is passed, the passing player increases their Sanity by one, as will be the mechanic throughout the rest of the game.

At the start of a game, the players will have no cards in their hands. They acquire them throughout the game, but we’ll talk about a general turn. The starting player rolls one of the domain dice and notes the resultant face. If they have cards to play, now is when they would play them. The card effects are varied. They might instruct the player to roll more dice, add specified domains to their pool of domains, change rolled die faces, etc. There are many possibilities. After the player has played all the cards they wish to and resolved the card effects, the player may spend the resources/domains gained through the dice they’ve rolled and the cards they have played to buy ONE god from the displayed cards and add it to their hand. It should be noted that players are limited to one and only one copy of each available god.

Once the player has completed their turn, they check to see if the round indicator on the white d10 matches one of the Raid rounds shown on the investigator card at the very bottom. If the numbers match, the player must compare the Gun icons on his cards to the strength of the raid indicated on his character card. If the Cultist’s strength is greater, he gains the difference in Sanity points. If the Cultist’s strength matches the Raid strength, they neither gain nor lose Sanity. If the Cultist’s strength is less than the Raid strength, they lose the difference in Sanity points. After this, the next player to the left will take their turn.

WINNING:
The game ends at the end of the ninth round, unless a Cultist is able to invoke the Elder God Azathoth, which results in dogs and cats sleeping together (no, not really). The cultists look at all of their god cards and add up the Elder God symbols at the bottom of each card. The Cultist with the most Elder God symbols/points at the end of the game WINS!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
So, there you have it: an epic battle between creepy Cultists and ghoulish Gods in one rather small box. I’ll get to the point. I really like H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game. I happen to be fond of little filler games like this. The box lists the playtime for this game as 30 min, but once the players know the rules, you can cut playtime down to 20 min, easy. It lists the age limit at 13+, which I think is absurd. There is nothing in the theme or artwork that would preclude players 10 and up from playing, other than rule complexity. Between the awesome art, the devilish dice, and the rad rules (ugh…), there is not much to dislike about this game… other than the hellish rules. You may be asking what I mean. The rules seem easy. They ARE. It’s the rulebook that is a pain in the neck. For some reason, the graphic designer (I’m looking at you, Savini -no, not Tom-) decided to print all of the rule examples in the book in a nearly unreadable “old-timey” font that is TINY. I think they thought they were adding flavor. If so, that flavor is YUCKY. When learning a new game, you want crystal-clear rules, not something you have to squint and struggle over, like this sad, arcane tome. The same hellish font appears on the cards in places, as well, making me one unhappy game collector. You may look past it, but I had a hard time doing so. Other than that, though, the game is great fun, a nice way to fill in time between bigger games, and beautiful to look at. You make your own judgement.

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Gianluca Santopietro
Artist: Maichol Quinto and Demis Savini
Publisher: Passport Games/ Giochi Uniti
Published: 2016
Players/Playtime/Age Rating: 3 -5 players/30 min/13+ (seriously?)

RATING:
3/5


Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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