Thursday, September 29, 2011

Haunting the Home: Interior

We've finally gotten some decorations up inside the house.  It has been raining for over a week and the lawn looks like a jungle.  I can't do any real outdoor decorating until I've gotten the lawn mowed down and the edging done, so inside is really all I have at this point.
Technically Frau Punkinstein had a few decorations out when I came home from my northern VA trip two weeks ago, including a cute little Crow Scarecrow in the front garden, but I was finally able to get into the haunted attic, dodge the malign spirit within, and get the Halloween decoration down.
Newly acquired Lord of the Harvest icon
Hanging in place of an Autumn wreath or the screaming wraith door cover is a new acquisition this year.  This item came from Target.  I like it very much.
Stuck to the glass outer door is this gel cling skeleton, who is almost completely not visible in this picture.
Another shot of the Harvest Lord icon, this time with Jelly Bones in front.  This was taken from outside the house.  I wanted a "dancing skeleton in front of a Jack O Lantern" theme.  It is much more interesting "in person".
More gel clings.  This time we have two cute little ghosts, a tombstone and bats superimposed over a full moon.  There are two stars as well, but the kitten ate them.
This shot shows our Lemax Spookytown items the glowing witch silhouette pumpkin and the haunted portrait.  The "portrait" is a lenticular morphing picture of a Victorian (possibly Edwardian) woman who becomes a death's head faced fiend.  The eyes light up and it says creepy things about being trapped.  Very cool.
Close up of the haunted portrait.  The camera has captured the picture at its most SPOOKY.
A better shot of the Spookytown stuff and some other Halloween items.
Close up of Spookytown stuff.  I've never gotten as much Spookytown stuff as I'd like.  What we have is a lovely graveyard scene with the LORD OF THE HARVEST overlooking the action.  And some monsters.  In a convertible.  Probably listening to Jerry Lee Lewis or something.
   More Spookytown.  On the right you see the Haunted Grotto.  Inside is a bedsheet ghost that wiggles and changes color as the light cycles through blue, red, green, purple, and so on.  I really wish that was a clearer pic.
I have no idea what is on the telly
The "rustics" that greeted me when I returned home from my NOVA trip in the middle of September.  I really dig that Pumpkinman.
The window over the kitchen sink normally displays sea shells, faeries and such.  For Halloween it has converted to cats and pumpkins.  More gel clings can be seen sticking to the window.
Kitchen table, bedecked in scarecrow tablecloth, retro placemats and the candle holders, which are really just in a staging area, waiting to be deployed.
And we say goodbye with the very old school Jack O Lantern cutout.  I stuck it to the garage door with sticky tape.  How grade school crafty am I?

I hope to have some outdoor pics to share soon.
Keep your pumpkins lit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Series to Reboot: Pushing the Envelope of Credibility with Friday the 13th (Part 1)

The second of the Series to Reboot articles is perhaps the series with the most entries of any slasher film series, the Friday the 13th franchise.  For the background on this concept read the series intro: Series to Reboot: The Intro.  Assuming you've done that and are prepared, and without further ado, here is Friday the 13th.

Series Overview:  Beginning in 1980 the Friday the 13th franchise is, more or less, the story of disfigured, special needs mass murderer Jason Voorhees and his continuing quest to rid his lakefront home of loitering teenage pests.  At present the series has had 12 entries (counting the crossover Freddy vs. Jason) with its latest installment a 2009 reboot.  Historians disagree about whether or not Halloween started the Slasher genre.  Joe Bob Briggs has stated on film that he prefers Friday the 13th.  Be that as it may, I argue that Halloween inspired the Slasher genre but it was Friday the 13th  that defined it.  Looking at Slasher films made after 1980 we see a definite pattern that is based on Friday the 13th, not Halloween.  The series moved from a realistic beginning that had full credibility to a supernatural horror series with no possibility of being real, much less plausible credibility.  Arguably after taking the franchise antagonist into space in 2002 it was high time for a reboot.

Friday the 13th (1980)- The first film of the series set the pattern for the films to come and for Slasher imitators for years to come.  As any horror fan should know, the plot concerns an attempt to re-open a camp on Crystal Lake that closed decades before after some killings.  The formula for slashers was set with this film.  Get teenagers into isolated spot, further isolate victims, stealth kill, hide bodies, lead up to final girl chase sequence, denouement and out.  TRIVIA FUN:  The killer in the first film is Pamela Voorhees, mother of the more famous Jason.
Overall Credibility: 10 (nothing supernatural occurs, and the ending with Jason is a dream sequence, so it doesn't count; Pamela Voorhees stalks and kills by surprise tactics, so it's all pretty credible)
Series Credibility: N/A (first installment)
Killer: Pamela Voorhees (the mother of Jason Voorhees, whose death is established as her motivation)
Ending: Pamela's exposition to Alice explains why she kills.  Alice decapitates Pamela, has Jason dream sequence, is taken away by authorities with a distant stare.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)- The first sequel followed up the financial success of the first (10755% profit) film with a modest return of 1969% profit.  It was due to the unexpected financial hit that the first film became that the second was produced so quickly.  It was also due to the success of the first F13 that Halloween 2 was made in the same year (3 years after its predecessor).  As slasher films go it is fairly formula (following the formula set by its predecessor) but entertaining all the same.  Jason is presented as the killer, the story being that he did not die as a child by drowning but has grown to manhood, possibly in the woods.  What does that say about his mother?  No matter.  Jason wears a burlap sack over his misshapen head, dispatches the teen sacrifices in a variety of creative ways and keeps the mummified head and dirty sweater of his mother in a shrine in his woodsy home.  Final girl Ginny uses her considerable acting skills and the late Pamela's sweater to fool Jason, but eventually he sees through it (with his one good eye).  There is an unmasking shock and the twist on the original ending (Jason bursts through a window not up from the lake) and Ginny is taken away in an ambulance, apparently out of it.
Overall Credibility: 9 (nothing supernatural occurs, but the loose end wrap-up killing of Alice at the beginning seems a bit contrived)
Series Credibility: 9 (this film asks that we accept that rather than Jason being a dead child, he is an adult who grew up isolated from society.  Which pretty much makes Pamela Voorhees a crap mom for abandoning her boy thinking he was dead in a lake.)
Killer: Jason Voorhees (the first appearance of Jason, canonically, who apparently did not drown as a child)
Ending: Jason is wounded, but crashes into a cabin to grab the final girl, we cut away to see her, disoriented, being put into an ambulance.

Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982):  Building on the continued success of the franchise, the 3rd installment is famous for two reasons: Jason gets his iconic hockey mask and the film was shown in the theaters in 3-D.  There was a small 3-D revival during the early 80s (Jaws 3 in 1983 is the other shining example I can think of) and Paramount Pictures used that for this installment.  What this means, in a practical sense, is a load of 3-D gags and kills that face the camera.  So naturally these kills are not really gruesome, at least not too gruesome.  The film ends when the final girl, Chris, puts an axe in Jason's noggin and flees to the lake and falls asleep in a canoe.  She dreams that Jason still lives and that Pamela Voorhees rises up and pulls her under the lake.  Cheap shot ending calling back to first film.
Overall Credibility: 9 (nothing supernatural occurs)
Series Credibility: 9 (Nothing has happened, at this point, to ruin the credibility set up in Part 2, where Jason was revealed to have not died before Part 1)
Killer: Jason Voorhees (the first appearance of the hockey mask)
Ending: Final girl, Chris, puts an axe in Jason's noggin and flees to the lake and falls asleep in a canoe.  She dreams that Jason still lives and that Pamela Voorhees rises up and pulls her under the lake.  Cheap shot ending calling back to first film. Jason is seemingly dead as credits roll.
TRIVIAL NOTE: This makes 3 times that the final girl has been taken away by authorities of some kind, staring vacantly, clearly snapped in the headmeat department.  
This shot from Part 3 is possibly the least monstrous Jason face, essentially he has a lazy eye, bad teeth and a strange nose.  In all other unmasking scenes he's seen with a head like the elephant man, one eye WAY out of place and bad skin.  Honestly, I think this face is scarier as it looks more plausible.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984): The fourth installment in the series was intended to be the last installment, as suggested by its title and plot, which ending with, categorically, the killing of the franchise villain.  The plot is the basic F13 plot at heart, teenagers at the lake get stalked and killed.  Include a young Corey Feldman as a monster mask making young geek and a brother looking for revenge for his slaughtered sister (from Part 2) and you have the variation on the theme.  The ending is what sets this film apart from the previous sequels; it feels a bit psychological-art school.  There is plenty of gore and violence between the beginning and the end and although nothing supernatural occurs the beginning is a bit unbelievable as Jason simply "wakes up" in the local morgue and kills a few staff before sodding off back to his lake.  Apparently morgues are poorly guarded in New Jersey.
Overall Credibility: 7 (nothing supernatural occurs, but the Jason morgue wake up seems a bit too convenient.  I also ask how Jason manages to get from an urban morgue to his woodsy home without raising any suspicions, I mean the cops have been to that camp how many times now?  I also whack off a point for the ending, detailed below)
Series Credibility: 8 (The factors noted above lower the credibility a point and I question the Jarvis family never having Jason problems before now)
Killer: Jason Voorhees
Ending: Pre-teen Tommy Jarvis uses his quick wit and monster make-up skills to shave his head to look like pre-teen Jason V at the time of his alleged drowning.  Somehow this causes Jason to stop his relentless drive to kill to observe young Tommy looking NOTHING LIKE HIM.  Seriously, Jason has a deformed face with his eyes all offset and a lumpy head and all Tommy has is a poorly shaved head and his polo shirt collar flipped up.  Jason just stands there, clearly mystified that anyone would be so stupid.  This allows Tommy and older sister Trish to tag team and chop him to bits with a machete (taken from pseudo-protagonist Rob earlier).  In the post denouement scene at the hospital Tommy is staring blankly.  Couldn't avoid that old cliche; it's tradition.
Oh, if only there were another Corey that I might have a gimmick to become a teen idol...
Rotten Tomatoes gives the 4th film a 24% rating and is similarly unkind to the rest of the series, for the most part.  Of course, since Rotten Tomatoes aggregates scores and people are more likely to provide a negative than a positive, and because people are, by and large, sheep-like douchenozzles, I don't let such as R.T. tell me whether a work is good or bad.  So there.

We'll pick up with the 5th installment in our next post.

TIMELINE NOTE: F13 part 2 is primarily set in 1984, which is canonically 5 years after the setting of the first film.  F13 part 3 picks up the day after part 2 ends.  Final Chapter picks up the day after the events of part 3.  Since Final Chapter was released in 1984, this means that real time had finally caught up with the film timeline.  It also means that people in part 2 were living in a 1984 that was still hip to disco.  See?  HORROR MOVIE!

See you next time.  Keep your pumpkins lit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's like a rock N roll disease


Seriously though, I've stated how my brain works with the rock and roll and the monsters and the evil space robots fighting against the brave American soldiers with their Tesla cannons, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I want to talk about another rockin monster pop culture comic.
Cover of Issue #1 of Rockin' Bones; note the EC style tribute
Rockin' Bones was a very short-lived comic (3 issues and a Christmas special) that was published by NEC comics in 1992.  Every issue was written and drawn by Darren Merinuk, an outstanding artist who has done so many great band and gig posters that I can't count them all and who has a rockabilly/psychobilly storytelling power that I still enjoy despite having read his little series start to finish about 34 times.
Look at that cover.  A giant brained alien menaces a sweater wearing young lady while a skeleton combo with POMPADOURS no less, plays on.  That's real gone, cats and kittens.
Sample Page from Issue 1: A parody Public Service Announcement  concerning the "Devil Music"
Each issue is crammed with 32 glorious black and white pages with one page jokes, short tales and pin ups.  The subject matter ranges from parody to straight horror and sci-fi tales.  Merinuk captures not only the look and style of a retro 50's-60's comic, but also the feel of the whole genre.  This is what good psychobilly and horror rock is about, only visual in the comic format.
Merinuk often uses a "cluttered" style, which is really just more art for your buck.  This is why I use the quotes.
For the most part Merinuk is working with humor, but it is often the tongue-in-cheek humor that good horror-comedies employ.  Another note on his style is the seemingly cluttered panels.  Looking at the above image you can see so much going on in each picture that it really requires your full attention to appreciate and it makes for good return reading.  I often discover new things I didn't see before, or maybe just forgot.
You must expand this image to appreciate it
The above centerfold mural really says it all about Darren's mind (and mine come to think of it).  Honestly, that image is the sort of thing that goes through my head while I'm in traffic.
Merinuk even gives you extra value, as evidenced by this image of the back cover:

Cover to cover entertainment in every issue of Rockin' Bones.  As with Creepsville, I can't recommend Rockin' Bones enough.  Every issue was obviously a labor of love for Mr. Merinuk (the same can be said of Creepsville) and such talent deserved a longer run, but alas it was not to be.  If you can, go out and pick up the run (it's only 4 issues), read them and see the world in a fundamentally cooler way, kiddies.

Keep your pumpkins rockin'.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Series to Reboot: Pushing the Envelope of Credibility with Halloween (part 2)

Continuing first of the Series to Reboot articles is a personal favorite series of mine, the Halloween franchise.  For the background on this concept read the series intro: Series to Reboot: The Intro.  Assuming you've done that and are prepared, and without further ado, here is part 2 of Halloween franchise.

Possibly the most hated film in the entire series, or possibly a wild claim I can't back up with paperwork
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers or Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers (1995)- This is going to make you lose your mind.  See, a film was shot and practically in the can that was to be called Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers which has its own problems because, it's not like he's Spider-Man.  I'm pretty sure his 'origin' is Mrs. Myers hoo-hoo.  Anyway, Miramax decided to reshoot the bloody thing, or at least huge chunks of it.  The same thing happened with Hellraiser Bloodline, I know, I've read the Fangoria articles from before release with the pictures of what it would have been.  So this film was made, then much of it reshot and the final release was Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.  What is this curse you ask?  Not sure.  It is either the curse inflicted upon Mikey that makes him a killer or him, saying that he is the curse inflicted upon us or sequelitis.  Hard to tell.  So we have two films.  Both films have a very old and haggard Donald Pleasance (still amazing though) as Dr. Loomis, now mostly retired.  Both films delve deeper into Halloween lore than the previous films, which restricted themselves to parties, trick or treating, and a mention of Samhain, by going into great detail about druids and fire festivals.  And both films screw that up as well by talking bollocks about runes.  The major differences are in the final reel and endings.  In the "Origin" film (bootleg called The Producer's Cut) grown up Tommy Doyle uses blood and rune magic to defeat Michael, Loomis goes back to 'make sure' Mikey is done for only to be rune marked and thus tied to Mikey forever.  In the "Curse" film (theatrical release), adult Tommy Doyle drugs Mikey up, beats him down, and escapes, Loomis goes back in to 'make sure' we hear his screams and assume Mikey finally killed the old man.  There is a lot to not like about the film.  It's credibility is blown early by introducing a bunch of hitherto unknown Strodes.  Jamie Lloyd is killed at the beginning after giving birth to Michael's baby (eeewww), which is possible, plausible and disgusting.  Again it is full of unlikable characters you really WANT to see die and a few that you don't want to see die but really don't care if they do.  The introduction of a new kid in peril to possibly inherit the mantle of Michael is a lame red herring.
Overall Credibility: 4 out of 10
Series Credibility: 1 out of 10 (for theatrical release) or 2 out of 10 (producer's cut)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)- This film takes as its premise that 4-6 never happened.  It follows the life of functioning alcoholic, drugged up, academy headmistress Keri Tate (Laurie Strode, faked death, hiding from brother Mike) who lives with her long suffering son John.  As feared by Laurie, Mikey decides to make his way to California to kill his sister, after tracking down Marion Chambers, the nurse that took care of Dr. Loomis in his final infirm years.  Mikey steals the files, gets the notes, heads to Cali and clashes with LL Cool J.  After killing John's friends (2) and Keri's beau, he chases John, his girlfriend and Keri/Laurie around the school until finally being mortally wounded.  Laurie watches her brother get loaded into an ambulance, steals it, he pops up awake, they tussle, ambulance wrecks pinning Mikey to a log.  A touching moment and Laurie decapitates her evil bro with a fire ax.  A fitting 20 year reunion, I think we all can agree.  The film is surprisingly credible. Laurie's alcoholism is her awake time coping mechanism and her battery of pills for sleeping disorders, nightmares, personality conflicts, all show a woman with deep emotional trauma; just what you'd expect from someone who survived H1 and H2.
Overall Credibility: 8 out of 10 (a few minor moments that are plausible instead of credible, but overall good)
Series Credibility: 8 out of 10 (it accepts part 2 as canon, which is rough given the ending, but ignores the mistakes of 4-6, so points back on, it was rough)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)- The first Halloween  of the 21st century and a post-Scream film to boot, this film was intended to relaunch the franchise by killing Laurie Strode and introducing a new final girl for Michael to menace.  The premise is completely tied to the webcast and reality TV genres with a group of college students entering the Myers house on Halloween night for a live broadcast ala Ghost Hunters.  However the film opens with Laurie in a mental hospital because when she killed her brother it was really a paramedic whose crushed larynx prevented his telling her that Mikey had disabled him and dressed him up as Mikey so...okay, you get the picture, right?  Totally implausible, total loss of credibility, only remotely in the realm of possibility.  Then Laurie pretends to be drugged up, Mikey comes for her, she traps him, he tricks her, he kills her and that was the first 10 minutes of the film.  Cut to a college near Haddonfield and Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks running a reality TV show.  Wackiness, and Busta Rhymes Fu (kung fu fight with Mikey at the end) ensues.
Overall Credibility: Hard to say...the beginning discards credibility in favor of a contrived exit for Laurie and a method of bringing the definitively dead Michael back to life, but the rest of the film plays to the reality TV trope by pointing out that people would watch a girl being murdered and believe it to be a stunt or set-up simply because it is reality TV.  Rather than use the old "there's no reception here" trick the film incorporates all of the media into the experience.  Let's say 5 out of 10.
Series Credibility: Following the high score of H20 with such an opening loses cred points and then contriving a new girl to stalk when the rest of the family is gone (Laurie had hidden Mikey's nephew, John, away) lowers the value, but it was intended as a sort of restart so let's give it a 6 out of 10.
Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009)- I'm putting these two together as they are the reboot films written and directed by Rob Zombie and as of RZH2 they are really best discussed together.
Zombie rebooted the franchise with Halloween and expanded upon it by giving the audience an extended origin story showing a disturbed young man, older than 6, but not a teenager, whose mother is a stripper (played by Mrs. Rob Zombie) and whose dysfunctional family includes an out-of-work drunken mom's boyfriend, trampy older sister and baby sister.  Michael has an obsession with masks.  After his murdering several people and the subsequent trial, Michael is put under the care of Loomis who seems compassionate at first but eventually uses the disturbed boy as the subject of a successful book.  Eventually young Michael kills a nurse, his mother commits suicide and he becomes a catatonic who grows into a hulking adult with a mask obsession.  He escapes, returns home to Haddonfield to continue his grisly work.
Then it's pretty much the Carpenter film with more T, more A, and F-bombs away.  A good, in-your-face horror film, but not an ideal remake, in my opinion.
My chief complaint was actually all the info on why Mikey is so disturbed.  I actually prefer the original where Loomis keeps describing Michael as pure evil and then, surprise ending...he is pure evil.  That, to me, is a more satisfying ending.  RZH1maintains possibility, plausibility and basic credibility throughout.  Nothing supernatural except Mike's gigantic muscle growth between childhood and adulthood.  Clearly they have a world class gym at Smith's Grove Sanitarium.
Then came Halloween II...and everything just flipped 180 degrees.  Laurie is a basket case suffering severe emotional trauma from her ordeal of a year before, Loomis is again pushing his publishing career and Michael is a bearded mountain man (you can see it sticking out of the damaged mask).

Rob provides an ugly picture of ugly people doing ugly things.  Gone is any of the Halloween lore save the time of year and a party, and provided is a ghostly motivation for Mikey's ambitions...dead mom ghost.  And she is mean.  Apparently Mike needs to kill his baby sister so they can all be a family or something or he's crazy or she's really a ghost.  I honestly don't know.  If we treat it all as a shared hallucination it is plausible, except that hallucinations aren't shared like that...Mike would have to verbally describe it to Laurie...unless they are psychic siblings...and there went all credibility, plausibility and, for rational people, possibility.  If mom is a ghost, well now we are supernatural, which removes the credibility based on RZH1, but saves the plausibility because we have to accept the supernatural within the series reality.
So it's your call really.
Overall Credibility: RZH1 9 out of 10; RZH2 6 out of 10 summed and divided by Alice Cooper = 7 out of 10
Series Credibility: As reboots they get to reset the bar, but they can't exist in a vacuum to franchise fans, so let's say 7 out of 10 (par with Halloween II

The entire Halloween franchise includes multiple comic books, novelizations, and an Atari 2600 video game. The comic books are not "canon" but try to keep with the lore, which can be confusing as of H20.  Fans of horror movie franchises are, in my experience, as dedicated as Trekkies or Star Wars fans, and do their best to reconcile the inconsistencies within a favored series.  As such I afford them respect as I have also tried, in my time, to justify the inconsistencies with back story or ad hoc solutions.  Did the Halloween franchise need a reboot?
Yes, I think it did.  The series was over 20 years old.
Did Rob Zombie do a good job of it?
Yes and no.  As a horror film writer/director I think Zombie is great.  He has a love for the old stuff that shows in his setting RZH1 and RZH2 in a nebulous time that has elements of modern day and older 70's era stuff.  Like Tim Burton's vision of Gotham in Batman it could be any time, anywhere, and by not pinning it down you don't date it.  Carpenter's original film is dated in that its setting is obviously 1978, but it says so right on the screen.  The film itself, however, does not feel dated.  The Hitchcockian style in which Carpenter shot H1 still provides a consistently moody, suspenseful and scary, if not gory, horror film.  If anything, excepting H3:SotW, which is more of a sci-fi/fantasy picture, it is the sequels of Halloween that date the work.  Starting with H2 and moving forward, each picture was a product of its time, a pedestrian outing using tested and proved film making styles, techniques and tropes, but H1 was setting that standard.  Thus I say the series needed a reboot to survive.  However, it looks like Rob really sewed up the entire series with two films and now I can't see any more films in the series being made or making any real money.  So either Rob did such a good job no one can follow it, or he screwed the pooch.  Again, it's your call.
TRIVIA NOTE:  In the novelization of the first film the author opens with a chapter set in ancient Ireland where a Celtic man murders a young couple because he has been slighted, then his spirit is cursed to walk the earth forevermore.  The next chapter shows little Michael visiting his grandmother where we learn that hearing voices that drive you to kill runs in the family.  The novel then proceeds like the film but the last words echo back to the first chapter suggesting that a supernatural reason was the cause of the madness all along.  Makes part 6 seem less crazy now, does it not?
Maybe he is simply evil...

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Retro-Cool

If the idea of Elvis donning super-hero armor to fight invading zombies from Planet X (echs echs echs echs...ECHO EFFECT) while Vincent Price attempts to take over the local sock hop is your idea of cool and fun...welcome to my brain 87% of the time.
I dig on that weird, retro vibe and I'm not the only person who does, otherwise I would not have comics to read and music to listen to while I read those comics.  I mean, isn't that what horror punk is all about, really?

Several years ago there were a few comics that came out, small press stuff always, but still good quality work by either a single creator doing all the work or the bulk of it.  I'd like to present one of those comics today:

The name alone says this comic is cool and retro, with its beatnik style lingo and, man, it does not disappoint in that area.  Created, written and drawn by Frank Kurtz and first published in 1991, Creepsville is a comic that reads like a tribute to Creature Feature and Sci-Fi cinema, which is exactly what it is.  Each issue featured a plot that was a tribute to (read: loosely ripped from) a classic of Creature Feature genre, such as I Was A Teenage Werewolf or Robot Monster and plays it for laughs.  Kurtz's art is vaguely reminiscent of the style of the classic Archie comics, which adds to the nostalgic kitsch.  Kurtz produced 5 issues of the initial Creepsville run before switching publishers and starting over with a new #1.  The second series lasted only 3 issues and was more a fan magazine with comics in it.  The original 5 issues are all comic, however, and I think superior to the second series, although those are good as well.
Issue 1 trading cards featuring the Malones from Top Left: Mom, Betty, Percy (not a Malone), Professor Malone, Specs, Stanley "Rat" Malone
The cast of Creepsville is made up of the Malone family and their friends, including the obvious Ro-Man Percy and the aptly named "Rugface".  The time period of the comics is not specified but is most likely the early 60's given the cars shown and the general Sci-Fi/Monster Mash feel.

The sample page above provides a look at the art and the type of simple, but enjoyable storytelling Kurtz provided.  Each issue had one or more stories, amusing adverts and the occasional single page comic strip and was absolutely loaded beyond the borders with pop culture references and tributes.  These are prized members of my comic collection here and they are absolutely the sort of retro-cool that any monster fan would enjoy.  Modern monster movies just don't have the cool rock-n-roll style of the old 60's stuff (the era of the Munsters and the Addams Family), so this comic made for a nice throwback.
The issues are available at internet comics dealers and probably at your local brick and mortar comic shop.  Seek them out and enjoy them, they are a righteous read.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Boney Banjo Player

K-Mart.  There, I said it.  I'm not proud.

We went to K-Mart Sunday just to see what sort of Halloween goodies might be on the shelf and found the little gem you see below:

Yes, it is a skeleton, sitting on a tombstone, holding a banjo.
Now lest you think, "Why, that's quite nice, but it could be much better, couldn't it?" I must relate that it plays music.
It plays Dixie whilst "strumming" the banjo.
Feast your eyes and ears upon the evidence below:

How's that for your pre-Halloween entertainment?  (Elizabeth the "Spooky Kitten" is a bonus feature of Punkinhaus and does not come with the actual item)

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Series to Reboot: Pushing the Envelope of Credibility with Halloween (Part 1)

The first of the Series to Reboot articles is a personal favorite series of mine, the Halloween franchise.  For the background on this concept read the series intro: Series to Reboot: The Intro.  Assuming you've done that and are prepared, and without further ado, here is Halloween.

The Halloween franchise was officially launched in 1978 when the John Carpenter/Debra Hill classic Halloween premiered on the silver screen and became more successful than the creators ever expected it to be.  I've read different reviews of the first film that credit Carpenter with starting the Slasher genre with Halloween, but Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (yes, Hooper spelled it that way) premiered in 1974 and it is very much a film in what would become the Slasher style.  Regardless of the fact that TCM was made first and by 4 years, Halloween is the film that really made the genre marketable.  The entire series has produced 10 films to date with the most recent two being remakes/reboots by musician/artist/producer/writer/director/icon Rob Zombie.  Here is the Celtic Pumpkin's critical look at the series film-by-film.
Simple, elegant, a bloody classic
Halloween (1978)- The film that started it all.  This film introduced us to the series antagonist Michael Myers, the boy who killed his teenage sister at the tender age of 6, went into Smith's Grove Sanitarium where he became a catatonic then broke out again 15 years later to return home and kill again.  His doctor, psychiatrist Sam Loomis (played by the incomparable Donald Pleasance) follows the trail.  Michael stalks the streets of his hometown, killing a few unsuspecting teenagers until the final showdown with final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her first starring role).  The film ends with Dr. Loomis showing up at the last second to empty his pistol into Mikey who falls out of an upstairs window to his doom...until Dr. Loomis looks out of the window to see no body on the ground.  Cue scary music and montage of locations where Myers had been previously.  Throughout the film Dr. Loomis treats us to an ever more insane set of descriptions of his former patient, leading up to the conclusion that the man he hunts is not a man at all, but pure evil.
Credibility, plausibility, possibility are all firmly intact.  Michael does not seem superhuman, despite Loomis's claims until the very end when his body is not to be seen on the ground.  Every event is not only possible, but quite plausible.  Even if we consider that his escape from the sanitarium seems a little too convenient, it is not out of the realm of possibility and the plot brings us back, safely, to the credibility bubble.  A good slasher has the feeling that this could happen just down the street, and the first film of the Halloween franchise accomplishes this well.  The characters feel real, sound real, and they die real (seemingly).  The only moments when you might question the reality of it are when Micheal makes good his escape in the station wagon and when he kills Bob by impaling him with a knife that, honestly, would not be able to hold an adult male off the floor a foot by tacking him to a wall.  Aside from that bit of artistic license, it seems plausible throughout and credible.  By the time you get to the surprise ending (no body on the ground) you are ready for anything but that.
Overall Credibility: 10 out of 10
Series Credibility: N/A (First installment sets benchmark)
Halloween II (1981)- The first of the post Friday the 13th films in the series (important because F13 set the standard for the Slasher genre for gore and kill counts) and it shows.  Michael is still alive and kicking and increases his body count by 83.33% from his first outing.  This film is decent enough but disappointing as a sequel if you are as into the first film as I.  Carpenter did not direct the sequel but he and Debra Hill are given the writing credits.  John Carpenter has said that when trying to find a hook for the sequel he came up with the notion that Laurie Strode was actually Michael's long lost baby sister and that was why he was so determined to kill her.
Yeah, um...bollocks.  The first hit to the credibility is that Michael is still alive.  Yes we saw he was not lying on the ground at the end of the first film, but it is clear that the first film was not written with a sequel in mind.  Halloween II is forced.  That does not make it bad, but it is true.  Following the standards set by Friday the 13th rather than the standards set by its own first film, Halloween II opts for more gore and higher body count and moves the location to a single locked in hospital.  The victims are not sympathetic and are mostly interchangeable, we don't feel for them at death.  Hell, we look forward to it.  Loomis is back and still partnered up with a local cop as in the first film, but logistics required that Sheriff Brackett be replaced with a deputy.  He mostly gives the same tough lines to allow Loomis to again ponder the nature of evil.  In the final reel Laurie, Loomis and Michael clash at the hospital for the big showdown.  Here again we see a degradation in the credibility envelope as Laurie, showing no previous firearms skills, manages to shoot out Michael's eyes with two perfect shots.  Not plausible.  Possible, but that's stretching it.  The other credibility killers are the relationship between Michael and Laurie.  Upon hearing who her attacker was she has memories of the name and realizes it is her brother and that she is adopted.  Plausible, but annoying.  Finally the timeline.  The first Halloween ends well into the night.  All the houses around the Doyle and Wallace houses have their lights off and people are going to bed.  Annie told Laurie that she was going to let Lindsay Wallace watch Doctor Demento, which she referred to as 6 straight hours of horror movies.  We know that Lindsay watched The Thing From Another World and Forbidden Planet.  Throughout Halloween II people are seen watching Night of the Living Dead which means the entire events of the film take place in 2, maybe 3 hours?  And we also see young kids running about the streets of Haddonfield, people still at parties, people awake and watching TV.  Laurie had put those kids to bed in Halloween and they were zonked out.  I'm afraid some sort of time dilation has occurred.  That's pushing the plausibility a bit.  Not a bad film, certainly a good Slasher.
Overall Credibility: 4 out of 10
Series Credibility: 7 out of 10
Ladies and Gentlemen, the incomparable Tom Atkins: "Hi everyone, thanks so much for calling.  Yes, I starred in Halloween 3 and...excuse me caller...'why no Michael Myers, your film sucks', ha ha, good question.  I think it's because Michael Myers died in the second film and the filmmakers wanted to try something new associated with Halloween.  Either that or you just couldn't see what was going on on the screen with your head so far up your ass."
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)- Purists hate this film.  I love it.  The first (and only) film in the series to NOT feature any major character from the previous films (no Mikey, no Sammy, no Laurie), H3:SotW is a film about Halloween, not about Halloween.  The first film, all fans know, was originally entitled  The Babysitter Murders and was not set on Halloween night.  Carpenter and Hill chose to move the setting a bit and incorporate a bare minimum of the icons of Halloween and viola, a hit film.  Part 2 tried to draw more on the Halloween theme by teasing us with Samhain...but it just feels forced.  Here in the 3rd film we have an actual Halloween themed Halloween.  Summed up: A druid running a novelty factory steals a chunk of Stonehenge to make masks that are designed to go off on kids heads like bombs on Halloween night when his special commercial plays, Tom Atkins and some skinny bimbo set out to stop him.  Awesomeness ensues.
The reason series purists hate H3 is that it has nothing to do with Michael Myers.  Well too damn bad, Mikey died in H2.  This film is about Halloween itself.  Clumsy at times, the film keeps its own credibility by setting the story in a world where magic is most definitely a factor, it just doesn't tell you that from the start.  Oh, and Tom bloody awesome Atkins.
Overall Credibility: 7 out of 10 (there are moments that require you to really suspend that disbelief)
Series Credibility: N/A (not a part of series canon)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)- What can we say about a film with that title?  It is correct; Michael Myers indeed returns, as does Dr. Sam Loomis.  Outside of that...
H4 is very much a late 80's Slasher with a huge body count, obligatory T&A, stupid victims you want to see die and general mayhem.  The lurking, efficient predator of the first film has been replaced by a more Jason Vorhees type of 'creative kill' guy.  Instead of looking to kill his sister Laurie, Mikey must content himself with killing his niece as Laurie has died in an automobile accident leaving behind her only offspring, Jamie Lloyd who lives with foster parents and a foster big sister, Rachel.  Michael survived total immolation from H2, it would seem, by going into a protective coma (credibility gone, plausibility gone, possibility stretching) and Dr. Loomis survived as well with some nasty burns and a limp (credibility still gone, plausibility stretching back, possibility restored...we never saw Loomis's body, he could have survived the explosion...he does look rough).  Michael awakes from his coma, gets to steppin' and does his thing back in Haddonfield.  Loomis pursues.  It's great to see Loomis do the crazy rants because you start to feel the man is sliding into insanity for real.  Big redneck explosions end the film.  Little girl in peril...risky subject.  Oh, and a whorey girl gets her comeuppance.
Overall Credibility: 3 out of 10
Series Credibility: 6 out of 10
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1889)- A follow up to H4 in a year's time?  The hell you say.  Yes, friends, H4 did enough business to warrant a part 5.  This film really feels like part 4 again.  The differences are that it is one year later, Jamie, who ended the 4th film by stabbing her foster mother as though "possessed" by her uncle's evil (Loomis certainly believes it so) is now mute (from PTSD no doubt) and lives in a hospital for messed up kids.  Michael returns to get his revenge on...well nobody really because that is a dumb title.  Part 5 marked the beginning of the "endings that seem totally out of place" phase of the series.
Overall Credibility: 6 out of 10 (really, if you accept the premise the film does not leave its credibility envelope too often...the ahem EXPLOSIVE ending however, does)
Series Credibility: 4 out of 10 (it's just too contrived a series of events to keep the series afloat)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where have I been?

Where haven't I been would be a better question.

I had to leave town for a week, during which time I was not able to post or keep up with the blogs I follow.  Which is a shame, really.
I'm back now and will get to posting again.
Let me start back into the swing of things by saying that when I arrived back home Friday night Frau Punkinstein had all manner of surprises for me.  On the front porch was a harvest decoration, in the yard a cute little scarecrow.  In the house were a few items (a glowing pumpkin, a pumpkin cat and one of those three tiered pumpkin men that look like snowmen) and fresh from the oven were Halloween cookies.
So that was a very nice way to be welcomed home, since I've been agonizing about not being able to get the decorations out as early as normal due to my travel requirement for work.
Today we discovered some silly Halloween candies which I will profile shortly on the CP.
So have faith, my friends, I've not gotten all lazy just yet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Michaels Purchases

A few weeks ago Frau Punkinstein and I went to Michaels to see how the Halloween stocking was shaping up.  We spent a very dollars but got some nice stuff.  I took a few pictures to share with the group:

Gel Clings

I have no idea where we are going to put them all, but dammit I love these little guys

Pumpkins are always a favorite at the Punkinhaus

As are green skeletons, for other reasons

This jack o lantern ball lights up in multicolored lights when struck upon a hard surface.  Again, no idea what I will do with it

Frau Punkinstein simply had to have these goo filled coffins...

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Comparing Classics: The Addams Family vs The Munsters

Greetings classic television fans.  Today I want to talk about two of my particular favorites of classic television, The Addams Family and The Munsters and do a little compare and contrast with them.  Two sitcoms on rival networks during the 60's, sharing much the same themes, go head to head.  Who will win?  Not that it is a competition, but honestly I prefer The Munsters to the Addams gang.  Read on and I will explain.

1964 saw the launch of two situation comedies with a humorous eye toward the macabre.  In September of 1964 ABC launched The Addams Family, a half hour sitcom based on the cartoons of Charles Addams, a master of one panel humor with a morbid twist.  Later in that same month CBS launched its own spooky sitcom with The Munsters, a family of outright monsters in the Universal vein.  Comparisons between the two are all over the internet and likely were drawn in 1964 as well.

The Addams Family was created, originally, by Charles Addams in his New Yorker cartoons.  Addams was a master of the comic macabre.  A previous post details that genius, but what needs to be understood for this post is that he worked in single panel cartoons, which means that the joke has to be immediately understood.  To accomplish this Chas would very often show a person immediately before or immediately after an unfortunate event.  Part of the charm was his use of seemingly normal people.  A couple who look for all the world like normal people, sitting in a well lighted space, about to do some horrid act, often fatal, was part of his trademark style.  Yet this same brilliant cartoonist also created the characters that would become The Addams Family, which if we look at his work was a subversion of his usual style in that it showed macabre characters doing macabre things, but treating it as normal, almost banal.  The television show worked with this same basic sensibility, having a family of eccentrics (they would be called crazies but that they are stinking, filthy rich).  The Addams are not the all-American family but are certainly an American dream family; they come from old money, are extremely well-off, and have a pedigree on both sides.  They are morbid by nature, but consider their own behavior to be normal.  As a group they look on the "normal" people of the world as odd, unfortunate, in need of their help, or occasionally they simply fail to notice that others find them odd, or why they might.  The humor comes from both the Addamses reactions to world events and the outside world's reaction to the macabre clan.  The majority of the action takes place in a few rooms of their stately mansion home.  Overtly supernatural activities are avoided, but suggestions of the paranormal abound for mood and comedic effects. 
The Munsters were created specifically for television and specifically to be a comic look at monsters living in the normal world.  Because Universal was the production house for the series the monsters most closely resemble the Universal Monsters in their looks, especially Herman Munster, the family patriarch, who is obviously made up to be Universal's Frankenstein monster.  The Munsters, despite being immigrants, are the all-American family, middle class, hard-working, sharing the sensibilities of TV families such as the Cleavers (Leave It to Beaver) or the Stones (The Donna Reed Show).  The humor derives both from the ironic juxtaposition of their essentially monstrous (but not evil) natures with the lifestyle they choose to live and in the situations in which the family often finds itself.  The relationship of Herman with his father-in-law, Grandpa (Count Sam Dracula) is often the source of the comic mischief, leading to a "buddy movie" feel.  Given that prior to The Munsters, actor Fred Gwynne had played part of the lead duo in Car 54, Where Are You? it is no surprise to see him working well in the "buddy" comedy set up.
Both shows are noted for putting an out-of-the-ordinary family into a painfully ordinary and banal setting and letting the humor develop from the inevitable clashes that ensue.  The outside world reacts with emotions that vary, but are almost universally negative, including greed, fear, anger, and disquieting confusion.  In the case of the Addamses this is based in the unnerving realization that all is not hunky-dory, brought on by continued contact and in the case of the Munsters this is more visceral and immediate reaction to the openly otherworldly nature of the clan.  The protagonists of the both shows share the characteristics of behaving and believing themselves to be normal (it is the rest of the world that has got it wrong) and of showing open distress when confronted with the "abnormal" reactions of the outside world.  Both shows feature a loving, tight-knit extended family that lives in what would pass for a haunted house to the rest of the world. Aside from a generally spooky-but-fun atmosphere the two shows share no other overt characteristics.
This article assumes that the reader has some basic knowledge of the shows being compared.  The following run-down on the characters is based on the core canon of the two shows and does not take into account alternate interpretations (feature films, animated shows, etc.) unless noted.

The Addams Family consists of 8 core members:
Gomez Addams-The patriach and nominal head of the family.

Morticia Addams- The matriarch and real head of the family.  A bit of a vamp.

Pugsley Addams- The eldest child of the family, son and heir to Gomez.

Wednesday Addams- Pugsley's younger sister who gives every sign of growing up to be like mum.

Uncle Fester- Morticia's uncle, a bald-headed, robed comic relief character.

Grandmama- Gomez's mother, an archetypal crone witch character.

Lurch- Butler to the family; a large, Frankenstein-monsteresque character with a basso profundo voice.

Thing- A seemingly disembodied hand that pops up from convenient boxes providing helpful services and physical comedy.

The Munsters consists of only 5 core family members:
Herman Munster- Head of the family, a patchwork creation of Dr. Frankenstein.

Lily Munster- Herman's wife and the daughter of Dracula (a vampiress).

Grandpa- Lily's father.  A Transylvanian count surnamed Dracula and mad scientist/inventor.

Eddie Munster- Edward Wolfgang Munster is the only child of Herman and Lily and is a werewolf, obviously.

Marilyn Munster- Lily's niece, thus Herman's niece by marriage.  Why her last name is Munster is a mystery to me.

Pets- Both families shared a penchant for outlandish pets, with the Addamses having a lion, man-eating plants, vultures and octopuses and the Munsters keeping a dragon named Spot, a black cat and Grandpa's pet bat, Igor.

The differences between the two shows are really where the meat of the matter is to be found and it is in these details that I find my preference for The Munsters.
1. The characters.  In a head to head comparison we see:
Gomez vs Herman- Gomez is suave with a dilettante's passions.   A member of the idle rich, he shows a childlike enthusiasm for his hobbies and interests and a passionate, smoldering love affair with his wife.  Herman is more down-to-earth, literally, as he is a blue collar gravedigger type who works for a funeral home.  He too displays a childlike enthusiasm for his passions, but is also given to tempter tantrums and moments of philosophical brilliance. He loves his wife, but their passion is subtle and more like Ward and June Cleaver than a fiery tango.  His large size and brutish appearance are the opposite of Gomez in every way.
Morticia vs Lily- With her dark hair, eyes, and skin-tight black dress, Morticia is a classic vamp or femme fatale in looks.  Her poise and sang-froid belie the caring mother and loving wife underneath the image.  She is smart, obviously in charge of the family, either overtly or subtly and mostly occupies her time with hobbies and interests.  She often feels the need to help "unfortunate" normals with her superiority.  Lily is pale skinned and dark haired, being a vampiress, and has a fashionable white streak in her do.  She wears colorful, diaphanous layers and a sumptuous cloak when traveling outdoors.  Her personality is more June Cleaver than vamp and she us supporting of Herman as husband, father and breadwinner, in the traditional American sitcom style of the era.  Unlike Morticia, who is clearly the superior of her mate in every way, Lily is a complement to Herman, showing discretion in the face of his enthusiasm, but not controlling him.  She is often the voice of reason, if not the moral compass of the family. 
Uncle Fester/Grandmama vs Grandpa- Grandmama works the odd spell, cooks and provides sage advice for her family.  Fester is a comic figure who sometimes becomes the plot focus and who makes jokes.  Grandpa is a full-fledged mad scientist and vampire who is part of the basic "buddy comedy" duo with Herman upon which many of the plots hinge.  Grandpa is a more active member of the family/show than Grandmama is and on par with Fester.
Pugsley vs Eddie- Pugsley is rarely more than a quick joke or plot device and in this sense Eddie is more integral to his show, but even so Eddie is often just a background character.  Any show featuring Eddie is going to be about how Herman or Herman-Grandpa must respond to an Eddie predicament.
Wednesday vs Marilyn- Mostly an unfair comparison given their roles and age differences.  Wednesday is, like Pugsley, rarely seen beyond her role as a plot device or often simply referred to in dialog.  Marilyn, by contrast, gets more lines and more development, but ultimately serves as a straight woman for monster jokes or as a plot device.  Marilyn fits into her family dynamic differently than any other character in that she is part of the monsters but looks human.  The humor deriving from Marilyn's (and her family's) belief that she is hideous.  Her kind nature and attitude, in keeping with the wholesome TV girl-next-door character, are actually shared by her family.
Lurch and Thing- There are no Munsters counterparts for these two.  They are primarily background characters, although Lurch did get a feature episode at least once.
2. The attitude.  The Addamses are twisted, skewed, and not normal.  To write such characters one needs to focus on the macabre and then assume that is the norm.  To accomplish this take any normal situation and skew it 90 to 180 degrees.  If a sunny day is the desire of normal families, then the flip is a rainy day.  Thus we find that the Addamses moontan, enjoy rainy days, clip the heads off of roses (they value the thorny stems) and generally take pleasure in dangerous pursuits.  They are not, however, Bizarro Superman.  They don't say "hate" when they mean "love" or punch when they mean to kiss.  They are, essentially, Goths before the subculture was named.  In any given situation the Addamses behave eccentrically and find it odd that the poor, unfortunate people (meaning the normal viewer types) do not follow suit.
The Munsters behave as a classic sitcom all-American family, sitting down to breakfast and dinner prepared by Lily, often with Marilyn's help.  The family eats a mixture of normal foods and strange foods (and Grandpa likes blood as well), but they still behave as a normal family would.  To write the Munsters you simply take the normal behavior and embellish it a bit.  Herman, for example, worries about the family finances, served in the US Army, and plays ball with his son.  Gomez is more likely to teach Pugsley to firewalk and is not likely to encourage a healthy interest in team sports.
3. Setting/Transportation.  The Addams Family is almost exclusively set in a few rooms of the Addams's family mansion.  Independently wealthy, the Addamses live not as recluses, but very much away from society.  The mansion is described in the opening theme lyrics as "a museum" and it certainly is filled with art and treasures.  While there is a Gothic mood to the place, it is not the storm blasted, cobwed bedecked house of 1313 Mockingbird Lane where the Munsters live.  In keeping with their monster status, the Munsters live in a more modest home, but still an expensive Victorian manor, which has seen better days.  The house is continuously whipped by wind and inclement weather despite the weather conditions at any of the surrounding houses.  The action in any given episode of The Munsters takes place in the home and in numerous outside locations such as a doctor's office, a shop or other place of business, a police station, museum, or other normal location as the plot dictates.  As such, the Munsters need transportation.

They drive around in a Barris custom Coach (canonically created when Lily had two cars chopped and modified as a present for Herman).  In 1964 this was a hip, relevant, West Coat Custom sort of thing to do and really stands out as an example of the difference between the two shows.  The Addamses have an eccentric, often refined, old world charm and the Munsters were at once a satire of their time and a product of it. 
4. Theme song.  The theme to The Addams Family was composed by Vic Mizzy whose long list of credits includes Green Acres and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (starring Don Knotts).  The song includes lyrics that provide a basic explanation of the family and features the harpsichord.  The Munsters' Theme is more of a guitar driven beat with a twang and is instrumental.  As a result The Munsters' Theme is easily covered and has been by multiple groups, including an Ultra-Lounge version.  Very hip; it cooks.
5. Supernatural influence.  The Addams Family often suggests at the supernatural (Grandmamma is something of a witch, Fester can make light bulbs glow, seemingly supernatural resistance to damage) but never answers the question.  A distant family member might be freakish, but is still basically human (a conjoined twin perhaps).  The Munsters are overtly and obviously supernatural being a family of classic monsters, one of which happens to be a warlock/mad scientist.  As a result The Munsters can pull off any one-shot joke they want in a supernatural vein and the audience won't balk.


For me, although I love them both, The Munsters stands out as the better show.  This is purely my own opinion.  I find that The Addams Family is very much like the verbal comedy of a Marx Brothers film, as are many of the comedy of errors plots.  According to the Wikipedia this is due to the work and influence of producer Nat Perrin, who wrote several Marx Brothers films and was a close personal friend of Groucho.  Gomez often delivers lines in a Groucho manner and style.  I love word play in comedy and as such I love watching The Addams Family but still prefer The Munsters.  To me The Munsters is like a Rob Zombie video or song.  It captures Americana in all its mythic glory, relying on the viewer's understanding of classic tropes from television sitcoms of the era.  With the Addamses the family is the odd point and being so wealthy they live in a dream world that the average American viewer could not have and with which he would not identify.  The Munsters are middle class with a hard-working blue collar dad who desires to instill "traditional" American virtues in his family.  They are immigrants from Europe but they exemplify everything Mom-And-Apple-Pie about the American experience.  I really enjoy that Monster Mash crazy hot-rod driving rock'n rolling type of show.  Herman is likely to dance to the latest rock n roll beat and knows a bit of hip lingo.  These monsters are not disconnected from America; they are America.  They are you and me.  Finally there is Marilyn.  Marilyn is, for me, the key difference between the two shows and really shows how they differ.  Marilyn is, apparently, Lily's niece and a natural born "monster" (again, I don't know why her last name is Munster) but looks fully human.  By all accounts the blond, fresh-faced Marilyn is an attractive girl, but her point-of-view, formed by her upbringing, is that Herman, Lily and Grandpa are the standard of beauty and normalcy and therefore she is ugly.  However she shares their attitudes toward cobwebs, bats, inclement weather and basic human decency.  She considers her uncle Herman to be the kindest, most decent and upstanding person she knows and would love nothing more than to find a decent man like him.  Marilyn laments that her ugliness runs off her would-be suitors, unaware that it is her family that is scaring them away.  This sums up The Munsters; they are monsters who know that they are monsters but also know that they are people.  They actually miss the reactions of disgusted and frightened humans, thinking the cause is something other than what we see as obvious.  The Addamses know they are different, but consider their behavior the norm and feel sorry for us for not enjoying their reality.  The Munsters conform to our expectations and behavior and simply fail to understand the reactions of others.  So for its hot-rod, rockabilly, monster-laden All-American wonderfulness, I pick The Munsters.  The hijinks of Herman and Grandpa as they attempt to maintain their status as average Americans win my loyalty over the morbid, macabre humor of the Addamses every time.
Both shows also spawned sequel series and films.  The two feature films of the Addams family (The Addams Family and Addams Family Values) were both excellent and revived a nostalgic interest in the original property.  An updated Munsters film with the same budget and excellent casting as the Addams films would certainly not be frowned upon by me.

If you have an opinion on this subject, I'd love to hear it.  Drop me a comment or a line and maybe I can do an update.

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.