Tag Archives: Spooktober 2022

Hellraiser 2022: Great, Good, Decent


In my last review, I mentioned that I only consider Halloween and Scream to be worthy horror franchises. Two things as a follow up. First, I looked at Hellraiser 2022 several times in the queue before finally firing it up to watch it. When Christine found out that’s what I was watching she said, “I don’t remember if I ever saw Hellraiser.” I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure myself. I might have watched it. Maybe I just absorbed the basic plot points from years of seeing clips on television and the internet.

Second, Christine finally admitted that she hated the new Halloween. Okay, that’s not entirely correct. She said it took her a week, but she decided that she didn’t like it. After a week myself, the thing that bothers me most is that Michael went from an unstoppable murder machine at the end of Kills to a murder hobo living in a sewer pipe without proper explanation. Otherwise, I’m okay with what I said last week.

The Decent: A Good Start

As an introduction to the Hellraiser universe, this movie fills that role nicely. I know that Hellraiser generally has a different vibe from other horror movies. It plays up the sadism much more than this movie does. However, we live in a different time now and I don’t think that many people are as enamored with watching sexual abuse play out on screen as maybe they were in the past. Sure, call me a melting snowflake who is woke (more on that in a bit), but I’m okay with the implication of the act without witnessing it firsthand. Besides, isn’t that supposed to make it scarier?

The Good: It’s Not Hellraiser from the Early 2000s

Again, having not watched the original Hellraiser (at least that I can remember), I never knew what I missed from the series. Like any of these franchises, though, it suffered some lean times towards the end of the initial popularity that got even leaner as they milked the cash cow for all it’s worth. So, I consider myself lucky that I came into the series during the trip back up to prominence.

The Great: Try Something New

Like Halloween Ends, this movie went in a different direction. Other than tone down the ultraviolence, a woman plays Pinhead in this iteration. Again, I’m sure some basement dwelling cave troll immediately went to some message board to scream about how Hellraiser is somehow now woke, but as usual I don’t see a problem here. I thought she brought a cool energy to the role and hope they do make more movies.

The Verdict

If they make another one, as tends to happen with these things, they will probably push the envelope a bit more. Perhaps, then we can see what people’s appetite is for the horrific “pleasures” normally dished out by the Cenobites. Until then, let them wallow in their misery. I, for one, enjoyed Hellraiser 2022.

Curse of Strahd Part 2: For Real This Time


Last week, our intrepid group played without two of their players. So, instead of continuing our adventures in Ravenloft, I convinced the remaining player to hack and slash his way through some goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Other than a mishap with another player who joined the ranks, he enjoyed the experience. Check out that article for that summary. This week, our party plays Curse of Strahd Part 2 for real this time.

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he asked for another hack and slash after one of their group got picked up early. They tried to convince me to let them keep playing the main adventure, but I got them to abandon that idea with some slick DMing. I’m getting the hang of this. But, join me for a quick recap of the adventures for this week.

Session 2: To the Attic to Get to the Basement

In anticipation of this week’s (it might have even been last week) session, I reviewed the map and where our party explored already. Since they are young, they don’t always think to check for traps or secret doors. So, this time I gave them some grace and more or less pushed them through those secret doors. Being a Dungeon Master is sometimes a delicate balancing act between rules guru and storyteller. Not with this group. With this group, I’m all storyteller and as a result, I sometimes need to dispense with the rules and take matters into my own hands.

So it became that they “found” the secret door to get to the attic and then “found” the secret door to get to the basement. I actually screwed up and needed to improvise by saying that one of them bumped the second secret door with their butt while searching the room. Of course, that got a laugh from all of them.

They also experienced a wider range of combat this time. Fighting both a specter and an animated broomstick got them some experience points and closer to leveling. And, isn’t that the real reason we all play this game? To grow ever more powerful and eventually challenge the gods themselves? Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But, by the end of their senior year, I expect that to happen.

The Verdict

Playing Curse of Strahd Part 2 (for real) went rockier than last time. I continually needed to remind them not to touch each other’s dice, not to hit one another, and not to swear. Honestly, much more on par with how I expected a Dungeons and Dragons group with middle school aged kids to go, so not a huge deal there. We only have one session left in October, but if they finish the introduction, maybe I can get them to play another theme adventure for November and December.

Halloween Ends: Great, Good, Decent


I don’t mind going into a movie with spoilers. What I generally try to avoid before watching a movie is reviews. So, it surprised me a bit when Aiden mentioned that one of his friends rated Halloween Ends 4 out of 10. So, while watching the movie, I looked up some reviews and found them to be…mixed at best. Horror movies often receive poor critical acclaim, so no surprise there. However, fans, in somewhat shocking amounts, crapped on the movie, too.

Full disclosure: Halloween (and Scream) are the only two horror franchises worth watching in my opinion. I liked the first two movies in this series and thought they went a long way to reinventing the saga while staying true to the roots. So, if you are looking for another hate watch of the movie, go somewhere else. In addition to being so overwhelmingly positive of creative projects that I needed to change my format (also, the old format referenced a 60 year old movie), I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie with Aiden and Christine.

The Decent: The Story

Having grown up with Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street (though I liked reading the novelization of that one because it went into more detail on Freddy’s background), I laugh when people talk about the story of horror movies as a reason for their negative review. And, yet, here I am mentioning story as my first reason. Was it the best story? No, of course not.

But, both Aiden and I agreed that they made these movies because it means that I never have to watch the Rob Zombie version of Halloween ever again. You want to talk about garbage? Those movies are the epitome of terrible story and unnecessary ultra violence. We also both convinced ourselves that Halloween Ends was only a portal into another reboot on the 50th anniversary. They made the story so compelling, in my opinion, that I even searched on Google to see if they put a hold on a Halloween Begins web page. For the record, I didn’t find any evidence.

That doesn’t mean it’s not still possible.

The Good: Connections

One thing these movies always do well is connecting the new to the old. This one went especially out of its way to put references into the other movies. More than once, I found myself doing the Leonardo DiCaprio meme to the television. Once, I shouted, “They’re going to do it! They’re going to do the kill from the first movie!”

And, they did…

The Great: The Theme Song

Just kidding. But, on the real, when the credits finally rolled and the song started playing, I said, “This is the best theme song ever. It fits the movies so well.” The actual great is Jamie Lee Curtis. People say that they come to these movies for the killing, but we all know we are there to see how Laurie is adapting to the latest horrors thrust upon her by her psychotic brother.

Curtis again masterfully plays the part of grieving mother and pissed of survivor in equal parts. We watch as she feels the spirit of Michael in Corey and the corrupting influence spreading to her granddaughter, Allyson. Like I said in the “Decent” section, Aiden and I both wanted this to end up leading into the next generation of Halloween. For some of the movie, we both said, “Is this is going to be a tandem going forward?” Unfortunately, not, but they kept us going for a while and I still can’t wait until 2028 when “Halloween Begins” hits theaters.

The Verdict

Of the three of these movies, Halloween Ends is by far the weakest. I still prefer it to the Rob Zombie fiasco. I will watch all three of them annually until the next set of movies in 6 years. Be on the lookout for them. Even if they don’t actually happen, I’ll spend some time writing them.

Bad Moon Rising Chapter 2


I posted chapter 1 last week. I wrote part of a new short story based on a character I created in Dark Sun 30 years ago and then adapted her to Ravenloft. Hopefully, that’s coming next week on Wednesday. This week, I bring Bad Moon Rising Chapter 2.


Her heart raced. She attempted to will it to slow down. She tried to do the same for her heavy breathing. None of it mattered. They’d hear her no matter what. At this point, her death was a foregone conclusion. She prayed to a God who, if he existed, was not listening. Not on Halloween.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

His voice. The voice she fell for almost immediately. So silky smooth. So gentle. Even now. As he and his friends–his pack he called them–chased her through the halls of the school Hunted her.

Never trust a boy who talks that pretty.

Her mother’s warning. As with most of them, she ignored it. What does she know? With her life experience and wisdom brought on by age. How could she be so stupid?

“I’m sorry, Momma.”

Momma couldn’t hear. But he did. He made sure she knew he did, too.

“I know where you are, Beth. I’m coming to get you. You have five minutes.”

Five minutes. How far could she get in five minutes? They expected her to go from class on one end of the school to the other in two minutes or suffer the consequences of a tardy. She laughed bitterly. Won’t have to worry about that anymore. Jesus, Beth, focus. She mapped the school in her head. This bathroom was in the senior hallway. As a sophomore, she spent very little time here. Even so, for the most part all of the walls were set up the same. Once she got her bearings, maybe she could get her odds of survival to 50/50. He’d never allow that, of course. Unless–

Leaving the stall, she crawled across the dark floor and pushed open the door.

“Kurt.” Then louder. “Kurt.”

No response. Wait, was he actually giving her a chance? Five minutes? Five minutes for what? And why? She pushed the door open more. It creaked. She froze. Still no response. A faint glimmer of hope flared in her mind’s eye. She pushed the door open more. Something slammed against it, closing it on her finger. Tears welled in her eyes and she fought the urge to swear out loud.

“Now, now, Seth. I told you. What fun is the hunt if we don’t give her a chance?”

God, that voice. Even under these circumstances, it melted her heart. How many girls had he trapped? Had he killed many before? How many would he after? Seth snarled a response.

“What if she gets away?”

Kurt barked a laugh.

“She won’t.”

With that, the hall fell silent again. How many of the five minutes were left? Had the counter reset? In any case, she was wasting time. She either died here or risked a chance at escaping. 50/50? She laughed bitterly.

“Fuck it.”

She stood up, pushed open the door, and stepped defiantly into the hallway. Neither Kurt nor Seth waited there. Slowly at first, but gradually increasing her pace, she walked in as straight a line as she could muster. The hallway met another at a “T”. Everything was still dark, but her vision adjusted. If she was correct, she needed to turn right and follow that hall to the door to outside. Sure, there was one to the left, too, but this one was closer. Also, it looked like there might be a light at the end of the hall. Maybe that light meant salvation. She walked quickly to that light.

“Time’s up.”

No longer the voice that melted her. This one froze her in her tracks. She slowly turned around. Kurt stood halfway down the hall. Directly behind him was Seth. Two others she knew were named Eddie and Nate flanked him on the left and right respectively. She didn’t wait another second. Turning to run the opposite way down the hall, she heard them in pursuit. It would not take them long to close the distance. She’d never make it to the outside door. She would have to take her chances with the door with the light on. Just a few more feet. A hand firmly grasped her wrist, twisting her. She spun with her momentum, kicking wildly. Her foot connected solidly with Seth’s ribs and he let her go, grunting in pain. Eddie caught her leg mid air and she nearly lost her balance. Eddie’s hand slipped and his grip loosened. She wasted no time, turning and trying to open the door. Much to her surprise, it yielded. Slamming it shut, it stuck on something. Eddie howled in pain and pulled his hand free. The door clicked closed. She locked it and leaned against it briefly to catch her breath. The four of them banged against the door, shaking it in its frame. It would only be a matter of time before they broke it down. She looked at the windows on the far side of the room. Not only were they on the second floor, but they were too small for her to fit. Maybe she could use them as a diversion, though. Moving over there, she opened two of them. She ripped her shirt and hung it from the latch to make it look like she lost it in an escape. The banging on the door ceased, frightening her even more. Her diversion in place, she crawled into one of the cabinets under the desks. This plan had almost no chance of success, but maybe God was finally listening.

“Idiots.” Kurt snarled.

Placing a key into the lock, he unlocked and pushed open the door. Eddie entered first. He owed her for his fingers. Seth and Nate followed and then Kurt. Eddie went to the window and swore.

“Idiot.” Kurt laughed. “Do you really think she squeezed through that window and jumped?”

Eddie shrugged.

“No she’s in here. Can’t you smell her?”

The other three shook their heads. The overwhelming smell of chemicals used in the lab threw off their senses of smell. Kurt, more senior and practiced in the hunt, sniffed.

“No, she’s in here somewhere. We just need to find her.”

They split up, making a huge show out of their search. Slamming cabinet doors, knocking over supplies, and sniffing loudly to try to discern her location. One opened the cabinet across from her. She tried one last thing. Bursting from her hiding spot, she stood in the middle of the room. All of them except for Kurt stared at each other dumbfounded. None of them believed that she was actually there.

“Boys,” she said seductively, “I have a proposal.”

Stripping off the rest of her clothes, she climbed up onto the table. Nate and Seth exchanged knowing glances. Eddie looked like he was trying to decide if he should get revenge for his finger or have sex with her first. Kurt smiled. She knew that smile. She had him. Or, so she thought.

“Oh, sweetie, you watch too many movies.” He said.

All four of them pounced on top of her. She screamed.

To be continued?

I hope you enjoyed this installment of Bad Moon Rising Chapter 2. The rest will be available next October. Thanks for reading and if you see fit, check out my other collection of short stories, From Shadows.

New Look for Spooktober 2022


Welcome to the beginning of our new look for Spooktober 2022. As promised, I’ve started the overhaul of the web page today. Yes, I only changed the color scheme. But, considering the day I had today, that’s pretty dang good. But, now, I have to change the banner image.

Quite the Undertaking

Sure, I blamed the lack of updates today on my crazy day. Truth be told, the thought of changing the banner makes me cringe a little bit.

I created this and it has been our banner for most of our time online.

I don’t have any ideas for a new banner right now. What I want is for it to be versatile for different themes. October/November for Halloween/Thanksgiving. December/January/February for Christmas/New Year’s and Valentines. March/April/May for spring. June/July/August for summer. Finally September for back to school

But, I commit again to making this work, even if only me, half a dozen actual humans, and 25 Russian bots care. This is the still only the first phase in making that happen. I need to remind myself of that as much as possible over the next month.

The Verdict

I have only changed the color scheme in our new look for Spooktober 2022. But, hopefully, over the next couple of days I can put together a new banner for the page, too. The main problem is that I don’t have any ideas of what to do with the new banner right now. I need to take some time, clear my head, and start tinkering with some ideas. Eventually, a new banner will manifest.

Curse of Strahd: Noob DM’s in Middle School


I teach middle school and high school this year. Granted, I have more middle school classes than high school, but I prefer high school for now. I taught middle school over a dozen years ago and that ended in disaster, so maybe there is some residual processing that still needs to be done on that end. Last year, I took over for the Dungeons and Dragons club in the high school. This year, I also took on the middle school. A couple of the newbies wanted me to DM for them. I took advantage of Spooktober to lead them in a campaign with the adventure Curse of Strahd.

Session 1: Tarokka Cards and Creepy Kids

Another kid decided to join us for the session this week, so I had three players to DM. Even though they are all relatively new to the game and middle school kids, I felt nervous. When I tried to DM for my family, it went poorly and only Quinn asked to play again. I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be repeated this time.

So, I took about an hour to read through the adventure ahead of time. I’m glad I took the time. I set the mood by reading from the Tarokka cards for them during the introduction. They loved it. I then wasted no time in getting them to Barovia by using the shortest method and dropping them right into the Death House mini adventure.

I worried I might lose them because, as the introduction says, “Curse of Strahd is more of a story driven than combat driven adventure” and they seem more like a hack and slash group. Plus, they missed many of the secrets in the beginning of the house. However, they got fixated on the stairs and ended up on the balcony fighting an animated armor. I also allowed them to loot the rooms along the way. That kept them going.

I finally got them to the point where they knew to look for secrets as much as possible. They got one of their partners to squeeze into a dumbwaiter to go up to the master bedroom. They looted the bedroom and are now in possession of almost 1000 gold worth of jewelry. I had so much fun and they did, too. They actually asked me to stay after today to continue the adventure.

The Verdict

I took the books home to do more research into the adventure so that it goes more smoothly next time. I ended up searching a little bit too much. Granted, they didn’t mind at all, but I want to get better as a Dungeon Master. Aiden said he’d play again if we got the Stranger Thing module. Of course, it now is a collector’s item, but I (*shhhh*) found a PDF of it. So, now I can use Curse of Strahd (and Quinn’s ghost pirate adventure) to continue to hone my skills for the next time we play as a family.

Bad Moon Rising

A couple to a few years ago, I got an idea for a collection of short stories or novellas. While that by itself is not unusual because I often get ideas for writing. What is odd is that the idea persisted over the years to the point that I wrote more this summer. Unfortunately, my plan to finish the stories by both last and this Halloween failed. And, so, I reset the deadline once again. This time, though, I can actually see the finish line of Bad Moon Rising on the horizon.

Yes, as with many of my short stories, a song inspired this one. Obviously, Bad Moon Rising my CCR in this case. Also, I approach this deadline with a renewed vigor for writing, both for the web page and for these stories. It remains to be seen if I can keep that vigor going through the winter months and into the traditional fury of spring and summer. If so, then look for Monsters Attack! An Homage to Classic Movie Monsters next Halloween. If not, then enjoy this sampling on our first official celebration of Spooktober.


Halloween, 2020 (Saturday)

Clint sighed as he turned the key to unlock the door This has already been one hell of a year. A novel coronavirus caused a worldwide pandemic that shut everything down for a few months. Due to an obstinate population, that dragged through the entire summer in most states. Even after a select few showed that it could easily be contained with minimal precautions (wear your fucking mask, social distance when possible), hot spots continued to be reported daily.

Even now, in Massachusetts–one of those states able to contain it–school still have contingencies for red and yellow days. So far, he knocked on the wood of Mrs. Tyler’s door for good luck, they had not needed to enact them. However, winter and the colder weather beckoned. Even with the most stringent of measures, everyone cooped up inside together meant most germs would have a damn field day. Hell, even when not in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, schools were a breeding ground for disease.

In other summer news, protests started off contentious and violent, then faded. Periodically, they flared again. A statue defaced or torn down, molotov cocktails thrown into a department store or chain restaurant window. He admired their tenacity. Things were changing. Slowly, of course, but things he never though possible suddenly became plausible and even likely. Police departments restructured. Long time government officials exposed and likely to lose.

Along those lines, the election loomed. The current president dialed the crazy up to 11 and finally it looked like more people than not saw through his ruse. That’s not the say that Clint thought for a moment that he’d lose. The man proved to have more lives than a damn cat. But, at least, it looked possible.

He sighed again as he reached the custodial closet. The sad truth behind this whole thought process was to distract him from tonight. Yeah, these are the distractions.

How fucked up is that?

Everyone in town knew the story. He heard about it firsthand from the previous night custodian when he took the job. 38 years ago, four boys from the high school trapped a girl in the biology lab, raped her, and killed her. More like eviscerated her.

Ever since, every year a group of seniors recreates the scene. Every year, the recreation becomes more gruesome and lifelike. Every year, he wishes it would end.

With that thought, the distractions dissolved. He prepared to face whatever horrors awaited him. Nothing to prepare him for those that did.

How fucked up indeed.

To Be Continued

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Bad Moon Rising. I will be back next week with another installment. Thanks for reading and if you see fit, check out my other collection of short stories, From Shadows.

Introducing Spooktober 2022


Our better half got married last night. I served as the best man and had to give my second speech of the year. I also spoke at the graduation for my school at the beginning of summer. As someone who doesn’t like public speaking (yeah, weird for a teacher to say), that’s a new record. During the speech, I used the introduction of the page. And, now, I’m back with our Introducing Spooktober 2022 post.

Introducing Spooktober 2022?

Ever since I started the page, I wanted to do theme months. Spooktober goes all the way back to the start of the page. I might have even done a post like this all the way back then and never followed up on it. I’m took lazy to check right now. Okay, my curiosity is stronger than my laziness. I found no evidence of Spooktober 8 years ago during the month of October, but I found my old Zombie Mill Deck post.

So, now, kids older, working less than I ever have (even if I have taken on a ridiculous amount of stipends this year), I feel ready to unleash the magic of Spooktober onto the page. It will start with a redesign, including new graphics and a new color scheme at some point over the next week. It will continue throughout the month with themed posts, including my first foray into DMing my middle school D&D group through the Curse of Strahd module.

He awaits…

Quinn and I still have to play the ghost pirates adventure that I wrote over the summer. I have one horror novella that I wrote and I can pepper in some teasers from that and also planned on writing some Dungeons and Dragons or Magic the Gathering fan fiction.

The Verdict.

I have plenty of content planned for the month. Who knows, maybe I will come up with more and try to expand into YouTube or TikTok videos to help expand our reach. As I also said in my speech last night, things happen in their own time. Stay tuned.