December 19, 2013

The Internet is Saying "Witches are the new Vampires"

We finally have a teaser trailer for WGN's new series, SALEM. 

The show got funded straight to it's first season without a pilot and is WGN's first original series so it might be a little budget, but it sure looks like they're putting a lot of time and energy into it. They are filming on a set designed to look like 17th century Salem built like a ghost town in Shreveport, LA. There's a cemetery, public square, church, and of course, the gallows. Its located on the Red River, which apparently is a great place to film scenes of accused witches being dunked.

With Salem witches playing a prominent role in shows like 'American Horror Story: Coven' and two separate reality shows in production focusing on the lives of average witches in The Witch City, it's starting to get a little crazy. Articles around the internet are saying things like "Witches are the new vampires!" But is it just a fad?

There are two different production companies trolling Craigslist, Reddit, etc. looking for local witches for reality shows, of course trying to stay ahead of the curve and ride the wave of the trend. Unfortunately, like most reality shows, they have a warped and idealized view about what exactly they want to film, asking for replies only from young women.

I wish I had the means to produce a documentary show about Salem, there's so much real magic and so many hilarious people to focus on, but what the '"reality show" types don't understand is that an authentic and intelligent show has a much more dedicated demographic - nerds. Sure, the assholes from Duck Dynasty can make lots of money really fast, but it's fleeting. Real success comes only from the types of dedicated fans that appreciate not being pandered  to. IMHO.

Even Jenji Kohan, creator of Netflix's 'Orange is the New Black', and Showtime's 'Weeds' is developing a new untitled drama for HBO based on the Salem witch trials and with the insane critical and commercial success of those two shows, it's hard to imagine that her show is going to be anything but amazing. It's also worth noting that, while WGN's show claims to involve the supernatural, it seems so far that Kohan's Salem is being toted as 'drama', so here's hoping it will be a completely different angle than what we are used to. 

Here's the teaser trailer:

September 14, 2013

What Salem Businesses have been Banished and which are Sacred Space? 2013 Edition

Maybe all the ghost tours should start mentioning that every time a restaurant tries to open up in the Lyceum building it fails... It could it be a new story they call The Curse of Bridget Bishop?

Keeping a business open in Salem is very difficult, the  downtown district is like a wild garden. Every year I see all the storefronts shifting and blinking, fading and blooming with enterprise and the hope of success. Some make it and some don't. 

Some are banished and others become sacred space.

Witch Shops - Most of the local witch shops are doing great  this year, and a few new ones are in town.

Archangel Michael holding down the spot at Magicka.

Things are getting confusing for tourists when they visit Pickering Wharf now that two well-respected local elders with similar sounding names are teaching classes and doing readings out of their new spaces! Firstly, the famous Laurie Cabot has some students that opened up a shop called Enchanted, where she can sometimes be found, but Lori Bruno, who has also become a local fixture in recent years, had just opened up her new shop Magicka in the space previously left open by Laurie Cabot when her shop "The Official Witch" shut down. 

The Salem Witch House, often confused for a witch shop.

Crow Haven Corner, Laurie Cabot's old shop on Essex Street, has been owned by a student/friend of hers ALSO named Laurie, who goes by Lorelei to try to avoid confusion. Tourists already get so bewildered I don't know how they are going to handle this further Laurie/Lori complication! Regardless, I wish the best to both of them. They are each in their own way the epitome of what we expect for and love in an elder.

The big three witch shops on Essex street (Crow, Hex, and Omen) are doing great. Word is that Hex New Orleans is doing great as well, people are joking saying soon it will be a franchise and we'll see a Hex in every mall, like Hot Topic. 

Also, it ends up that the guys from the World of Witches Museum that failed last year left town while they still owed a bunch of their employees money. Their whole "Young Witches of Salem" reality show idea ended up being a huge embarrassment of a failure so they blamed the city and left.

Same thing just happened with another guy who moved to Salem and suddenly started acting like he was an important witch and demanding respect. After a couple years of sashaying around downtown he opened up a shop and when it failed he blamed the city. The thing is, the witches around here are already established, successful, and respected - you can not just barge into the city and begin speaking on behalf of all Salem witches. It's a recipe for failure. Anyone with a successful witch shop in this city has lived around here for decades.

From the outside they may just look like a bunch of crazy people but that's only because Salem witches have to deal with so much ridiculous nonsense all the time and they have learned to to take it in stride and have fun with it. And that is what they are teaching me to do. After all, our mission is to educate people on our craft and in some cases entertain as well. You can't be grumpy and do that, you have to laugh!

Restaurants - Honestly I'm getting really annoyed with all the people who keep trying to open up restaurants in Salem that are just slightly too classy for our local atmosphere, but their successes and failures make a really interesting competitive local restaurant economy. This year a bunch of boring classy restaurants have opened or are opening up, but I want to move on to more interesting things like cupcakes, candy, and ice cream.
This sign is on the window across the street from my apartment on Washington st.:

We have a few very good places to get local baked goods like a & J kings and coffee time, but is this going to be a shop devoted specifically to cupcakes? That is something unique in Salem but becoming a trend in many cities across the country, so you know it is a sure-fire business plan, kind of like food trucks. When is Salem going to start getting food trucks? I'm telling you there's money in that.

We also have a new candy shop on Essex Street called Sugar Rush(no website yet). it offers some different things than the other candy shops in town but is pretty standard. it's an awesome location so they will do it extremely well, I mean you can't go wrong with candy.

And, as if we didn't have enough ice cream shops, Salem Screamery opened up where Ben and Jerry's used to be. They have some unique flavors but for the most part get their ice cream from Richardson's like all the other places in town, which is the favorite dairy of most locals.

Tourist attractions - This year one of the haunted houses in the mall is shut down, and another on Essex Street stopped being haunted and it changed its subject to general Salem history. Another one on the wharf keeps changing and no one can quite figure out what it is. During high season a few more places will become haunted house attractions, but right now there is only one in the city, The Witch Mansion. We'll see how this develops as October approaches.

Salem's 3D Time Machine tour museum thingy.

The haunted house 13 Ghosts has been changed into a really cute and cheesy history tour thing that I surprisingly enjoyed and hope tourists check out. It looks like a college kid constructed it with a low budget, but has a lot of heart, takes like 15 minutes and mentions a lot of random Salem history in a way tourists can easily understand. It also looks as though it can easily be converted into a haunted house for when it gets busy.

The Griffin Theater has now re-branded itself as the Gallows Hill Theater. I can only assume this is a conscious effort to confuse tourists into going there. 

Pioneer Village has been neglected and utilized on and off throughout the years, and this year an enthusiastic group of people is planning a "haunted event" called Terror at the Village:

The city is buzzing with energy and about to bubble over as we get closer to October. At any moment most business downtown could disappear for any reason - but some seem blessed, some seem lucky, and others are sacred space.

April 22, 2013

You Want "Lords of Salem" Spoilers? You Got them. My Full Review.

If you're looking for spoilers I can imagine you've already read a few plot synopsis', so let's cut right to the spoilers chase. .If you've read my previous posts, please excuse me for repeating a bit of the information here and please excuse me for leaking information about the movie which was later changed. ANYWAYS...

Firstly, you've probably read that this movie is a departure from Rob Zombie's usual work, but you may not understand how severely different it is. It's hard to even classify this as a horror movie, and we'll have to wait a while before general consensus chooses exactly what genre it is. It is very slow moving and relies more on creeping you out than in-your-face gore. When hearing people compare this movie to other horror directors over the past week I have heard dozens of names. I think it's fair to say Rob was deliberately paying homage to the genre rather than "ripping off" other styles.

When Heidi begins to have her visions after playing the mysterious record, it was really sad to watch her degenerate. One of the witches describes to her the difference between destiny and fate and I think the audience is supposed to ascertain from that that she has no chance of escaping her fate as the chosen one to give birth to the Anti-Christ. ...That I can understand, but watching her relapse and start smoking crack was probably the most depressing part of the movie. (On a side-note, locals were wondering why the film crew was shooting in the ghetto part of Salem known as "The Point", and appropriately enough, this is where she goes to buy said crack!) In one of the most disturbing scenes, Heidi seeks solace in a church only to fall asleep and have a dream sequence where she is orally raped by a priest while he screams Satanic prayers and black ooze spurts from his mouth.

A lot of what was leaked from the plot ended up being cut from the final product during editing. As I've mentioned previously, this included a lot of murder scenes, like the one in Engine House Pizza, and Lobster Joe - who's character was cut completely.

It was also a bit disappointing that one of the clips Rob chose to leak from the movie is a huge spoiler for the only real murder scene in the entire movie, that of author and local historian Francis Mathias (played by Bruce Davison). He is the only one who realizes something strange is going on but, even as he begins to unravel the mystery of the Lords, anyone who anticipated the movie and saw the clip knows he never stands a chance against these nudist hags.

As Heidi's visions get uncontrollable and her friends lose control of her completely, the audience is treated to the final parts of the movie, which are essentially Rob Zombie's take on strange Satanic rituals spliced with short scenes of reality where fellow radio show host Herman 'Whitey' Salvador (played by Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) tries in vain to help even though he has no clue what is going on. The witches get less frightening and more happy as they seem to revel in the ecstasy of the horror around them. Heidi meets a strange midget chicken-winged goblin thing, phantoms dressed as catholic bishops sit on thrones and fondle large purple dildos, Heidi rides a goat, dry-humps a dude dressed like a black metal mall rat, and finally gives birth to the Antichrist, which looks equal parts mandrake root, insect, and starfish. The witches praise Satan, half the audience gets confused as hell as the entire thing collapses in on itself and turns into a White Zombie video with melting cartoon Jesus' on crucifixes.

I assume in the original plot, the record hypnotizes the women descended from the people of Old Salem and each of them commits a murder while possessed, but in the final product we just see them begin to get hypnotized and then appear right at the end alive wearing the strange animal masks, and then to the final shot of Heidi Hawthorne standing on a pile of their dead bodies dressed as the Anti-Virgin-Mary as Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" plays. Definitely the best shot of the movie, I bet it took hours to get it perfect.

I have heard a few people say things like "How can you like that movie? I couldn't even take it seriously it was so bad!" And my response to that is that people who dislike Lords of Salem are the ones taking it too seriously.

The fucking movie was hilarious.


April 21, 2013

Lords of Salem's East Coast Premiere in Salem MA, American Horror Story: Coven, and Wicked Witches!

Usually tourist season doesn't pick up until April, but this year things started early and it was starting to begin in March. It might have something to do with some of the high profile projects involving Salem in the media recently.

There are three major things:

The first is last week's premiere of Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem at Cinema Salem.

We have been anticipating this movie since we first heard about it back in March '11, (edit: Actually, we learned about the idea when Rob started mentioning it during interviews in Fall '10)and it seems like a lot of locals got their hopes up and were expecting something a bit different. I loved the movie but general consensus in Salem is very negative, which disappoints me. I found the whole thing visually stunning, and even if there was a lack of character development and cohesive story line, the plot itself was fantastic. And hilarious. I love cheesy horror films and this one put a huge smile on my face throughout the entire thing.

The only thing that really disappointed me personally about the film was reading so much about it for the past few years only to see the final product and realize how much was cut during editing. A lot of it was important to deepening the plot, but I guess Rob figured in the end that the movie just had too many characters. Christopher Knight (aka Peter Brady)'s character, Lobster Joe, was cut entirely. Also, a lot of locals were waiting for the murder scene we had learned would happen in Engine House Pizza, but that was cut as well.

I'll write a more detailed synopsis and update soon! [edit: And here it is! Spoilers]

The second thing that's had people talking about Salem recently is "American Horror Story: Coven". When Kathy Bates was added to the cast, actor Dylan McDermott was asked how perfect she was for the cast  and slipped saying "She really is. All the witches of Salem... There's plenty of them!"

The thought of Kathy Bates playing a Salem witch had us all so excited we thought we could die, but then director Ryan Murphy smashed our dreams by saying the season would be filmed in New Orleans. Don't give up hope yet, though, Murphy also stated that the show would be about "multiple cities" and they could really film anywhere. He is also on record saying he wants it to include "horror romance" and it will be set in "modern day".

The final exciting thing happening in Salem is the one that a lot of people aren't even aware of. For a while now film crews have been sneaking in and out of town to visit Christian Day, Lorelei, and all their minions and film for the upcoming TLC reality show that I'm hearing might be titled "Wicked Witches". I have a lot of insider information on the show that I'm not going to disclose because it's more fun if things are a surprise, but I can tell you that I really don't think a reality show about witches is going to embarrass witchcraft as much as people are speculating. It's just a TV show, and it's just for fun and the most important thing to remember is that, although they make money off witchcraft, these people are truly authentic witches bringing REAL witchcraft to the masses. It sounds like the stuff they're filming is hilarious and awesome. People are saying the show might come out in May, I have no idea.

Quick loose ends news round-up:

Because of cancellations at Boston Comic Con, Jason David Frank, the original green Power Ranger was at Harrison's Comics in Salem! This is the extremely long line to meet him.

(photo by John Andrews of Social Palates)
Estimates are that approximately 2,500 people turned out to the event on Salem Commons to support the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

 Behind the scenes at Salem Film Fest. Amy Finkel, director of 'Furever' is interviewed before the screening of her film.
And last but not least, the sixth annual Salem Festival was absolutely huge this year, selling out most shows and playing some amazing documentaries.