Friday, August 2, 2019

Nostalgia Bomb! - Hostess Taquitos


What were they?

Doritos were first introduced into US markets in 1967 and hit small Canadian markets in the 1970s, but it wasn't really until 1987 that Doritos hit their stride in the Great White North, due to a partnership between Hostess and Frito-Lay. Before this - and into the 90s - Hostess had their own flavoured nacho chip brand, known as Hostess Taquitos.


When were they available?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when they first launched, but I believe it was in 1985. It's also hard to say when they were finally phased out. Hostess Potato Chips themselves were slowly removed from the market in 1996, after Frito-Lay bought the company and decided to bring Lay's Potato Chips in as their main brand (more on that here). It's safe to assume they existed into the early 90s, but I'm not 100% they lasted until 1996, either.

What about today?

Unfortunately, Hostess Taquitos went the way of the Do-do many years ago. Frito-Lay had a hit in the US with Doritos and decided to focus on that brand across the border. That said, one of the Hostess Taquitos flavours still lives on to this day!

Why do I remember them?

Well, pretty much because they were delicious! Although they were way greasier and messier than Doritos, they packed way more flavour and crunch.

The way I remember it is that Doritos really started making gains when they introduced Cool Ranch into the Canadian market. Usually when kids bought nacho chips around here they'd get Taquitos unless they didn't want a cheese flavour. Then they'd buy Cool Ranch. I think they'd probably exist to this day if Frito-Lay hadn't made the decision to go with their American brands over the Hostess counterparts.

It's hard to impress how popular Taquitos were at the time, but Hostess really pushed them as one of their big brands. They even had their own mascot. Their potato chip brand had The Munchies, but Hostess Taquitos had El Taquito, a nacho chip shilling monkey!


Now, here's one thing that I have found weird over the years. I remember there being three kinds of Hostess Taquitos early on, but then eventually there were only two. There was Nacho Cheese, Zesty Cheese, and Crisp n' Cheesy. They were all distinct cheese flavours. I wasn't much of a cheese guy, so I always went for Nacho Cheese, where Zesty had a very strong flavour. I always considered Crisp n' Cheesy to just be like a Hostess Cheese Stick flavour, or as we called them, "Cheesies".

Eventually Crisp n' Cheesy was dropped and there was only Nacho Cheese and Zesty Cheese. If you were to try and look up Hostess Taquitos, however, you'll see that most posts online refer to them having only ever having two flavours: Zesty Cheese and Taco. I don't recall every having Taco flavoured Taquitos. The first flavour of Doritos was Taco, so I don't know if this is just some people mixing things up or if it was a difference in markets here in Canada, but I only saw cheese flavoured nacho chips.

I have recently found a commerical, however - thanks to RetroJunk.com - from 1985 that validates my memories and shows the three cheese flavours! Watch it in all its 80s glory! It's amazing.


I mentioned that one of the flavours still exists, right? Well, when Frito-Lay decided to push Doritos and get rid of Taquitos they made the smart decision of keeping the Zesty Cheese flavour, which I think was the best seller. So, if you've had Zesty Cheese Doritos, you've technically tasted these short-lived Canadian nacho chips! Doritos have always been a less messy, less greasy option, so they don't taste exactly the same, but it's as close as you can get these days.

Hostess Taquitos were something bold and new in the world of potato chips and salty snacks in the mid-80s. The were absolutely packed with flavour that would turn your parents off instantly, which made them all the more alluring to us kids, and that's why they're a blast from my past!

Now go get some Zesty Doritos!
R

Friday, July 19, 2019

Stranger Things - Season 3 (2019)

Image result for stranger things season 3 banner

Well, here we are! I finally managed to finish Stranger Things 3 a few days ago.

It's been a really fun run. I'm so glad I went back and watched Season 1 and Season 2 before settling into Season 3. It wasn't just a great refresher, but it was fun watching all the characters grow into who they are in the summer of 1985.

It's also allowed me to see how the show has matured along with its characters. The first season was a solid package that had just enough depth, but didn't step too far out of its wheelhouse. The second season stretched its legs a little on a journey of growth and discovery, but that ultimately culminated where the story began, closing up all the threads created by its predecessor.

The third season had that compact attention to detail that was there in Season 1, but just by shifting things slightly managed to open the world up to all new possibilities.

I should say this now: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

As I mentioned Stranger Things 3 takes cues from both previous seasons in that it keeps things compact like Season 1, but also engages characters in interesting groupings like they did in Season 2.

But where to go after Stranger Things 2? Eleven closed the gate and cut off the Mind Flayer from our world, right?

Well, cue those rascals the Russians! This is '85 and President Reagan has taken a strong stance against Gorbachev's Soviet Union. Worries of a secret Russian invasion or on everyone's minds. In the story, it turns out the Russians are working on some kind of machine that can access the Upside-Down. Whether that's inadvertent or not isn't exactly known. My thoughts were that they wanted to create a portal from Russia to the US and that they had no idea they were actually cutting a hole to the Upside-Down.

But they were!


And remember the piece of the Mind Flayer that had inhabited Will in Season 2? Well, it turns out it never had a chance to leave Hawkins before Eleven closed the gate. As a result, it lied dormant in our world. That is right up until the Soviets turned on their machine opening up the gate once more!

I must say, this is some clever writing. I really hadn't considered that the story for Season 3 would so closely connect to the prior seasons. I sort of expected it would be a whole new tale from the Upside-Down, but I had my suspicions the Mind Flayer would play a role, seeing as the final seconds of Stranger Things 2 remind us that it's still out there.

The writers managed to not only tie the story directly to the time period by including the Soviet Union as an antagonist, but pulled in one last dangling thread from the previous stories to cinch the whole thing together.

Then they went and turned it all up to 11. See what I did there? Wait... I made that joke already? Damnit!

There are some new characters in the mix this season, but most of them are background. The main ones would be Robin Buckley, Steve's co-worker at Scoops Ahoy - an ice cream parlor in the newly minted Starcourt Mall - portrayed by Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke's daughter Mia Hawke and Mayor Larry Kline, the douchebag mayor of Hawkins, played by none other than Cary Elwes. Jake Busey has a role in there as a news reporter that stands out and Lucas' little sister Erica Sinclair played by Priah Ferguson has been given a much-earned greater role this time around.


There's a new fan-favourite this season, the cherry Slurpee lovin' Soviet scientist Alexei, played by Alec Gutoff. And we can't forget the cool new bad guy, Grigori the Russian Terminator, portrayed by Andrey Ivchenko. He's the bad guy you love to hate!

Much like last season, we have some new groupings, while some of the tried and true connections from seasons past are tested. We get to see Eleven and Max hang out and although Dustin and Steve continue their bromance they are joined by Erica and Robin. We also have Joyce and Hopper taking their relationship a little further with match-maker Murray Bauman, who is delightfully back this season in a much larger role, as well.

So, just the right mix of old and new!


The most important characters from Season 3 are probably Starcourt Mall and the New Mind Flayer!

Starcourt Mall stands as the central point of everything in Season 3, not only in this story, but in the story of Hawkins in general. Mayor Kline opened the mall much to the chagrin of the townspeople and as a result downtown Hawkins as it once was is dying, with all the shoppers and moviegoers now finding themselves in the hot new shopping mall. Its also literally the centre of the tale, as it is all a front for the Russians' experiments with the Upside-Down. The final throes of the season culminate in the aptly titled "The Battle of Starcourt Mall", where all of the threads of the story are tied in a knot.

And that New Mind Flayer! Yikes! I was calling it the "Flesh Flayer" in my head the whole time. Essentially, the Mind Flayer is trying to find a way to get to El for thwarting its plans in Season 2. This time around its taking control of the townspeople, most importantly Billy; the evil SOB step-brother of Max in Season 2. He is the unwitting first member of the Flayed (basically zombies) and does the recruiting for the Mind Flayer, who is no longer just a swirl of darkness and shadow, but is now made flesh... the flesh of dead rats and people no less!

This thing is so gory! I know it's CG gore and there's a whole contingent that won't find this at all impressive, because its not done in practical effects, but I thought this was really well done and so gross! It is as impressive in its size and ferocity as it is in its disgusting composition. The creators of Stranger Things really outdid themselves this time around.

We also have to talk about Billy for a bit. As I had hoped after watching Season 2, they did his character justice this season and expanded his story. Sure, they took it the route of making him the bad guy, in a way, but they also redeemed him and managed to give us the backstory we needed and that was missing from the second series.

As for the rest of the cast, everyone continues to shine and develop accordingly. All the kids are growing and that's the focus of the story. Dustin, Lucas, and Mike haven't really changed, but they ground the growth of the characters around them, like Eleven and Will. In Eleven's case, we see her becoming a member of society, dating Mike, and finding a best friend in Max, but we also see her lose her powers! She takes care of all the baddies up until the end of the season, where after she's bit by the New Mind Flayer seems to lose her abilities. Now who will she be?


Will technically isn't changing. In fact, he wants things to stay the same, but we can see that even he can't avoid the change and is only rallying against it. I was a little disappointed with his story. Ever since he became so connected with the Upside-Down and the Mind Flayer in previous seasons, I keep hoping that Will will awaken with some sort of cool power to help bolster Eleven's abilities, but he continues to simply be a weather vane for evil.

And we can't end this without talking about the elephant in the room: the "death" of Jim Hopper. After watching him rage against pretty much everything the entire season, we see that he and Joyce Byers are finally connecting and that his life is looking up, only for him to have to die heroically to close the gate once more.

It was a little hard on the head watching Jim scream his way through Season 3, but I think what we're seeing here is a man who is struggling with pretty much everything; his job, his daughter, his feelings for Joyce, and wanting to find his place in the new world after the events of the prior seasons, so it makes sense.


Now, do I think he's actually dead? Not for a second. In true film fashion Jim gets himself in a position where he's next to a lethal inter-dimensional laser machine that needs to be shut down in order to close the gate, which will cause a deadly chain reaction. Suddenly some scientists enter the room with Jim and we seem them evaporated by the device when it's turned off, but do we ever see Hopper actually die? No. If we were going to have watch him die we would be forced to deal with it in excruciating detail. Sort of like watching Spider-man turn to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. There's none of that here. Instead we get a quick shot of Jim looking at the as-of-yet unclosed gate before giving Joyce the knowing, tearful look and signalling her to pull the switch and save everyone else.

There's no way he didn't jump through that gate.

In the post-credits scene, which takes us into the Soviet Union and shows us that the Soviets are, of course, not done with their nefarious research, we are treated to the fact that they have an "American" in custody. I'm sure this is Hopper who went through the gate and ended up in the hands of the Russians. The Soviet research had to have an application and I feel that it was a doorway to the US for a secret invasion and its connection to the Upside-Down was just inadvertent. Jim went through the doorway they had created and right into the Russians' secret facility.


Also, let's think about his final message to Eleven. In a note he had written for her and Mike, Hopper wrote about his true feelings for Eleven, and in a final soliloquy Hopper asks his daughter to do one thing:

"But, please, if you don't mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches."

We all know which door Hopper meant, but which "door" did the writers mean?

I hope you enjoyed,
R

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Blair Witch Project: 20 Years Later

I noticed that there was a sudden resurgence of Blair Witch-related "stuff" lately and I didn't key into why until just this morning. A few weeks ago, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a new Blair Witch video game was announced to be launching this August, and today Fright-Rags will be launching a licensed collection for the original film. My caffeine-ridden brain didn't even realize that this Sunday, July 14th, 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of The Blair Witch Project!


Once I realized that, I knew I had to write about it for a bit. It's hard for me to understate the importance of the film. I have rarely been as hyped for a movie as I was for TBP.

I spoke recently about the VHS release on VHyesterdayS. I mentioned that I had talked about The Blair Witch Project in a video a long time ago on my YouTube channel, but upon further inspection it appears that I must've deleted my content on The Blair Witch Project and its sequel at some point.


So all the more reason for me to jaw-on here for a bit!

It's been stated over-and-over again how effective the marketing was for it at the time, but I'll take a moment to talk about it again. There was nothing like it before. The very nature of the film being a faux-documentary lent itself so perfectly to a viral marketing campaign and it just took over the Internet. The website was top-of-the-line for its time and it was chock-full of Easter Eggs and information about the "case" of the Blair Witch and the missing students lost in the Burkittsville woods.

People believed it was real. I believed it could be real.

Then you add the element of the TV special! Airing a few days before the film's release, on July 11th 1999, Curse of the Blair Witch was itself a half-hour documentary about the legends of Burkittsville and the missing filmmakers. It completely doubled-down on the "authenticity" that the marketing campaign created. Was it real? Was it fake? Everyone had to go see the movie just to find out!


And it worked. People went to this movie in droves. I was there opening night to a completely packed theatre. I had found all the Easter Eggs on the site. I had piled through the Internet bulletin boards trying to glean every bit of information I could find out about the film. I had to know if it was real or not!

It was an experience I hadn't had before and haven't had since. Once you let this genie out of the bottle, you can never do it again. Film-goers now are too skeptical, likely because of TBP, to ever let this sort of marketing fool them again. But I was one of the lucky ones who got to experience this whole thing firsthand and it's had a lasting impression.

It didn't hurt that the acting was excellent. There are points where you get the "actor" vibe from the main cast, but for the most part their fear just seems so genuine. This is, of course, due in part to the nature of how the film was made, in which the filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick really put actors Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leondard through a course of psychological terrors in the dead of night, while the actors themselves filmed.

With all the "found footage" films this movie spurned, I'm surprised that I've never heard of any other filmmakers taking this specific aspect away from TBP; the idea of actually subduing the actors to unknown, unscripted scares. My guess is the unions don't allow for that! I didn't know about all this until well after seeing the film for the first time, but I think it's safe to say that their fear feels very real and tangible.


One thing I will note is that seeing The Blair Witch Project on the big screen was a double-edge sword. I was both so excited to see it, but absolutely sickened by it... literally.

The movie is shot on 16MM and Digital 8 from the perspective of the filmmakers. Save for the few scenes that are setup to be parts of their "documentary" its all handheld. Sitting in the lower bowl of my movie theatre, munching on my then new Crispy M&Ms caused my guts to lurch. I barely made it through the film, honestly. I had to run to the washroom at least once and when I got there, someone had beat me to it. To this day I can't eat Crispy M&Ms.

I try to recapture the experience a little each year around Halloween. That's when the VHS and DVD were first released, around October 25th, 1999 if my memory serves me right. I make the pilgrimage back to Maryland and the haunted Burkittsville forest and in absolute honesty I get chills every time.

The movie is a time capsule. Haxan Films managed to bottle up 1999 for me and I love them for it.

Say what you want about the franchise after, The Blair Witch Project manages to hold up, old technology and all. I'll keep up my tradition and take in my yearly viewing this October, but why not give it a watch this weekend?

The whole thing may have been an elaborate hoax, but what if it wasn't? What if the witch is out there, waiting in the dark? Hiding in an old abandoned house, deep in the forest, where the light of mankind has winked out of existence.

Dare you take a walk in the woods after!

Cheers,
R

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Stranger Things Re-watch - Season 2 (2017)

Image result for stranger things season 3 banner

We're back in the Upside-Down this week with my re-watch of Stranger Things 2!

I don't think I brought it up when I wrote about Season 1 (due to spoilers), but it ended with all sorts of loose ends and burning questions about the future of Hawkins, Indiana and our favourite rag-tag band of heroes. What happened to Eleven after here battle with the Demogorgon? Is Sheriff Hopper in bed with Hawkins Laboratory? What effect will being stuck in the Upside-Down for so long have on Will?

Well, you've got questions? Season 2 has answers!

When I first watched Season 2, I had a lot of misgivings with the way the creators went about fleshing out the characters in this second arc. I must say that during this re-watch I have a much great appreciation for the decisions they made. It makes a lot more sense to me the second time around. This is why I'm glad I went back and got reacquainted the first two seasons before Season 3 drops!

This season was really all about tying up the loose ends of Season 1. I think just about everything you can think of gets a nice little neat bow by the time Episode 9 draws to a close.

There were some interesting paths the show's creators took in Season 2 that I think are worth noting:

New Characters



Instead of just focusing on the beloved cast from Season 1, a few new characters were added to spice things up.

First off there is Max and her step-brother Billy. I think Max is as great addition to the group and really tests the dynamic of the boys and their party. Billy... I could give-or-take. Honestly, I think he was only interjected to flesh out Max's story and to insert some sort of earthly antagonist, but in my opinion he was just filler and really wasn't needed. It honestly wasn't until the last two episodes that his story got even slightly interesting and I'm hoping they do more with the character in Season 3.


With Brenner apparently dead by Demogorgon in Season 1, a new scientist has been sent into Hawkins Lab to fix the mess, which is Dr. Owens played by none other than Paul Reiser. I think this was an ingenious choice for this character, because of one of Reiser's most famous roles: Burke in Aliens. The whole season you're on the fence about where his allegiances lie, because you know him as the ultimate, smarmy asshole, Burke. Even though his character always seems to be on the right side, you can never be sure about his true intentions, and I loved that.

Next we have Kali a.k.a. Eight. She's introduced right away in Season 2 and gets your mind boiling with possibilities. We all knew that Eleven was likely the 11th in a series of experiments, but did you think about anyone else who might have been a part of Hawkins Labs prior tests? Well, now you are! She stands as a way of fleshing out El's character arc and on my first viewing I couldn't have cared less about Kali's role or her episodes. I felt like it was all just filler and was unnecessary. After this re-watch I totally get why the writers added this story arc and it makes a lot more sense to me. Will Kali make an appearance in Season 3? We'll see!

Finally, and probably most importantly, is Bob the Brain. Bob is Joyce's new beau who is a tech whiz and works at the local Radio Shack. He is played by Sean Astin, which I think was a brilliant choice considering The Goonies (in which Astin was the main character) most definitely inspired Stranger Things. You'll fall in love with Bob as he is almost as lovable a character as Dustin and his story will surprise you!


Oh, and I almost forgot Murray Bauman, the conspiracy guy. He's really just there to push along Nancy and Jonathan's story for Season 2, but he's pretty funny and injects a little levity into the season, which I definitely appreciated.

New and Interesting Pairings



Another thing the writers did for Season 2 was to pair up certain characters. You have the expected pairing of Nancy and Jonathan, which isn't a surprise, but you have some interesting mash-ups, like Hopper and Eleven and probably the coolest, Steve and Dustin! Or Dustin and a Demo...dog?

I think the creators of the show really took a look at the characters they had and thought of interesting ways to flesh them out and who best to pair them up with to achieve this. Like I mentioned above, just about every character touches on a new person, as well, as a way of interjecting the unexpected, but they also found a way to match some of the people we know and love in the same vein. It was really well done!

The Mind Flayer



I would be remiss in not mentioning the new big bad from this season. In Season 1, we had a solitary monster that managed to breach into our dimension, by way of Eleven's powers, but in Season 2 the scary was ratcheted up to, well, 11?

The Mind Flayer is positively Lovecraftian in nature. It's like a monster you couldn't quite dream up in your worst nightmares and, as a result, it sets you on your hackles right from the first time you see it. And, did I mention he seems to control all the other monsters in the Upside-Down?


One of the best parts about Season 2 is probably Will and his battle with the Mind Flayer. In Season 1, we don't get to see much of Will. He's likely the most important character, but actor Noah Schnapp doesn't require much screen time, as he's been lost in the murky abyss of the Upside-Down. In Season 2, Schnapp gets to shine and show he's probably the best actor out of the whole crowd of kids. His story arc, once again, drives the entire season and it was well-rested on his shoulders.

As I mentioned before, there were a few spots in Season 2 that I found were filler initially, but now taking a sober second look I get why the writers made the decisions they made. I still think that Season 1 is a tighter package overall, but Season 2 is a great addition to the Stranger Things universe and well worth the watch.

So, now it's time to look forward to Season 3! From the promotions and teasers I've seen, I can't even guess at what's going on... and I'm happy about that. I can tell for sure that something is rearing its ugly head from the Upside-Down (you can clearly tell that Eleven and Will can sense it) and that all of our favourite characters are back in the fold and there may even be at least one new character joining the crew. The biggest piece to the puzzle appears to be the Starcourt Mall, which looks to play a major part in whatever Season 3 has to show us.


July 4th will be upon us before we know it! It's only a week away! I'll hopefully ingest the show within the week of its release and be able to jot down my thoughts. Either way, my hype levels for Stranger Things 3 are at full capacity! Break out the full-sized 3 Musketeers bars and Eggo waffles!

Let's get strange,
R

Friday, June 21, 2019

Stranger Things Re-watch - Season 1 (2016)

Image result for stranger things season 3 banner

The third season of Stranger Things is creeping up on us! The drop date on Netflix is July 4th, 2019, which is just around the corner.

I don't think I've expressed my enjoyment for Stranger Things here on the site, so let me do that right now; I love this show.

It speaks to be on pretty much every level. I'm a big fan of synthwave music. The show features a heavy-synthwave soundtrack. I'm obsessed with just about anything from the 1980s and 1990s. The show is set in the early- to mid-80s. I love horror and sci-fi. The series is steeped in horror and sci-fi. Some of my favourite movies are The Monster Squad, The Goonies, Stand By Me; just about anything that features a group of young friends on an adventure and that is the very crux of Stranger Things.

If you take all this, throw it in a pot, add an excellent cast, impressive set design, great special effects, and an awesome storyline, and you've brewed up a perfect blend of TV, in my humble opinion.

With my anticipation for the next season already brimming, the media blitz around Saison Trois has my at full hype levels. H&M and Nike have Stranger Things promotions for clothing based around the new season, which isn't really my thing, but is worth noting. There's also a partnership with Baskin-Robbins, where they are offering all sorts of amazing Stranger Things ice cream treats, which I would devour if there was one near me. And let's not forget the Upside-Down Whopper on offer from Burger King in select US locations. Sure, it's just a Whopper that is literally wrapped upside-down, but it's paired up with retro packaging and let's face it, this sort of stuff is just fun!


The one that is really killing me is the New Coke promotion. You see, the next season of Stranger Things is set in the summer of '85, which is also when Coca-Cola infamously introduced New Coke to the masses. The creators of Stranger Things, in keeping things as authentic as possible, didn't let this slide and instead partnered up with Coca-Cola to bring New Coke back as a cross-promotion for the two brands! There were pop-up events across the US, where lucky individuals could experience the "Upside-Down" and actually get New Coke out of upside-down pop machines for free! You could also order a promotional kit from Coca-Cola, for a limited time, which included a bottle of Coca-Cola Classic, a bottle of Coke Zero, and two cans of New Coke, all with Stranger Things 3 branding.


Sadly, being in Canada has meant that I couldn't join in on the New Coke excitement. Ordering the New Coke package internationally wasn't available and re-sellers have cans of New Coke floating around the $40 price point shipped here to Nova Scotia, and that's too rich for my blood.


But, the intended affect of getting me hyped for Stranger Things 3 certainly worked! So much so, that I decided I'd go back and re-watch Seasons 1 and 2 to get properly ready for Season 3 on the 4th.

Today we'll talk about Season 1, which - and not to be anticlimactic - is my favourite of the two seasons. That's not to say that I dislike Season 2, as you'll see, but I just think that Season 1 is a more concise package.

My immediate thought that I want to convey is that this show is utterly re-watchable. I think some people avoid going back and watching old TV shows, because of the time commitment. As a guy who has watched the entirety of The X-Files several times, this may need to come with a grain of salt, but re-watching Stranger Things is certainly not an arduous task. I mean, we're talking 8 episodes a season, not 20+ like in a traditional television series.

My favourite thing about the show are the kids and their friendship. Will, Dustin, Lucas, and Mike, their connection, and their surroundings just remind me so much of my childhood. It's not a 1:1 thing. I didn't play D&D or anything like that, but swap Dungeons & Dragons with - say - Final Fantasy and things really start to click. I just can't help but imagine myself as one of their party, which helps me to connect to how they feel trying to find their lost friend and meeting their newest member, Eleven.


Its for this reason among others that I felt like nothing was lost in experiencing this story again. Sometimes a plot point or a reveal only works once and going back and re-watching a movie or series really needs that hook, but that's not the case here. Even knowing what was coming beat-for-beat didn't cause me to be any less engaged. For instance, the ending of Episode 4 - which I won't spoil for those who haven't watched - is still incredibly poignant. I felt every emotion I had the first time around even knowing the outcome.

And, as is usually the case with a well-crafted property like Stranger Things, there are all sorts of fun nods and Easter Eggs there for those who invest the time to watch again.  For example, in the beginning of Episode 1 Will and Dustin mention Uncanny X-Men #134, which is in middle of the Dark Phoenix storyline, and the connections between Stranger Things and that issue became more and more apparent as you continue on.


One of my favourite things about Season 1 is the lack of filler. Literally every moment on screen is important in fleshing out the story. All the subplots work their way back to the main story in a timely fashion. I kind of felt like the ending was a little abrupt this time around, something I hadn't keyed in on when I first watched, but I think that's really just because I didn't want it to end.

And that's all thanks to the characters. You often hear cinema junkies like myself grump about new horror films and saying, "I didn't care about the characters! Why would I care if they die?" It comes up all the time and for good reason; it's important. If I don't care about anyone in the show then I can't invest any sort of emotion toward their plight and at that point I'm disconnected.

Stranger Things is loaded with likable characters. Even the secondary and tertiary cast makes you care. I mean Benny the guy who owns the diner, or the rest of the police force that work for Chief Hopper? They all bring us both emotional pangs and good laughs.

Image result for stranger things hopper joyce season 1

I could gush on and on about Season 1, but I'm sure I'm nearing a thousand words as it is. If for some reason you haven't watched Stranger Things and you're thinking about jumping on the bandwagon before the third season hits in a few weeks, do it! Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Unless, you know, you get scared by monsters and the dark and creepy children with mind powers and stuff...

We'll talk Season 2 soon!

Cheers,
R

Friday, June 14, 2019

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) - 1989

Do you remember the very first video game you ever played? I know mine! It was Super Mario Bros. Do you know the second? Ooh, I do! It was Duck Hunt. But can you recall the third video game you ever played?

Mine was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!


It was Christmas 1989... but also possibly 1990? I'm a little nebulous on this. I know that my mother has a photo from the Christmas morning in question, but I haven't been able to find it to confirm. Either way, that Christmas I received a Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set, which came packed in with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, but I also got another game, which was TMNT.

Regardless of the year, at this point in my life nothing mattered more than the Ninja Turtles. I was the prime demographic for the show when it launched in '87. By the time '89/'90 rolled around I would've been watching the Turtles almost every day in syndication, had plastered my walls with TMNT memorabilia, and swam in a bucket full of Playmates Turtle action figures. The video game, however, couldn't have been further from my mind.

I was around 6 and I actually had no idea what a Nintendo was. I can still recall getting it for Christmas and having no idea what I was looking at. My parents actually had an Intellivision when I was really young, but it had stopped working, so they were familiar with the concept, but I was totally in the dark.

As I recall, the first game I booted up was, of course, Super Mario Bros. It took a while to get used to how to move - which included a lot of me jumping with my controller, like I was somehow tethered to Mario himself - but I eventually got the hang of it. The controls in SMB make it easy. They are so tight. Once you get used to the idea of pushing buttons at the same time and how gravity works in the Mushroom Kingdom, you're well on your way to mastering the game.

This is, unfortunately, not the case with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The controls were a little bit "floaty". It takes some getting used to, but I would argue that the controls for TMNT get a bad rap. They are a little off, but the same could be said for countless other video games at the time and not just on the NES.

Another thing that jumped out at me while playing TMNT NES for the first time was how batshit crazy it is! The first enemies you encounter have some familiarity. There are Mousers and Foot Soldiers, but also killer bees? After a few moments, however, one of the game's weirdest features will rear it's ugly head. The enemies in the game will swap randomly. The other sets of baddies you face are out of some crazy nightmare.

Do you remember when the Turtles faced off against the Human Torch? Or a chainsaw wielding maniac in a hockey mask? Yeah, me either, but they're in there! There are also giant mutant frog men, robots with flying heads, a creepy hunchback that turns into smaller creepy hunchbacks, and these Lovecraftian jumping leg things that cling to the ceiling, just to name a few.

Honestly, I appreciate the creativity with the bad guys in the video game. Sure, the programmers had a lot to work with, having access to already established comic and cartoon universes, but there's no reason the monsters and enemies they created couldn't have existed in any other TMNT canon. I mean, there's a character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics that is literally a flying, talking cow's head that slurps up/spits out its passengers and can cross whole dimensions of time and space.


You're my boy, Cudley!

I thought for years that the game must have been in development before the cartoon launched and that explained all the crazy bad guys that didn't marry up with the show, but that wasn't the case. The video game was certainly put into motion because of the fervor the cartoon stirred up and wouldn't have existed without it.

The game was developed by none-other than Japan's video game powerhouse, Konami. It was published by Konami in Japan, but under the Ultra Games imprint in North America and PALCOM in Europe, which was just a super hinky way for Konami to release more games in other regions than Nintendo would allow for at the time.

A quick note that the game was so popular in the PAL regions it actually got it's own NES bundle. Everything you needed to play Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles! Yeah, apparently ninjas are frowned upon overseas.


The game was released in Japan ahead of the Japanese dubs of the cartoon show, so maybe my theory about the progammers having to make up their own ideas holds some weight, but I'd say its just another case of Japanese developers doin' they thang.

The story is basically ripped from the cartoon: The Turtles find out that the Shredder has a "life transformer gun" (uh-huh...) and that they can use it to turn their master Splinter back into a human, so they're seeking out the Shred-dude to find it. Along the way they have to save April O'Neil from Bebop and Rocksteady, stop the Foot Clan from blowing up a dam on the Hudson River, save Splinter from Mecha-Turtle, find the Turtle Blimp at JFK Airport, chase Shredder to a hidden base, and finally face off against their enemy in the Technodrome. And eat lots of pizza along the way!


I think the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES is the box art. It was incredible. I had no idea at the time that it was ripped from the cover of the comic book! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1 Issue #4 featured cover art by the original artists/creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (I honestly don't know who drew the cover). When it was re-issued years later, Michael Dooney re-imagined the artwork and took it to the next level. It was this artwork that was lifted for the game's box and label art and it's just so iconic.


If nothing else, the cover art confused every child that saw it. "Why are all the Turtles wearing red!?" Considering the wave caused by the TV series it is certainly surprising that they went with a comic book cover depicting the brothers in all red face masks, but that was how things were in the early comic books.

The player takes control of all four Turtles, each armed with their weapon of choice. This will lead you to a team hierarchy, whether you like it or not. Leonardo uses the katana, which are a great mid-range weapon that deal decent damage. Michaelangelo uses the nunchaku, which I would say makes him arguably the exact same as Leonardo, but sacrificing some range for speed. Donatello uses the bo staff, which while it is the most powerful of the stock ninja weapons is a little trickier to aim. Finally, Raphael uses the sai, which seem to be the least powerful and have almost no range. For Raphael fans, like myself, this sucks as Raph basically gets relegated to the "Turtle you're okay with sacrificing". I personally try to reserve Don for boss fights where his bo can get a few extra powerful hits in and for the most part I play as Leonardo or Mikey interchangeably, leaning on Leo since he's the first Turtle on the pause menu.


You can also collect sub-weapons. Most of them appear is random drops from enemies, like shuriken, triple shuriken, and the boomerang. You can select and de-select them with the... wait for it... select button. The most coveted sub-weapon is the Kiai - or as everyone else knows it - the scroll weapon, made famous by the greatest Nintendo commercial ever created, The Wizard! This bad boy was the most powerful and took up a lot of pixels for maximum effectiveness. You couldn't get this one from a drop, however. It was hidden somewhere in the game!


Another handy item you'll find along the way are the missiles, which you can launch from the Turtle Van. That's right, you get to drive the van! In the third stage you'll find it waiting for you on the overworld map. It protects you from Foot Soldiers roaming around the streets of NYC (just run them over!) and the missiles can break through roadblocks that keep you from finding Master Splinter. The last item that comes to mind is the rope, which you'll need to cross from rooftop to rooftop in a few places.

At the end of the day, even if you can master the controls and know where all the best weapons and items are hidden, this game is still so friggin' hard. If you've beaten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES then you've earned a badge of Nintendo Honour, my friend. Most people I talk to can't get past the Hudson Dam.

Now, the NES wasn't the only place you could play this TMNT game. In addition to being available on Playchoice-10 arcade machines (essentially just arcade units with an NES in them), in anticipation for its popularity the game was ported to just about every PC platform available at the time. There were ports for the Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS DOS, MSX, and ZX Spectrum. There is a lot of varying quality here, as some of these were written by one or two coders at most and under strict timelines.

I haven't played any of the PC ports of the game, but the MS DOS port was one of my most coveted games when I was a kid. Back in the early-90s my local K-Mart had a really cool video game section, which none of the other stores around me had at the time. In it, behind glass, was a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for MS DOS in this beautiful big box and, boy, did I want it.

And, boy, am I lucky I never got it. From what I can tell it's easily the worst port of the game. The Amiga, Amstrad, and Atari ST versions seem to be the best graphically, and the C64 and ZX versions appear to be somewhat playable, but the MS DOS version just looks like hot garbage. The Pause Screen images are some of the most hilarious I've ever seen. April looks like some kind of insect woman.


Even better is that the QA behind the North American DOS version wasn't up-to-snuff and there is an impossible jump in the game. Some people have discovered a "no clip" code that allows you to bypass the jump, and some even more industrious individuals have written files from the European releases, which contain a fix for the issue, onto their NA copies of the game, but at the end of the day I doubt most people had enough patience to play the DOS version enough to give a damn.

So, like I said in the beginning, I think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES gets a bit of a bad rap, because its fairly difficult and has slightly wonky controls, but it is without a doubt one of my favourite video games. It's probably the nostalgia talking, but only a handful of games can really take me back in time and this is one of them. I think, just like with many NES games, with a little practice and patience it's just as playable as most games on the system. It's a bright, colourful, and interesting take on the Turtle Universe and I love it.

But, there's more! In the near future we'll be talking about the sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game!

Stay tuned,
R

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Memory, Blog: The Fake Alien Abduction Show



Although my family had Cable TV when I was a kid we didn't always have all those really cool Cable channels. You know, the ones you still had to pay extra for? Do you remember that magic little black box the Cable company would provide you with to de-scramble the premium stuff? Yeah, we didn't have that. That is until I was in my teens.

Pure magic!

That glorious box provided me with more channels than I could even imagine. Sure, compared to today's standards it was a paltry serving, but to teenage me I was mind-blown. I now had access to a wide assortment of channels including TBS, which was chock-full of movies and all the Saved By The Bell re-runs I could handle, Family Channel, with loads of great Disney cartoons, Kids' WB, which fed my already unhealthy Batman: The Animated Series obsession, and UPN, which had pretty much nothing that I cared about.

On one fateful evening in the winter of 1998 I was channel surfing (man, I miss that) and I came across this schlocky "news report"-style show on UPN called Real Vampires... Exposed! It was basically a walk through the underground vampire scene in the 90s, where those so inclined wore a lot of black leather, drank each other's blood in neon-lit bars, and listened to industrial techno. I was half-interested in this show, but it was during this broadcast that an ad appeared for a new alien show that would be on within the hour!


You see UPN was claiming that they had acquired footage of a real-life alien abduction caught on home video and that they had experts analyze the tape. They were going to show the whole thing that night (January 20th, 1998 to be exact) and let you, the viewer, be the judge if it was real or not. The show was called Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

I was a pretty TV savvy kid and I had my finger on the pulse of the comings-and-goings of the all the major networks, but I had always just passed by UPN, which in my mind only had episode after episode of Moesha. As my luck would have it I landed on the channel just before it began airing Alien Abduction and my excitement (and trepidation) was brimming.

I grabbed a blank tape out of the entertainment console, popped it into the VCR, and set the show to record, even though I had no intent on waiting until the next day to watch it. I was glued to the TV set for what would become one of the most spine-tingling television events I ever witnessed.

I just want to start by saying that airing Alien Abduction with Real Vampires... Exposed! (which aired in lieu of an episode of Moesha, I kid you not) one after the other could not have been an accident. The network execs were trying to create the illusion to the viewer that this alien video was the real deal without coming right out and saying it.


There was a lot of controversy surrounding this little one hour special. There are those who would compare it to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, although I think that's rather extreme. This was some seriously campy TV on a cable specialty channel.

That said, the presentation was setup to lead the viewer in the belief that this tape was legitimate. The producers had actual "experts" in the fields of ufology, like physicist Stanton Friedman* and famous skeptic Michael Shermer, speak to the tape (or "a" tape, more on that at a later date) to lend credence to its authenticity. Couple that with it airing back-to-back with a show exposing "real life vampires" and there were all sorts of folks who thought this tape was the real deal.

One viewing of the segments of the tape, however, and your innate "these are actors" Spidey-sense will tingle. It also didn't help that actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, who at this point had at least one film and several TV acting credits under her belt, was clearly one of the members of the "family". Then at the end of the show the credits roll and you can see that the MacPherson family were casted and the whole thing was a film by director Dean Alioto.

I never thought the tape or the show was real, of course, but I will be damned if I didn't love it. Like most alien shows, I watched this for the scares and it delivered! For me it was like a little mini horror movie. Even to this day the scenes with the aliens in them raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I used to watch that tape recording I made of the show every year or so and it always had the same affect. Unfortunately, that tape is lost to time. *sniff*

Now you would think with the bad acting and credit roll that anyone watching this show would immediately understand that this was just a TV ratings stunt, but the controversy surrounding Alien Abduction actually started long before this UPN special. This was not Dean Alioto's first brush with alien conspiracy, but I think I'll save that story for another day.

Hope you enjoyed!,
R

*Stanton Friedman sadly passed away May 13th, 2019 at the age of 84. He lent his research and opinions to countless UFO-related features of the years, so I just wanted to say rest in peace, Dr. Friedman.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Halfway To Halloween 2019


That's right, May 1st (or April 30th, depending on how you look at it) marked the halfway mark between Halloween 2018 and Halloween 2019, so all of us horror junkies are starting to get that spooky feeling!

I wasn't really sure how to best mark the occasion this year, so I started to think of some fun things to do to drag Halloween kicking and screaming into the cool Spring breeze.

Here are my findings!

A Scary Halloween Movie



There's no reason you have to wait until Halloween to enjoy some of your favourite freaky flicks. If you're a horror hound, like myself, then you've likely been watching horror movies all year anyway, but the focus here needs to be on the upcoming season. So while taking in your 57th viewing of A Nightmare on Elm Street might seem like a good idea (and on any other day it is, good on you) maybe try something more autumnal? Night of the Demons, perhaps? It's tied to the season, but not so much as, say, Trick 'r Treat or Halloween 1 and 2, which are probably best left for September or October.

I typically find myself mostly interested in classic movie monsters during the Halloween season, so I think to get me into that festive mood I'll be taking in Dracula or The Mummy this weekend.


The big thing here is to make sure you do you. Whatever movies make you wish you were stuffing your face with fun size candy bars and washing it down with a pumpkin spice latte are key, even if it's Hocus Pocus.

Video Games Featuring Classic Monsters



I'll admit this one is a little more personal, but I've definitely noticed a correlation between horror movies fans and video gamers. I think it's a timing thing. If you can name a kid that didn't have a Nintendo or Sega hooked up to their TV at the same time they were pushing scary movies into their VCRs, I think they're in the minority.

For me, horror-themed video games are an essential piece to the Halloween puzzle. September and October are usually the months that I take in my yearly playthrough of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Resident Evil, for instance.

These days horror games abound, but much like those classic creature flicks I crave around Halloween, I find myself thirsting (see what I did there?) for old chilling NES games during Halfway to Halloween. I think this year I'll play some Monster Party. It is chock-full of awesome little horror tidbits and crazy monster designs. I mean look at the cover art. It absolutely screams Halloween! That would be my kinda party!


Spooky Snacks



It's kind of tough to get your hands on Halloween candy in May, unless your local pharmacy is just exceedingly bad and clearing off their holiday shelves, but you don't need bite size Mars bars to get that Halloween spirit.

Pumpkin spice may still be lying in wait for Autumn, but for me anything green, orange, or black can set the scene. Maybe some black tortilla chips and guac with orange soda? Too much? NEVER.

Heck, all it takes for me is breaking out the finest Halloween dinnerware and firing those everyday chips into a big orange bowl. Sometimes it's the little things, guys!


Halloween Decorations



This one is a little out there, but bear with me. One great way to get in the Halloween mood is the simplest: dig up (I kill me) some of your favourite decs!

Now, don't go too overboard here. Maybe just one of your spookiest and simplest pieces will do the trick. For me, I almost always have a little skull candle-holder on my desk, so that can do the trick (or treat), but I might break out a light-up jack-o-lantern, just for the night. If you over-do it you'll find yourself getting sick of Halloween and no one wants that (if it's even really possibly, I have my doubts).


So that's it! If you're celebrating Halfway to Halloween this weekend, let me know in the comments or on Twitter how you're marking the occasion!

Happy (Halfway to) Halloween!
R

p.s. I noticed the typo, too, but I don't have my laptop with Photoshop handy, so it stands... for now. Consider it an Easter egg!

p.p.s Nothing to see here. Move along...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series 2 (1991) Revisited

Much like my post last week, today we're revisiting my collection of Marvel Universe Trading Cards Series 2! Here's the video from the old post. I'll say again, this is a long vid of me going through each and every card, so make sure you've got your popcorn ready.


Series 2 has always been one of my favourites. I loved the vibrant colours of the borders, which were a big level up from Series 1 and their white borders around the cards artwork. It has a very 80s vibe to it, which make sense since the hangover of the 80s lasted well into the 90s.


The biggest improvement in this series were the Power Ratings, which picked six different attributes and ranked all of the character cards accordingly. There was Strength, Speed, Agility, Stamina, Durability, and Intelligence. This rating system would continue after Series 2 and became my favourite thing about collecting these cards.


Ever argue with your buddy about who would win in a fight: Spider-Man versus Daredevil? Well just compare the Power Ratings! My friends and I would pore over these cards and ratings and practically memorize all of them, so we could throw them out on the fly whenever one of these arguments reared its ugly head.

We also used to often "play Marvel", which meant we'd each pick a character and we'd act out our own scenes. So if we were playing and Ultron was facing up against Wolverine, knowing these Power Ratings and special abilities could mean life or death to an 8 year old.


As I mentioned with Series 1, there were different subsets in each series. In Series 2 we had Weapons, Legends, and Arch-Enemies. Arch-Enemies is really just a re-brand of Famous Battles,  Legends would essentially feature old and (at the time) dead characters within the Marvel U, and Weapons would give you the low-down on the different "tools of the trade", like Wolverine's claws or the Infinity Gauntlet.


There were five holograms in this set, as well. I managed to snag two this time: Doctor Doom and Fanastic Four vs. Mole Man. The foil on these cards actually went all the way to the border, as well, which makes them look even more impressive when you manage to snag one.

I hope these old trading cards are getting you amped up for the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame. I know they're having that affect on me! Stay tuned for more! Next up we'll finally get caught up with Series 3, which I affectionately call "the cosmic set".


Excelsior!
R

Friday, April 12, 2019

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series 1 (1990) Revisited

Waaaaay back in 2014, around when I first launched Retro-Def, I figured a great feature for the site would be a look back at my Marvel Universe trading card collection. I ended up making two videos fairly quickly and then getting busy and forgetting to continue on with the series.

That's a real shame, because not only were these cards incredibly important to 7-year old me, but I think they're a really cool slice of the Marvel Universe in the 90s. With the recent passing of Stan Lee I've found myself flipping through my old card binders and I felt the need to share!

Let's start by revisiting Marvel Universe Trading Cards Series 1. The video I made in 2014 still stands, and some of the reminiscing you'll find here is in the video, but I'd say only the most hardcore fan would be interested in watching the whole thing. It clocks in at around 25 minutes and I go through each and every card.

Excuse the old website branding!

The Marvel Universe Trading Card series was launched by Impel in 1990. You might not remember the name Impel, especially if you weren't into trading cards in the 90s, but you may recall SkyBox, which was a re-brand of Impel in 1992.

The base set was 162 cards. The subsets included Super Heroes, Super Villains, Rookies, Famous Battles, Team Pictures, Most Valuable Comics, and Spider-Man Presents.

Wolverine as "Patch"

Most of these are self-explanatory, except for Spider-Man Presents. This particular subset featured Spider-Man attempting to interview some of the heavy-hitters in the Marvel U. They were like little mini-comics and I thought they were hysterical. I remember thinking the Spider-Man Presents: Wolverine card was one of the funniest things I'd ever read.

Each of the super hero and villain cards would feature a drawing of the character on the front with a unique backdrop like it had been pulled right from the pages of a comic. On the back you'd find all kinds of cool information about the character, like their aliases, how many battles they'd had, their win/loss ratio, some information about the character, and finally some trivia.

I have no idea who "Roughhouse" is...

One neat thing that was only featured in this particular set was that certain characters could appear multiple times, like Wolverine, who appeared in the super hero subset three times; once in his brown and tan costume, again in his blue and gold costume, and finally as "Patch", his secret alter-ego.

Features of this set that didn't carry forward are the Spider-Man Presents cards and the Most Valuable Comics. Each set would feature something unique from the others, but you could always expect to see super heroes, super villains, special teams, and cards that somehow featured big events and battles from Marvel's storied history.


See, it's hilarious!

This was my first foray into trading card collecting and I was only 7, so some of the cards in my set are a little roughed up on the corners, but they hold so much nostalgia and importance to me, it's hard to state. This was my gateway vehicle into comic books and super heroes. Growing up on an island, it wasn't difficult to get comics, but it certainly wasn't easy to get them all in order each and every month. Also, without any sort of archive of Marvel Comics, this was the only way to really dig into the historical events in the Universe and learn all the backstory for the characters.

I started buying these cards in a corner store in the summer of 1990, but eventually had to start going to a hobby store as I worked at getting the whole set. Every red cent of my allowance went into these cards. Each pack would contain 12 cards, so over time you'd amass a stack of what we called "traders". The hobby store would keep a box of their own traders so you could swap out your extra cards for a card you still hadn't found in a pack. They'd usually do a 2:1 trade to keep their stock high and some cards, which were harder to come by, would require more traders or you'd just have to buy them outright.

Danny Ketch Ghost Rider's rookie card - one of the rougher cards in my set

As I mentioned, there were 162 cards in the base set, but there were also five hologram cards, which were the holy grails. There was only one hologram per box, as far as I know, so they were hard to come by. I never did collect all the holograms for each set. I managed to get a few here and there, but buying them at the card store was usually highway robbery and not something my parents were interested in funding, so I would shoot for the base set and hope to get a few holograms along the way.

It was a crazy summer when I first found these cards and little did I know that I would spend at least the next four or five years collecting the different sets of Marvel Universe Trading Cards. I have some of my fondest memories buying, trading, and most importantly, poring over these cards and gleaning as much information as I could about the amazing characters and stories they represented. My friends and I would commit so much of the information on the cards to memory and have classic conversations about who would defeat who in a fight or who the most powerful bad guy was.

My lone hologram from Series 1: Cosmic Spider-Man

Well, that's it for Series 1. Next time we'll revisit Series 2 and then hopefully I won't forget and we can finally take a look back at Series 3 and onward!

I hope you enjoy this trek down memory lane as much as I did.

Make Mine Marvel,
R

Friday, April 5, 2019

Memory, Blog: The Unsolved Mysteries Book Cover



Since I know you've been waiting on baited breath for this, let's get nuts and dig even deeper into my sleep-shattering fear of those junky alien TV shows from yesteryear. This next one is a doozy (do the kids still say doozy?).

I don't know where I got the gumption (do the kids still say gumption? damnit...) but one night I decided it was a great idea to try and watch an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I had an idea of what I was getting into - everyone was talking about the show - but I had no clue just how much of an effect it would have on me personally to this day.

Perhaps you can solve a mystery...

I'm still not sure how I made it through Robert Stack's introduction or the theme music (likely judicious use of hiding under the blankets), but I can still remember the content of the episode like it was yesterday. Much like with E.T. several years before, I think my pulse dropped to zero, like I was in some kind of TV-induced hibernation. I stared at the set in rapt fear.

Although I was initially creeped out, it wasn't until Robert Stack presented the story of Bob Matthews that things really went south. Matthews was in the United States Air Force and in 1966, while en route to a posting in Massachusetts, was dropped off at a local market at night. He called the base for someone to come pick him up when he realized he was in the middle of nowhere. It's at this time that he claims he saw a strange ship flying through the night sky. When his ride came to get him he was totally AWOL, before calling back hours later asking where his ride was. Matthews claims that he experienced missing time and later, through hypnosis, recalled that the ship he saw in the night sky touched down outside the market and that he was abducted by the beings inside.

Trrrrrraumatized!

This story on its own was enough to raise my hackles, but it was during this clip that I was disturbed even further than seeing Elliot's squat little alien buddy with the glowy fingers (I'm not gonna drop it, ET's still creepy). As Matthews recounted his story, he spoke about finding a paperback book at a supermarket aisle by author Budd Hopkins called Missing Time. In the clip on Unsolved Mysteries the book he actually picks up is entitled Intruders. Here's a close-up:


From the moment I saw this clip my greatest fears had a new visage. Whatever creature this was on the cover of this book would haunt me for years and years to come, but also drive me to face those fears and watch any and all paranormal films and TV programs I could lock my eyeballs onto.

What's interesting is that I always considered Unsolved Mysteries to be a show about the paranormal, but as I've been re-watching it recently on Amazon Prime (I've recently discovered it's on YouTube, as well) I've realized that it rarely featured segments about the topics of aliens or UFOs, and usually with a few derisive words from Robert Stack, who seemingly didn't want to report on it at all. The show was mostly about true crime and helping people find their long-lost loved ones, with a smattering of ghost stories or aliens here and there for us weirdos.

All it took was this one episode, however, and I was forever changed. The thing is, I was bound to see the image of the "grey" alien at some point. It's ubiquitous in our culture now, much like the Bela Lugosi-inspired vampire or a bed sheet ghost. I kind of believe that no matter where I first saw it that those huge black eyes and enormous great skull would have the same affect, but it certainly didn't hurt that I saw it while watching Unsolved Mysteries in my parent's basement with no lights on that sealed the deal.

As an adult, I want to say that I'm mostly over it, but if I'm being honest grey aliens still give me the heebie-jeebies (do the kids... ah, nevermind) I remember when the found footage film The Fourth Kind came out back in 2009 I was immediately engaged and wanted to see the movie, but the only way I could bring myself to watch it alone in my apartment was in the middle of the day with all the lights on. As it turns out, it wasn't so bad, but those scenes with the owl eyes? Uuuuugh.

I'll try and summon up the courage to write another one of these soon, but from now on I don't think this will be a chronological account. I'll just jump back and forth to different shows and films on the subject. Ya know, for the whole one of you that actually reads this stuff! (Thank you by the way, you're the best!)


Cheers,
R