Fear captured at haunted house
October 31st, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Chasing the ultimate 'BOO!'

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

You're fumbling around in the dark, and unless you have the twisted pleasure of taking the lead, you may be gripping onto the person in front of you as the group makes its way from one room of horror-made-real into another. It is a haunted house attraction, or haunt, and you can feel it in your bones - just around the next corner, someone is going to jump out and squeeze a scream right out of you.

And your scream might just be the highlight of that person's night.

Welcome to the world of the haunt nerd, whose obsession is crafting the best scare he can as an actor or effects artist through homemade and professional haunted houses. Halloween is his Christmas, a season where screams are the gift that keep on giving.

There are a lot of screams to give, according to Hauntworld.com an unofficial haunted attraction industry website. The site estimates there are more than 1,400 for-profit attractions and amusement parks charging admission in America, 3,000 charity attractions and 10,000 "home haunters." Moreover, a recent study by horror site and cable network FEARnet reported that nearly 50 percent of Americans would decorate their home or yard for Halloween and that about 23 percent of people would be visiting haunted houses this season.

These facts add up to a lot of interest in scares by the public, which is no surprise. But who are the people behind the terror? Who are the haunt nerds? FULL POST

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'He doesn't like endings,' but ultimately Whovians don't mind
The TARDIS just got a little emptier.
October 4th, 2012
05:23 PM ET

'He doesn't like endings,' but ultimately Whovians don't mind

Spoiler alert: You watched Saturday night's "Doctor Who" mid-season finale, right? If you missed it, or are intending, one day, to Netflix the series and DON'T want any inkling of what happened in the episode, stop reading now. We don't divulge information that hasn't been already well-publicized. But we know even the faintest of spoilers can get you riled up like a Dalek on the trail of a sonic screwdriver. Read at your own risk.

Amy and Rory couldn't travel with The Doctor forever. Not that fans suspected they could - the Doctor's past includes many companions. But now we have to wait until the special Christmas episode, possibly beyond that, to see the next stop on the epic TARDIS hitchhike.

In Saturday’s “Doctor Who” mid-season finale, “change” and “endings” were as thick as the fog that attends the sneaky, predatory weeping angels. For a show about an alien who travels through time saving Earth and thwarting evil across the universe, the message got a bit heavy-handed at times. It was almost as if executive producer Steven Moffat was trying to prepare himself, the Doctor and the audience for the inevitable.

Even Matt Smith (the eleventh man to play the Doctor) was emphasizing that theme in an interview before last month's New York City season premiere screening.

“The show is about change,” he said. “Like Steven likes to say, it can never be predictable, it can never be cozy – It’s got to feel like it’s sort of marking new territory, I think, every season.”

But why belabor the point? This is a television show that for nearly 50 years has established the fact that the characters on the show are always coming and going - including the titular main character, the Doctor (who?) Even relatively new fans (and certainly, American fans fit that bill) of the show have gleaned that time travel is a limited engagement.

That started in 1966, when the show’s original Doctor, William Hartnell, needed to retire due to health issues. The show's producers devised a clever plan to transition to a new actor, Patrick Troughton, in the main character role.

The alien nature of the Doctor provided the fix: As a species known as a Time Lord, the Doctor can regenerate instead of dying in the traditional sense. Once regenerated, the Doctor is essentially a new person: he retains memories from his previous life but has a fresh personality.

This prevents a classic Dick York/Dick Sargent quandary where a new actor is installed and no one is supposed to notice the change. Even better, when an actor takes over the Doctor’s role, they aren’t trying to mimic their predecessor’s performance, which allows them to put a unique spin on the character all while adhering to the show’s canon.

"Doctor Who" fans, or “Whovians,” are unique among television show fandoms in that each fan can point to a favorite version of the Doctor without also having overwhelming disdain for any particular actor in the role. A popular T-shirt cheekily states, “You never forget your first Doctor,” and it’s spot-on; a Whovian’s fan identity is typically established with the first incarnation of the Time Lord (or his companion) they fall in love with. FULL POST

Comic-Con's next big thing
Sam Huntington, left, Sam Witwer, center and Meagan Rath, right, star in Syfy Channel's version of "Being Human."
August 9th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Comic-Con's next big thing

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

After writing about pop culture for a while, attending a dozen San Diego Comic-Cons and observing – as well as being a part of – fan culture, you start to notice the signs of a growing movement.

Comic-Con has always been a litmus test for pop culture's appeal. How the hordes of attending fans react to the convention's exclusive presentations often dictates a more mainstream success for comic books, TV shows, movies or collectibles. But predicting a franchise's Comic-Con pH is tricky, since there is always an intangible element to what nerds adopt or reject.

But when you're a nerd and the nerd world is your business, you start to feel like Buffalo Springfield singing, "there's something happening here ... everybody look what's going down" about tribal movements. And after this year's Comic-Con, my gut tells me such is the case with Syfy's "Being Human."

Already a favorite of dark fantasy fans, the show stars Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath as a vampire, werewolf and ghost (respectively) living together to achieve a sense of normalcy.

If a group of supernatural roommates sounds like a soapy set up, that’s because it is. What beloved ongoing story line in nerd culture isn’t? Hook ups, break ups, deaths, resurrections, addictions, arch nemeses, memory loss – not to mention occasional mutations, undead infestations and body switching; this is the stuff that fans cheer for at Comic-Con. FULL POST

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Zombies with personalities? Yes, it's happening
Look deep into the dead eyes of "R," the zombie teenage heartthrob from "Warm Bodies."
August 2nd, 2012
05:11 PM ET

Zombies with personalities? Yes, it's happening

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

A zombie invasion has been in full effect for a couple years now, with the ghouls shambling into pop-culture’s top monster spot more each day.

Just turn on your television. Aside from being the threat of AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead,” they’ve taken a bite out of non-zombie franchises with guest spots on shows like "Community," "The Simpsons" and "South Park." Not even their undead cousin, the vampire, has achieved such total immersion. Actual hard news stories are even speculating about a zombie apocalypse spurred by bath salts and occasional cannibalism.

Zombies, man, they creep me out – but that might be about to change with a major evolutionary step signaled at San Diego Comic-Con a few weeks back: Zombies With Personalities. Even though it sounds like the name for a garage rock band, Zombies With Personalities (ZWP) are members of the monster horde with names, personalities, individual behaviors, etc., emerging in a big way within pop culture. FULL POST

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'Make them ... love zombies even more'
What a packed Comic-Con panel looks like if you're a speaker.
July 31st, 2012
11:58 AM ET

'Make them ... love zombies even more'

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

If Comic-Con is "nerd Christmas," then speaking on a panel at the con feels like taking Santa’s sleigh out for a spin. I have been fortunate to speak at large cons like New York Comic Con and Dragon*Con, but San Diego is the “really big shoe” – so obviously I didn’t want to crash and burn.

When Matt Mogk, founder of the Zombie Research Society, invited me to join him and zombie intellectuals, authors and experts on the “History of the Modern Zombie” panel, nerdy giddiness overcame me. That was then immediately followed by an “Oh, crap” moment.

Sure, I’ve written and spoken quite a bit about zombies but these were dudes whose work I followed, like Max Brooks, Steven Schlozman, Scott Kenemore, Bradley Voytek and Dan Drezner. Speaking in front of a crowd didn’t freak me out and I have confidence in my knowledge. But I’m also a fan and very aware that the ZRS has legit legend George A. Romero on the Advisory Board.

So, to prep, I did what any good journalist would do: call in an expert. Actor Bruce Campbell is con royalty and if he didn’t attend San Diego, it could be considered a harbinger of doom in some nerd cultures. Instead of deep, philosophical advice about my first SDCC panel appearance, Campbell kept it simple. FULL POST

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