Formerly known as “the Ghost Bros”, now as dubbed by April Sanchez, we are the Haunted Hangouts Crew and we’re back to tell you about the horror movies that made us. Get ready for this Halloween season and every Halloween season with us, as we explore what good and inspiring horror writing is to us.
When we’re not delving into things like Ghost Adventures, the GA Goldfield Hotel Special or the Haunted Museum horror anthology (a collaboration of Zak Bagans and Eli Roth) or even the Haunted Museum x Halloween Wars competition series online together, we’re looking at life from the spookier side of things from all kinds of angles. Check out this link for some background about our group.
Get ready for some tales of our ghostly in-real-life visits in two great American cities of the Wild West. We can't wait for all nine of us to be in the same place at the same time one day.
We finally got to hang out in person in Los Angeles when one of our own came to Hollywood from Austin, Texas. Our LA-based crew members (Lisa Jay, Cheryl Puente, Melissa Turkington, and I) met up with April Sanchez in Downtown Los Angeles at the Biltmore Millenium Hotel - the location of the last possible sighting of the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) alive before she was murdered. The killer was never apprehended. We got confirmation of a ghost from one of the hotel’s longtime employees. Jesus C. has worked at the Biltmore for twenty years and saw the spirit of a little girl in all white in the Biltmore Bowl Room not too long ago. The museum’s grand opening was October 2, 1923- almost a hundred years back. We continue onto the Cecil Hotel (a site of all kinds of peculiar occurrences at a Ghost Adventures special investigation). It looks like they’re re-doing it. We saw people move in lampshades and other things. It sounds like there’s work being done there too...
I also took one for the team and entered the Haunted Museum in Las Vegas to check it out in person and get "into the zone" for the Halloween season. For me, it wasn’t that scary (on account of me being so intrepid and all), but some of the stuff is fairly creepy- like recreations of Ed Gein’s farm with his cauldron he used to dismember/cook people in the middle of it. I learned that “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian composed flute music and was also a skilled painter. I was in one area where the staff said there was a shadow figure spotted by Aaron Goodwin, the EMF reader did fluctuate just a tiny bit when I was present.
An “evil doll” named Peggy said something to our tour guide. Our guide instructed us to greet Peggy ala “Hi, Peggy” and also to close the circle by saying “Bye, Peggy” so she wouldn’t follow us. The guide then said, “have a good day, Peggy” and the spirit box in the room responded, “I try”. Peggy can be seen on an episode of Ghost Adventures: Deadly Possessions.
There are a lot of cool historical things in there - like Wyatt Earp’s bible and Bela Lugosi’s mirror. There’s tons and tons to see. We were gifted “RIP” aka “VIP” tickets and got to go to some special rooms. Thanks, Zak!
The giant black cat at our rental wears one of our RIP badges.
My boyfriend and I met Angry Joe, a museum caretaker and greeter, long-time friend of Zak Bagans and of actor Nicolas Cage. When Joe took a photo of us in front of a photo of Cage, there is a mist-like anomaly on the upper left of the picture, or it could be Joe’s finger. We’ll never know unless the Ghost Adventures team inspects this digital photo for us and comes to a decision.
Did any ghosts or spirits follow us home from there? We may never know for sure, but a few odd things did happen at the place we rented and a fun thing happened at a notoriously haunted bar. More on that in a bit.
We also saw two evil-looking cars owned by Zak Bagans, a tricked-out Bonneville and a SS with some pretty fun Nevada license plates.
Las Vegas is a haunted town. The single family mid-century-seventies home we rented in the Paradise/Winchester neighborhood a couple of miles from the Strip had some interesting activities. One night we came home and one of the bedroom televisions had turned itself on. One afternoon, there was a rap-a-tap-tap at the door and when we looked- there was no one there. There’s a set of French doors to a storage area that was locked that one day opened itself...
The Golden Tiki, as seen on one episode of Ghost Adventures is also haunted. I saw this with my own eyes. A straw in a cocktail twirled by itself- it did a 360-degree counterclockwise swirl. So, hi to the spirits there. It’s a really cool spot with lots to look at - including a “shrunken head” of Nicolas Cage, one of Tim Burton and other celebs.
We, the Haunted Hangouts Crew, have more adventures planned for the future that we’ll carry out. Stay tuned to this space to find out more and to read further installments about our Haunted Hangouts. See our previous story about our start of #GhostAdventuresLiveTweet here.
The first horror movie I remember seeing was The Lost Boys in First Grade. I immediately loved it, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the film that sparked my obsession for all things vampires. And the heroes were all kids, too. Older than me of course, but still. The heroes were kids who faced this horror that the adults wouldn't believe. Plus, Sam (good name) and the Frog brothers were comic book-loving nerds, which really spoke to me. I feel like the movie was about a family trying to find their place in a new community. The not fitting in part was just as scary as any of the vampire gore, and I could really relate to that. A lot of the horror in my stories play on whatever real-life turmoil that plagues my characters. Later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's use of monsters as a metaphor really brought this home for me, but I think it was The Lost Boys that originally ingrained that in my mind. Also, The Lost Boys features who is probably the greatest cinematic saxophone player of all time.
Another horror movie that influenced me is Shaun of the Dead. One of the things that I love about The Lost Boys is its humor and camp. The movie doesn't shy away from fun. Even the very bloody deaths of the vampires are really entertaining, because of how over the top they are. And that's what I love so much about Shaun of the Dead. I love to play with different genres and this film does such an excellent job at being both a horror movie and a rom com. The film stays true to both genres so well. It's both horrifying and gruesome with the zombie stuff and hilarious with the comedy. And the characters are so relatable and authentic to the situations they are in. I love writing all sorts of horror, but my favorite is definitely when I get to marry horror and comedy. Shaun of the Dead is the gold standard for me, and I think about it all the time when I sit down to write. Also, I would just really love to go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and write some horror.
April M. Sanchez
I have several horror films that I could classify as a “favorite” but I want to tell you about the one that inspired me as a screenwriter and filmmaker. One of my favorite horror movies of all time is Evil Dead 2. My love for it has evolved over time from something that I simply watched for entertainment to something I watch for inspiration.
I remember seeing the poster for Evil Dead 2 at a movie theater near my home; I was captivated by the skull with the eyeballs staring at me and just knew I had to see this movie. Unfortunately, I was a little kid and there was no way any responsible adult would let me see this movie. However, I had a friend whose parents were divorced, and her mom would get her anything out of some sort of divorce guilt. This guilt-gift giving included renting us horror movies and R-rated stuff. I would convince her to have her mom rent all of the stuff my mom wouldn’t let me watch, including Evil Dead 2 (1987). I loved how it was not only creepy, but also wonderfully campy. This movie is so much fun.
Many years later I came across the book “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B movie actor” by Bruce Campbell, the star of the Evil Dead trilogy. I absolutely love this book and highly I recommend it! It is funny and insightful. Campbell recalls how he, Sam Raimi, and the rest of the team filmed the first Evil Dead and then how they went back and filmed the Evil Dead 2 (and goes into some detail on Army of Darkness as well). Campbell discusses how they pulled off some of the shots that would come to define a Sam Raimi film. This book turned out to be a great guide for an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker such as myself.
After reading Campbell’s book, I revisited Evil Dead 2 several times and came to appreciate it even more. I like to add some humor to my horror scripts, and I know I get that inspiration to do so from this film. I like to watch it every now and again for inspiration and it is still a favorite of mine to this very day.
My favorite horror movie will always be The Shining. I’ve probably seen it more than any other film and decades later, it still scares me. I grew up in a house with a demon, elemental, or entity of some kind, so it hits close to home. I love the levels of terror it induces: the fact that it’s a story about abuse and possibly isn’t about a supernatural occurrence at all. I love that there are so many ways to dissect it and it’s dependent on the way you choose to look at it. I always strive for that in my stories. If people read my work and then ask me, “but what does it mean?” I’m pleased. I want to make films that linger in your mind long after you leave the theater.
I’m prepping a couple of shorts to direct hopefully this spring, and also writing my next feature. It’s a low-budget horror set where I grew up - the Midwest. It’s about ambition, guilt, calling up demons, and witches hiding in plain sight in a small farming town.
I was traumatized by watching Critters, Candyman and Gremlins back to back at a party when I was very young. I swore off lots of monsters, blood and gore after that. Anything Stephen King or with abductions makes me squirm and check behind my doors, too. I don’t think I truly appreciated horror films again until watching Scream years later, when the cultural references and humor helped to downplay all the bloody killing. But I do love the supernatural; the unknown is quite scary on its own.
My favorite for that reason is The Mothman Prophecies. The Mothman Prophecies is a cult classic in my eyes because it really made me look into the history of that reappearing spirit entity—anything that educates you on the wide abyss and what lurks on the other side is so intriguing to me! When that phone rings, like a good Hitchcock “bomb under the table” aspect you’re expecting as an audience, I still jump every time I watch it! Absolutely brilliant framing of the film in relation to history, personal loss and public tragedies that could easily happen at any time for all of us in today’s news-centric, cacophonous world.
My introduction to horror was courtesy of the schlocky B-movies from the aisles of our local West Coast Video. My mother would rent the newest comedies in stock, and my dad would pick up a few cheesy horror films. I’d watch everything they brought home, but I especially loved spending a Saturday afternoon watching movies with Dad. I barely remember their names today, but I’m certain Troll and Troll 2 were in there, along with more classic 80s horror films like The Monster Squad and Tremors. One film I remember vividly was Chopping Mall, an over-the-top excuse to produce a movie around a bad pun. It was about killer robots acting as security guards in a shopping mall, lasering teens to death for trespassing. Violent and ridiculous, it nevertheless left me with an enduring complex about robots. I still cower and run through the aisles to avoid the robot that cleans up spilled soup cans at my local grocery store.
Along with all these B-grade horror films, my absolute favorite show to watch with my dad was Mystery Science Theater 3000. Humor is a powerful tool for diffusing fear, though the films they featured were hardly scary. It granted me permission when I was young to question bad art, or to at least take life a little less seriously.
When I write I try to see the joke hiding underneath even the grimmest of stories. Recently I wrote a short essay about a near-plane crash I was involved in, and I concluded that the worst part of that flight was trying to read through some tedious and overlong writings from J.R.R. Tolkien (endlessly repeating plot points, usually set to song). Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn’t some profound cultural touchstone, but I understood the joke, and I hope I can turn my bad days into someone else’s comedies.
I don't write genre, so feel free to omit me from this one, but I think the first horror movie that influenced my writing was probably The Exorcist. To this day, my dad talks about being exposed to that movie too young and the psychological impact it had on him. It's part of what made that movie so scary--the dread of knowing "this thing still haunts my parents". It's a very quiet movie, and that's what I love about it.
The writing and the cinematography are both masterful and create this terribly claustrophobic, uncanny atmosphere that still holds up. It's always someone alone (I mean, Roizman with that window shot, my goodness.) or it's two people crammed in a tiny room, trying to confront their literal and figurative demons. It's all about telling a simple story with complex characters and I learned a lot from that.
The two horror movies that influenced my writing would have to be The Exorcist and Poltergeist. I saw The Exorcist when I was probably six or seven years old, while visiting my grandmother. She had an old floor TV in her bedroom, I was sharing a bed with her that night, which was probably for the best because I had no business watching such a scary movie at that age. She slept with the television on, so I believe it was a movie that just happened to come on.
I remember being more fascinated than scared while watching it. Probably because my grandmother was sleeping right beside me, and I knew she wouldn’t let anything like the big bad devil in that movie get me. I remember wanting to know how they did the special effects. Did the actress do her own stunts?
It wasn’t until I saw Poltergeist that my creative juices got flowing. When Carol Anne got pulled into the other side, I felt like we got duped. Why didn’t they show us all the things and people she ran into over there? I remember writing in my journal a couple scenes where she ran into her dead grandparents, but they weren’t her grandparents, it was the evil thing that was holding her there.
As a writer, I’ve found the horror genre a place where you can throw everything and the kitchen sink. There can be comedy, there can be an emotional rollercoaster, happiness, joy then despair, to outright terror.
I’m highly influenced by watching scary movies as a kid. My parents would let me watch certain ones and they would buy Stephen King books for me that I chose -- books with lots of pages that would keep me busy for a while. In the summers when school was out, my neighbor Melissa Smith and I would watch all of her parents’ horror movie VHS tapes when all of our parents were at work. We’d watch the Friday the 13th and Halloween - you know, the classics.
I grew up watching The Exorcist. Seems like my folks would watch it every year and I’d hide under the covers on the couch. My parents had the book on a big full book shelf in our laundry room. The cover is CREEPY! That book was not out where others could see it. I also grew up not too far from where the actual events that inspired the movie happened- in Maryland and filming locations of the movie in Washington, DC. Heck, where I grew up in Maryland (completely surrounded by woods, farms, The Amish, swamps, and all kinds of folklore - where there are more deer than people) is also linked to The Blair Witch stuff.
There are a couple of other stand-outs in horror for me. I love Bubba Ho Tep. The Southern setting and the attitudes of the two old guys cracks me up. It made me aware that “horror-comedy” is possible. Jennifer’s Body is more influential than I give it credit for. I’m pretty sure it got into my brain for my latest horror feature - WELL- about how womxn are very complex creatures. My tagline is “girls aren’t really pumpkin spice and everything nice” - and then I show why…
Like Sam, I also am really into Lost Boys. I had the poster for the movie in my living room in Los Angeles. The phrase “death by stereo” has always stuck with me. I’ve been a Frog Brother for Halloween before!
Before I wrote horror screenplays, I wrote rom-coms and other more “cutesy” things. As time went on, the horror bug bit harder and turned me from a fan to a creator of the genre and now that’s mostly what I’ve been writing for the last couple years! I decided to start recording my constant observations on the worlds of spookiness that surround me - into one place: Spooky Spaces where I talk about horror movies and other various related things.
We’ll be back here next time for more spooky holiday fun in December!
What horror movies have had the most influence on your life?
Which ones are you loving recently?