Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Thrills, Chills, & Spills: JB's Favorite Things: A Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

by JB
It isn’t too late… if you just follow my rules.

Christmastime can be stressful if you have any interest in playing along. Full confession: I hate Christmas. Except for Christmas music, which is something of a guilty pleasure of mine, everything else can go—the snow, the traffic, the rush of good movies released during the holidays instead of parceled out during the rest of the year, the obligations to decorate, the obligations to spend time with relatives, the obligation to be pleasant, and that baby Jesus with his self-satisfied little smirk.

And then there are the obligations to buy gifts. Boy howdy, if the time, ingenuity, and money that go into holiday gift-giving each year were re-applied somewhere else, we could cure cancer and erase the national debt.

Also, get off my lawn!

Let’s face it. If you are reading this column and you are not finished with your holiday shopping, you are probably hosed. C’mon, you heartless Scrooge—Christmas is less than a week away. If, however, you have movie-lovers on your gift list, who are often “traditionally difficult” to buy for, here are some suggestions from me to you. Many of these gifts require Amazon Prime to make Christmas delivery a reality. I am, of course, assuming that everyone within the sound of my voice is a member of Amazon Prime. If not, I am moved to tears by your tragic plight.

Also, you are probably hosed.

10) Awful Blu-Ray Gift Pack ($55)
The fine people at Arrow Video, Something Weird, and AGFA did impressive work this year re-mastering and releasing these questionable gems on Blu-ray. What is more fun as the snow flies outside than to sit by the fire and watch really bad movies with the people you love? May I humbly suggest Hershel Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast (with bonus feature Scum of the Earth), and the Ed Wood-penned Orgy of the Dead and The Violent Years? Break out the Baileys too!

NOTE: These films are not suitable for kiddies, so make sure that those little sugarplums are nestled warm in their beds before you watch and snicker.

9) 2500 Lumen Zoom-able Cree XML T6 LED 18650 Flashlight ($10.99)
The packaging’s claim that it can blind intruders is not far off. I purchased this earlier in the year during a Monster run to the local 7-11. It was an “at the register” impulse buy. (Look, if they’re going to leave shiny things near the register, I’M GOING TO BUY THEM. Don’t judge me.) This mighty little flashlight is two tons of fun. It’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum, so you can throw it at somebody and it will fly through the air. It has five modes (High Beam/Middle/Low/Strobe/SOS) so you can entertain yourself switching between the modes over and over and over—instantly transforming any place you find yourself into a crappy disco with the “strobe” mode, then switching into “high beam” mode, turning the flashlight to face you, and temporarily blinding yourself to the constant horrors surrounding us. This has a thousand and one uses. Highly recommended.

BONUS: Bring this baby to the movies and when some doofus uses the flashlight on his @$%*&%! phone to light the way to his seat after the movie has started, shine this beacon of hope into his eyes. Give him a taste of his own medicine! Be the light you DON’T want to see in the world. #xmasrevenge

8) Real Popcorn Machine ($160.99)
Air-popped popcorn is an abomination. It tastes like drywall insulation. Microwave popcorn, while convenient, is not much better. Proper popcorn is only made using oil and flame, my friends, just like the cavemen used to do it. Granted, this baby is a tad pricey, but please note it features an 8-ounce kettle, not the laughable 2.5-ounce kettle of other, “toy-like” popcorn machines.

Once you have this mighty treat Goliath, you can then search the internet for the tropical oils that made popcorn the religious experience it once was… until the people at Science in the Public Interest raised questions about “health risks” and “calories” and “bad cholesterol” and “sudden heart attacks,” and all the movie theaters switched to canola oil. Bleccccccch.

Oh, here it is! Ever eaten popcorn cooked in palm kernel or coconut oil? No? Well, it is a taste delight. Bonus—it says here that you can also use the coconut oil to make your own soap! Decide now; would you rather have thirty more years of life, eating Styrofoam packing peanuts or ten more years of life, eating this movie-time manna from heaven?

I thought so.

For an extra treat, may I suggest you try Himalayan pink salt? It’s delicious on popcorn. Trust me.

7) BFI Monographs (Between $10 and $15)
Speaking of popcorn, these digest-sized film books are hard to put down once you start eating them. (DO NOT EAT THEM.) I have written about these wonderful monographs at length in the past. Why not start with Peter Kramer’s delightful exploration of Buster Keaton’s masterpiece, The General, and then “choose your own adventure” from there? You will not be sorry. Some of the BFI books are available for the Kindle platform, so INSTANT GIFT… assuming your loved one actually owns a Kindle or has downloaded the free Kindle app onto any mobile device.

6) A Bowl Full of Starbursts (Price varies, depending on quality of bowl and quantity of candy)
1. Procure a bowl
2. Fill with Starbursts
3. Who doesn’t like Starbursts?
4. Can you use leftover Starbursts from Halloween? Yes. Yes you can.

5) Creepy Co Surprise Candles ($14.99)
Creepy Co, a local company I love, has the exclusive rights to merchandise using the art of the beloved Beistle Company, which made delightful paper Halloween decorations for decades. One of the most fun items is this candle, featuring vintage “Candle Ghost” art and candy corn-scented wax. Plus, as a bonus, a randomly chosen enamel pin is hidden in the wax… and reveals itself as the candle burns down. This is my definition of fun. NOTE: The Spiced Pumpkin candle is sold out.

4) Hand-Made Coupon for a Free Backrub During a Movie! ($0)
Don’t knock it until you have tried it.

3) This Damn Thing. (Free)
What was I thinking? Come by the house and this ape is yours.

2) Movie Candy (Any Walgreens or CVS, Price varies.)
Movie candy is cheap and plentiful and everybody loves it and it is widely available. Just put a bow on it! Don’t overthink things. May I suggest that you pair this one with my “Awful Blu-Ray Gift Pack” suggestion above?

1) Heather Wixson’s New Book, The Monster Squad ($28/$38)
This may be my favorite film book of the year. Not only did Heather sit down with the giants of practical effects (John Dykstra, John Goodwin, Phil Tippet, and Tom Woodruff, to name a few) but she asked them the questions that all of us monster fans would have asked if given the opportunity. Then, she goes above and beyond by asking them the questions that we would NEVER dream of asking. Then (and all writers here will appreciate this) she writes the resulting book as a narrative instead of a plain old Q & A. Outstanding.

Now I’m going to take my bowl of Starbursts and go finish Heather’s book. Have your selves a Merry Little Christmas, F-Heads!


  1. The transfer of the Orgy of the Dead Blu-ray looks great.

    I don't know... Orgy could become an interesting Holiday tradition. Put it on after watching A Christmas Story for the third time in a day?

    A bowl of candy, for me, would be a nice gift. Just not Starbursts. Maybe some Reese's peanut butter cups. Movie candy is cheap and is frequently on sale, too.

    Don't let Christmas drive you too crazy, J.B.

  2. I should show this to my family, for gift ideas

  3. I laughed way too hard at the aircraft-grade aluminum flashlight joke - the whole flashlight bit actually - clearly the season is getting to me. Wish you were my Secret Santa, JB, some great ideas here!

  4. I'm confused... how can this bowl of starbursts be constructed?? ;)

  5. My parents got me and my brother flashlights for Christmas once and said they were lightsabres. It works if you're in total darkness. This one sounds like I might be able to pull the same trick with my nephew, although kids might be smarter these days.

  6. Thanks for the tip on the BFI books, they look awesome. I got a few for my dad (and 1 for me).