Halloween

Five great horror soundtracks to play this Halloween

It’s finally Halloween! The greatest night of the year. We’ll wake up tomorrow to a world of Christmas music, but for tonight: the world is ours, horror fans!

I love a good horror movie soundtrack any time, but I’ve chosen five of my favourites to listen to tonight. Don’t (or do) listen to them alone tonight. But be sure to lock the doors.

1. Deep Red (Profondo rosso) by Goblin and Giorgio Gaslini

Goblin’s soundtrack for Suspiria typically gets more love. I get it, it’s one hell of a soundtrack (and my personal top five). But there’s something very interesting and exciting about Profondo rosso. This giallo’s score switches seamlessly between Goblin’s progressive sounds, to the incredibly creeping singing of a child, to Gaslini’s more traditional pieces. Even if you just seek out the title track, it’s worth it. But “Mad Puppet” is really the jewel in the crown here. It’s a bit funky, like if you feeling a bit cool before you’re about to die.

2. Halloween (2018) by John and Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies

Including this just because you’ve probably listened to the original once or twice already. This is an updated take on Carpenter’s soundtrack from the 1978 original, and it feels a lot more industrial because of it. Come for the familiarity, stay for the excellence.

3. City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi aka Fear in the Town of the Living Dead)by Fabio Frizzi

Ominous and foreboding, this is Frizzi at his finest. City of the Dead is surreal and shocking (like most of Lucio Fulci’s work), but Frizzi has always complimented his vision well. It might not be your favourite movie, but the soundtrack is always glorious.

4. It Follows by Disasterpiece

Easily the most unsettling on this list. While It Follows is already a few years old now, its soundtrack still sounds like the future of horror. You can find its 80s synth inspirations everywhere now. While there are lighter moments (“Jay”, “Detroit”), much of the soundtrack builds to painful stretches of suspense (“Heels”). I can’t listen to “Inquiry” without getting goosebumps. Sure, it’s just music, but are you sure there’s nothing following you?

5. Carnival of Souls by Gene Moore

Want to remember those fond feelings of being terrified in church? Well, look no further than this eerie organ-based soundtrack by Gene Moore. The music immediately invokes the feelings of loneliness and desperation Mary feels throughout her journey. Definitely not one great to play at parties. This was movie made on a shoestring budget, but somehow the soundtrack (and the movie) defied all of that to create something really special.


What will you be listening tonight? Sticking to “The Monster Mash”? Probably for the best…if you want to sleep tonight.

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Wicked Wednesday: Mausoleum (1983)

 

After all the bullshit that happened State-side these past few weeks, I really wanted to watch a horror film with a badass lady. So I put in a lot of research and did my readying. I had everything all picked out, but what did I do?

Abandon everything last minute because I couldn’t be bothered to pay £2 to watch the film.

Instead I watched Mausoleum. A film that lacks in mausoleum screentime, and is a serious mess.

The film revolves around Susan, a girl whose mother died when she was only 10. After the burial, Susan runs away from her Aunt Cora, and sees a mausoleum with a bit of dancing smoke in front of it. The young girl enters the building and becomes possessed as she approaches a coffin with the name “NOMAD” over it.

Twenty years later, Susan is a grown woman with a husband. She seemingly has a great life, but her aunt remains skeptical. Cora reaches out to a psychiatrist, Dr Simon (Norman Burton doing his best Dr Loomis). She gives him a family history that is contained in her father’s diary, then blabs about a demon. But Dr Simon insists that nothing is wrong with Susan, whom he has known her whole life.

But of course there is something wrong with Susan (note: this would be a much better title). She’s possessed by a demon. As the first born girl, she was destined to become a demon’s puppet.

To put things simply, Susan spends most of the movie getting her tits out then killing men by setting them on fire or blowing up their heads. There’s a super irrelevant series of scenes about some weird painting that she steals. She even tears poor Aunt Cora in half.

Susan’s husband Oliver is really stupid. He panics every time his wife does something. Oh my wife is sitting in a rocking chair! Let’s not talk to her – CALL THE DOCTOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT!

After being dragged into the mess, Dr Simon begins researching and reads up on the Nomad family history. He calls in a friend who insists that Susan is possessed. She somehow knows that the only way to break the curse is to put the “crown of thorns” onto Susan’s head.

He succeeds with little effort. Then drags Susan to the mausoleum to put the crown onto the demon’s head? Again? I don’t know. It didn’t really make any sense to me. I think there was even meant to be a twist ending. The gardener she killed is actually a man who is meant to look over the mausoleum? Fuck if I should know.

Mausoleum wasn’t the so-bad-it’s-good kind of fun I was hoping for. That acting is pretty terrible (that poor actress playing Susan). The plot doesn’t make much sense. It’s mostly an excuse to make an actress strip so she can kill people.

Either way, I think there is a lesson to be learned in this: if you put all the hard work into something, you should probably fucking follow through with it. When you take the easy (ie free) way out, you’re stuck watching this.

Wicked Wednesday: The Haunting of Hill House ep. 1 (2018) at the Welsh Chapel

I rarely win things in life. I once won a Princess Diana Beanie Baby in a school raffle, and I was pretty chuffed because I knew it was going to be worth a fortune one day (still waiting on that to happen).

But when I received the email saying I’d won entry for two to an exclusive screening of The Haunting of Hill House, I knew this was a step up from purple bears filled with beans. Plus it took place in the fabulous and freaky Welsh Chapel.

So Husband and I attended a fabulous event last night hosted by Netflix, including a Q&A with the new show’s cast. Turns out Netflix throws one hell of a bash. There was even a supposed ‘set recreation’ that you could wander about, but it was really a ploy to have an actor jump out at you.

And for someone who loves horror movies so much, I’m a massive baby. So having someone jump out at me didn’t exactly bring out the, er, gracefulness in me.

While it was pretty easy to be dazzled by the free cocktails and canapes, the screening of episode one was the highlight of the night. I have to admit, the trailer for the show is pretty underwhelming and slightly confusing. But I can confirm, this skeptic is completely converted after watching episode one.

Even my husband (who enjoyed Wise’s version 0%, and thought we were watching a remake of Burnt Offerings) liked enough to ask when we could watch the next episode.

For those familiar with the Shirley Jackson’s world of Hill House, the TV series revolves around the Crain family. In Jackson’s book, the group are supposedly haunted by the Crains, some of who met tragic ends in Hill House.

In Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, the Crains have five children, all of whom deal with the trauma of their childhood in different ways. The show flits between modern day and decades before when they were all children in Hill House. It’s clear from

the first episode that the mystery will revolve around Mrs Crain and her supposed suicide.

There are a lot of nice touches for those who love the book and the original 1963 adaption (keep an eye out for the iconic spiral staircase).

In the Q&A, actors Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen joined the stage. They only could hint at some of the terror to come, but it all sounded promising. They even had a few cute stories to share about the child actors in the show. Turns out five-year-olds can be great actors, but not-so-great at being patient.

Now, sure, I may have been persuaded by the champagne and funny ghost photobooth, but I feel pretty confident in saying that The Haunting of Hill House is destined to be great. If you love family drama mixed with talking corpses and ghosts, we’re both in for a treat.

All episodes will be available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

 

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My most anticipated things this Autumn

Helloooo, autumn!

Today is the autumnal equinox, which means I woke up to rain and cloudy skies. In both Britain and the States, I love this season. Wisconsin is my preferred between the two, because there is more crunchy leaves and happier people. But nevertheless, this time of the year is absolute magic. And I mean ‘magic’ in both a figurative and literal sense.

This is still a time of year that feel more like renewal than death. And most importantly, this is the time of the year that I get to be queen. Horror movies become socially acceptable again. Spooky TV shows come out. Other people start talking about Halloween. It’s all happening.

But there’s plenty of amazing things coming up this autumn. These are just the handful I’m looking forward to most:

1. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is by far the best horror comic to come out of the Archie Horror imprint. It is absolutely brutal, and SO much fun. When this show was announced, I was infinitely more excited than the news about Riverdale. Sabrina was always my favourite Archie character as a kid (I grew up at the height of the MJH and cartoon era), and I’m excited to see another, darker version of her.

This Netflix adaptation looks fabulously cast and seems to have encapsulated the feeling of Robert Hack’s art work. This take on the classic teenage witch promises to be dark and (hopefully) terrifying. Bring it on, Salem!

Available for streaming on October 26th.

2. Halloween (2018)

Sure, everyone is sick of remakes and sequels (see numbers one and three on this list). But this latest addition to the Halloween franchise looks genuinely good. It looks like a lot of love and care went into making it, which already sets it apart from many of the other installments in the franchise. This Jamie Lee Curtis film will actually be a direct sequel to only the first film, which means it will disregard the other films. This probably angers a lot of fans, but I think it’s certainly more interesting than any other direction they could have chosen.

Plus Carpenter is doing the score, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.

In cinemas in the US and UK on October 19th.

3. The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix

Admittedly, after watching the first trailer for this show, I’m significantly less excited for this one. I was hoping for a more detailed, intricate adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, but instead this looks like…well, I’m not sure what it is. The trailer bares zero resemblance to anything about the book. Though I guess I had to expect some major changes if they were going to expand a 250 page novel into 10 episodes of television.

But Netflix and Mike Flanagan have worked well in the past before, so there’s plenty to be positive about. This will be the third adaption of Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel. While I love the Robert Wise adaption, I’ve always loved the book more and was really looking forward to a contemporary take on the work. So hopes up and fingers crossed.

Available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

4. Reading all the books

I’m naturally a slow reader, but I like to over-stuff my TBR every autumn. It’s wishful thinking to imagine that I’ll read everything I want to this season, but I will try. This month, the paperback version of Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic was released in the UK. I’m currently devouring it and crying over some of the best magical realism I’ve ever read.

Also, I do love to reread a childhood favourite of mine, Gooseberry Park. While technically set in early Spring, this book is so cozy, it always screamed autumn to me. My copy has been through a lot, so each read is nearing the book’s last.

5. Two Evil Eyes (Due occhi diabolicion Blu-Ray from 88 Films

This British film distributor KILLED IT with their release of Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball (Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro). 88 Films are easily one of my favourite companies, so I was overjoyed when they announced a Blu-ray release of this 1990 film directed by my two favourites, George Romero and Dario Argento. They’re sure to do great things with this release.

You can pre-order now from 88 Films’ website for a release date of October 15th.

6. Horroctober at the Prince Charles Cinema

The PCC is my home away from home. They take 50% of my paycheck every month (sadly, that’s not much of an exaggeration). Each October, the cinema curates a fabulous selection of Halloween and horror movies to show. Horroctober pretty much offers something for everyone, so guard your wallets wisely.


What are you looking forward most to this season? Thanksgiving? Christmas nearing so you can start playing Mariah Carey?

Treasure these few months because it will be 2019 before you know it, and we’ll be entering the bleakest part of the year. Cheery thoughts, ya’ll!

Wicked Wednesday: The Night Dracula Saved the World (1979)

I caved into Halloween mania early this year. I say ‘early’ but really, Halloween season always begins on August 1st. But around the Brits I have to pretend to be sensible when really my whole house is decked out.

It’s been a super manic week, so watching something like The Night That Dracula Saved the World was exactly what I needed.

The made-for TV short film originally aired on ABC as The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t. It’s a much-more apt name than the VHS title, but a name will sell anything these days, right?

The story is a strange mash-up of everything you’d find at a cheesy Halloween party and a lesson about the origins of the holiday. Dracula has called a conference at his castle in Transylvania with all the other monsters. Before they arrive, he and Igor watch the news together, in which a newscaster claims that Dracula wants to end Halloween.

Dracula is offended (“Halloween is my national holiday!”), but he allows the conference to go forward anyway. When all of the guests arrive, they learn that Dracula called them together to warn them that they are no longer scary to children.

The other guests seem pretty offended, but the Witch reveals she simply doesn’t give a crap. She announces to the group that she quits, and will be refusing to fly across the moon on Halloween night – the action that sets off Halloween (apparently). She tells the others that she’s tired of the ugly girl jokes, and she really just wanted to be the leader of the monsters.

Dracula refuses, and the witch flies off to her home. Dracula and the other monsters follow her the next night, and break in believing she doesn’t have any magic.

But she’s a witch, so of course the lady has magic. She sends the others running in circles before locking herself safely in her room. Dracula tries to reason with her, offering to agree to her conditions: her face will be on the monster posters, she’ll have shared leadership of the monsters, and to go disco dancing every night.

Dracula agrees, but the Witch immediately redacts her agreement to fly over the moon. But when a pair of local children arrive, they tug at her heartstrings, reminding her of the true meaning behind Halloween: candy and costumes.

The Witch agrees to the children’s pleas and flies over the moon to mark the start of Halloween. Afterwards, the monsters all have a disco. And why? Because this short is clearly insane.

The Night Dracula Saved the World is a really cute piece of nostalgia. The costumes are a bit hokey, as if they were bought from a costume shop, but it’s all really sweet, weirdly. It’s apparently a holiday staple for a lot of kids who watched it on the original ABC run and later on the Disney Channel during the 80s and early 90s. And I can see why, the random-ass disco in the end might be my favourite thing I’ve ever seen in a Halloween movie.

This is the perfect little 25-minute movie to put anyone in the Halloween spirit. Watch it, disco, and keep on thinkin’.

Horror movies to watch for the Halloween season

Only the uncivilised believe that any horror movie is appropriate for Halloween. Who watches Friday the 13th at this time of the year? These people are amateurs.

But seriously, we can’t consider every movie with snow a Christmas movie, so why make exception for Halloween? I’ve collected some of my favourite movies to watch at this time of the year. Some are on-the-nose, yes, but I like to think they best celebrate what this time of the season really feels likes.

I personally like to enjoy classics of the genre, but that isn’t to say there aren’t others worth mentioning. My list isn’t the most inspired, but sometimes it’s worth just revisiting the traditions. So whether you watch horror movies all year round, or just this week – maybe you’ll find something here:

1. Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s classic should be a staple for everyone’s Halloween. Growing up, I was constantly renting this movie from the rental shop. But it wasn’t until I watched it on the full screen at the Prince Charles Cinema in London that I realised how truly incredible this movie is.

Rent it, watch it, continue the tradition. But if you have the opportunity to see this in a cinema, you absolutely need to.

2.  Night of the Demons (1988)

On the surface, this movie looks like pretty standard fair: kids go into haunted house on Halloween, kids become possessed, kids die. But Night of the Demons is so much more than an average slasher film. Like many of the late-80s slashers, there’s a lot of style influence from the American hardcore scene (see number 5 on the list). It’s ascetic and memorable characters (including great performances from Amelia Kinkade and Linnea Quigley) make this a slasher a head above the rest.

This is one of the few films that I actually enjoy the sequel to (actually, any 90’s horror movie with Christine Taylor is a win), so I also will throw that one in as a bonus rec.

3. House of the Devil (2009)

This Ti West-directed beauty is more than just a nostalgia trip. While the film looks and feels very much like an early 80’s thriller, it offers a much more contemporary take. The tale is of a young woman who agrees to a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse. Only the job isn’t so average, instead of a unruly group of kids, it’s to watch an elderly woman. It’s certainly a slow burn, but West does an incredible job at building suspense.

Also, arguably the best use of The Fixx in any movie.

4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

It’s fabulous, stylish and just everything a gothic stunner needs to be. Bride of Frankenstein picks up precisely where Mary Shelly’s original tale ended. This is Universal Horror at it’s height.

Arguably, any of the Universal Monster Movies is perfect for Halloween, but the story of Frankenstein and his monster is very special. And Bride of Frankenstein might actually be better than the original. Elsa Lanchester’s Bride character doesn’t come to life until towards the end, but she’s so iconic, you’d think the movie is about her.

And as always, anything where Boris Karloff is the monster is necessary viewing for Halloween.

5. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Like Night of the Demons, this Dan O’Bannon-helmed zombie movie is full of style and Linnea Quigley’s boobs. It has a fantastic soundrack, talking zombies (well, they can say “brains”), and the fabulous Don Calfa. The story isn’t exactly inspired, but it’s done in such a way that everything feels fresh. It’s enough to inspire your own picnic in a graveyard.

If not this one, just go with the classic Night of the Living Dead. That one never gets old.

6. Mad Monster Party? (1967)

I only watched this stop-motion animation movie for the first time back in September, but it made such an impression I feel compelled to share this strange, zany film. Sure, it is terribly dated, but how many animated movies really stand the test of time.

Answer: Charlie Brown.

But this little Rankin/Bass movie (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) is a literal monster mash of characters. It’s corny, yes, but anything that is willing to use King Kong alongside Dracula is going to be.

7. The Haunted Castle aka The Devil’s Castle (Le Manoir du diable) (1896)

My first proper introduction to Georges Méliès was in a media studies class at university. Our professor was completely enamored with the magic that the French director was able to create on film. And that affection was infectious. I’ve loved Méliès work ever since.

Many of his films contain sinister undertones, but none quite like Le Manoir du diable. Two men encounter Mephistopheles’ castle, which is haunted by bats, skeletons and spectres. It’s only three minutes, but this black-and-white silent film manages to create some seriously chilling imagery. Completely astounding for something created in 1896.

This is often considered the first horror film ever made. So if you haven’t seen it, be sure to treat yourself to a viewing.

8. The Omen (1976)

The 70’s was a truly golden era of horror cinema, especially the kind interested in religion, demons and Christianity. The Omen is often paired with the slightly-superior The Exorcist, and arguably, both of these films could make the list. But the first time I watched The Exorcist I was in a farmhouse in July – so I’ve ruled it out. But The Omen is about an adopted child that ends up being the Antichrist. Can it get more seasonal than that?

Just watch the graveyard scene.

9. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story, this is a dark and brooding tale of lose and obsession. It’s certainly the most harrowing movie on this list, but it’s also the most stunning. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a couple of parents who leave for Venice after the accidental drowning of their daughter. But they don’t find the escape that they desire in Italy. Sutherland’s character begins to see visions, which includes a lot of red rain coats.

Don’t Look Now is filled with cold, dark places perfect for the short, dark days. It’s also terrifying.

10. Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night is everything I love about 80’s movies: it’s a bit wacky, the main character is a lovable goof, THE MONSTERS ARE REAL, KIDS, and there are a lot of great, memorable lines! It’s like Goonies meets Lost Boys meets Monster Squad with a bit more thrills. Oh, and a lot of great lines.

When Charley realises that his next-door neighbour is a blood-sucking fiend, he sets out with a motley group of friends to get rid of him. It’s a comedy of errors, but one that includes a late-night horror TV show host. The idea of horror movie actors helping you destroy a servant of darkness has to be a dream for most horror fans.

There is also a documentary available on Shudder called You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, which I will need to watch…as soon as I make it through this list again.

Favourite reads for the Halloween season

October, kids. It’s OUR season. The season where we can wear our pumpkin dresses without glares, be incredibly morbid and just be called “festive”, and pretend to be one of those “seasonal readers”.

So maybe it’s just me. But I’m getting into the spirit of things here.

I have to admit, I don’t read much horror or thriller novels in October. Shock, horror, but summer is typically when I gorge myself on trashy books where characters meet their grime demises. I don’t only watch horror movies in the autumn, so why save reading certain books just for October?

That being said, there are certain books which feel a bit more seasonal than the average book. These are stories that are a little bit more old school, whether they’re classics of the genre or just take on the style.

But just warning you now: there will be no Stephen King on my list. I know he’s meant to be one of those ‘staple’ authors, but it’s my not-so-deep and dark secret that I really don’t like him. Or at least I have yet to read one of his books that I enjoy. But I’m going to keep trying (if you have any recommendations, please share).

So grab your pumpkin spice arsenic teas, everyone! These are my recommended reads for Halloween:

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Is there any haunted house book that’s better? That’s a rhetorical question and the answer is no.

Shirley Jackson is the queen of twisted, psychological tales. The Haunting of Hill House shows Jackson in perfect form. If you’ve seen the classic 1963 version of The Haunting, you’ll know the gist of this one. Four people go to stay in a supposedly haunted house where strange and horrible things begin to happen. Is it real? Or is it all in their heads?

This is one of the few books has actually managed to terrify me. Don’t read it when you’re home alone (or do, and scare the crap out of yourself).

2. How to Survive a Horror Movie by Seth Grahame-Smith

I have a real love-hate relationship with ol’ Seth. On one hand, he’s written this hilarious in-joke of a book, but on the other, we have him to blame for that Dark Shadows script.

How to Survive a Horror Movie is exactly what it says on the label: a step-by-step guide for navigating your way through a horror movie. Each page packs in as many Easter eggs as possible, making it a hunt for references. I read and re-read the shit out of this book as a teenager. Perhaps it’s time for adult me to give it another try.

3. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 “The Crucible”

Archie Comics have been killing their revamped series. I think the jewel in their crown is this dark and horrifying version of Sabrina.

All of the original ingredients are here: Harvey, Salem, the aunts. Only Sabrina meets a nemesis with vintage Archie character Madam Satan. Don’t expect too many jokes with this one. Think more along the lines of blood-rituals, possessed trees and face eating.

It was announced last month that the Riverdale creators are working on turning this into a television show. You have all of my attention and all my love.

If you can’t wait, the Jughead one-shot The Hunger from last spring has been turned into a new full-length series. Issue #1 will hit comic book shops on October 25th.

4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Just give me a chance with this one.

Jane Austen often has a reputation she doesn’t deserve. The woman was fierce and clever, and wrote one heck of scathing book when she wanted to. Northanger Abbey is a parody of the gothic novel that was incredibly popular at the time. Her heroine Catherine Morland is silly and naive girl who has lived most of her sheltered life in the country. She goes to Bath and is whisked off on a journey full of ‘haunted’ homes and ‘murders’.

Northanger Abbey is, yes, a romance novel, but at heart it’s really about a girl becoming a woman. Catherine as the lead heroine is an absolute gem. She spends so much time dreaming that she’s in a Gothic romance novel that she forgets she actually doesn’t live in one herself.

This is certainly the most unusual choice on this list, but if you’re not into reading this, try watching the 2007 adaption starring Felicity Jones and JJ Field. It’s that perfect balance of Gothic imagery, sweetness and sick muslin jokes.

5. Spell on Wheels vol. 1

This limited-run series published by Dark Horse is absolutely brilliant. It’s full of feminism, witches, and mystery. And hilarious mythical monster romances.

Three witches go on a road trip throughout New England to look for their magical items that have been stolen from them. They try to track down their items while thwarting evil along the way.

The style really couldn’t be better for this time of the year. It’s a seriously good-looking comic. But also: witches.

6. Dark Entries by Robert Aickman

Aickman, for me, is incredibly dated in ways that male authors often are. He lacks all ability to write fleshed-out female characters. That being said, the short stories in this collection are pretty great. More than anything,  they’re appropriate for Halloween. “The School Friend” and “The Waiting Room” are stand outs amongst the six stories included.

Most people prefer Lovecraft (there isn’t much in the way of similarities here), and I won’t argue that. But Aickman macabre stories are definitely worth checking out if you have yet to be exposed. He’s well worth experiencing.