Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Fun, Part 2

I love movies.  And I don't just mean certain movies, I mean that I love the whole motion picture concept so much that I'll see pretty much anything in a movie theater just for the experience of sitting in a dark room with that stale popcorn smell, looking up at a big screen and letting the light flicker across my face.  I like laughing with the other movie-goers during a comedy and screaming with the other movie-goers during a scary movie.  On the other hand, I purposefully pick weird or inconvenient times to see movies in hopes that I'll get that rare experience of having a whole theater to myself.  I frequently see movies alone during Awards season to increase my chances of seeing all of them, and the Oscars broadcast is my Super Bowl.  In High School, my friend and I started a film club in which we watched a lot of well-made movies and then discussed them afterward.  Nerd alert, am I right?  My point is that during any holiday season, but particularly during the Halloween season, the movies are the best part for me.  I've watched a LOT of horror movies in my twenty-seven years... even the truly awful ones (and there are so, so many awful ones).  While everyone's taste in movies is different, these are the ones that are my all-time favorites.

The Exorcist
This is the first movie I ever watched that kept me up all night, too afraid to close my eyes.  Even looking up a picture for this blog post is probably going to give me nightmares.  And when they re-released it in theaters with the deleted scenes... I screamed and cried like a little girl.  I'm a pretty big wimp now, but I was a tough kid and movies didn't really scare me much until this one.  Honorable mention goes to The Exorcism of Emily Rose for being the only recent possession/exorcism movie that even comes close to this one.

Best Slasher Flick
I personally don't find slasher movies particularly scary, but this is the movie that wrote the rules for all horror movies after it.  Building tension, surprise scares, the gotcha! moment at the end, it's all here.  And unlike a lot of other movies in the genre, this one is actually a well-made and well-written film with interesting camera angles and decent acting.

Best Vampire/Best Foreign
Let the Right One In
I'll warn you right now.  This movie is not scary.  There are a couple of creepy parts and maybe even a few moments that made me jump in the American version, but it's a little stretch of the horror genre to include this one.  It is about vampires and it is very dark, but mostly it's a great film about loss of innocence and the end of childhood, being an outsider, and also a little bit (or a lot?) about love.  It's like the anti-Twilight.

Best Werewolf
An American Werewolf in London
The scariest parts of this movie have nothing to do with the werewolf, but the protagonist's lupine transformation earned this movie an Oscar for makeup. 

Best Zombie Movie
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
I'm a devoted George Romero fan (and actually met him this summer!) and I think the original Dawn of the Dead is his best film.  It may not be as flashy as more recent zombie movies, and zombie makeup has clearly come a long way since 1978, but like Halloween, Romero really wrote the rule book with this one.

Best Classic/Silent Film
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
OK so maybe not everyone has the patience to sit through a silent movie, but this is a great example of German Expressionism and clearly had an influence on Tim Burton's aesthetic.  Plus, I am actually afraid of sleepwalkers, so I find this movie genuinely creepy.

Best Arthouse
This movie is super weird and that is maybe most of what makes it scary.  Dario Argento knows how to build some tension and the lighting/set design will make you feel like you've walked into one of those creepy fun houses at a carnival.

Best Horror Movie with a Sense of Humor
Drag Me to Hell
I'm afraid that most of the movie-going public didn't "get" that this movie was supposed to be goofy in addition to being genuinely scary.  It's by Sam Raimi, the person who brought you the original Evil Dead series, so it's not supposed to be a really serious horror film, but maybe the humor was too subtle to seem purposeful.  I really enjoyed it and left the theater feeling totally satisfied.  If you take it with a grain of salt, you will feel the same way.

Best Kid-Friendly(ish)
This was a tough decision.  I know I'm supposed to say Hocus Pocus or The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I cherish those movies as much as the next 90's kid, but I think in terms of movies that are actually a little bit frightening (but not traumatizing), Beetlejuice is the best.  It's funny, it's quirky, and the non-CGI makeup, costumes, and set designs recall the good ol' days of special effects.

Best Worst Movie
Return of the Killer Tomatoes
That's right, not even Attack of the Killer Tomatoes but its far campier (if that were even possible) sequel.  You'll get a fine specimen of 80's George Clooney (which makes me think that no role is too small or too stupid when you're trying to build a Hollywood career) and a grand feeling of "What the f--?" that you'll never quite get over.  It's silly.  Very very silly.

And as for television...
Twin Peaks and Pretty Little Liars
(I'm pretty sure there is no Twin Peaks blu-ray and this is just fan-made, but that's not important)
Ever since Twin Peaks was released on Netflix, a lot of my generation has been watching it (perhaps re-watching it for some, but I think most of us were too young to get it when it was on TV).  It's good entry-level exposure to David Lynch... very bizarre but not so disturbing that you want to take a shower after you watch it.  It's funny but also very eerie and sometimes downright nightmare-inducing.
Ok, hear me out!  I was very skeptical of this series at first and was ready to give up after the first episode, but something about it reminds me of Twin Peaks.  Maybe because it's also sort of a murder mystery about a pretty blond girl who no one knew as well as they thought they did when she was alive.  The show's creators/directors (if not the series author... not sure because I've never read the books) have a genuine appreciation for classic film and a lot of details are Hitchcock-inspired -- a bird named Tippi, for example, or the "Rear Window Brew" coffee shop.  Their Halloween episodes are great, but every episode is like a mini horror movie and there were a lot of nights when I couldn't watch this show alone in the dark.  Pretty cool for an ABC family series.
Yeah, I know everyone loves Walking Dead and American Horror Story, but you all already know about those shows, so it wouldn't make much sense for me to list them here.

Anyway, I hope this has given you a few more ideas for fun things to watch as you continue to get into the Halloween spirit.  Next week: Best scary books to read during Halloween!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Halloween Fun, Part 1

One thing about me that some of you might not know is that I hosted a radio show in college called Music for Monsters.  This show consisted of horror-themed music (particularly punk, metal, and psychobilly, but really all kinds of things) interspersed with scary stories that I read on air.  It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I didn't leave my small, liberal arts college without giving college radio a try, but mostly what I've taken away from it is a large collection of Halloween-appropriate music to play all month long.  I'll share some of my favorites with you here.  Everyone knows Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the classic "Monster Mash," but here are a few unexpected options to spice up your Halloween party (or just a playlist to get you in the mood).

1) The Misfits' "Halloween" is an obvious choice, and I love that song, but so many of their songs work just as well for this occasion.  Another one of my favorites is "Skulls," but I listed that one on my punk favorites list.  Instead, I offer you "Ghouls Night Out."

2) When it comes to creepy music, you really can't do much better than The Cramps.  A little bit garage rock, a little bit rockabilly, and completely weird, it's almost too hard to choose just one song.  I've picked "Rockin' Bones" from their "Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits" album, but I also almost always put "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" on my Halloween playlists.

3) The Meteors are a great psychobilly band and if you're having a Halloween party (even if it's a party of one), you'd be remiss not to include "Graveyard Stomp" on your playlist.

4) "I Was a Teenage Zombie" by the Fleshtones is another classic that I played early on my show

5 and 6) So, in the 1950's and 60's, there was a trend of horror/sci fi movies and music that followed it (which is how we got songs like "The Monster Mash").  There are seriously like a billion of these cheap, little rock n' roll songs about Martians or Frankenstein's monster.  In fact, one of my favorites is "The House of Frankenstein" by Big Bee Kornegay...
OK, one more!  "Shudders and Screams" by Ben Colder...

7) But not all great horror music is vintage.  There are a lot of fun, contemporary songs to choose from as well.  Let's say you want to have a dance party.  I've got you covered.  Here's a song that was playing at Dorney Park when I went for their haunted houses two weekends ago, "Kill Everybody" by Skrillex.
Rihanna's "Disturbia," Kanye West's "Monster," "She Wolf" by Shakira, and "Big Bad Wolf" by Duck Sauce are also good choices.  Every single Die Antwoord music video is the stuff of nightmares, but I can't tell if the songs would be creepy on their own or not.

8) For fans of serial killer thrillers like The Silence of the Lambs, GreensKeepers' "Lotion" is a good, unusual song.

9)Another punk favorite is "Army of Zombies" by Lars Frederiksen & the Bastards

10) And just for fun, here's the title song from the Steve McQueen movie The Blob to round out our Halloween playlist.

In other news, I finally found a real job!  I was beginning to get really discouraged, and then all of a sudden, I had some options.  I'm working in an office that primarily writes and prints airline menus.  So it doesn't exactly use my degree, but I do feel like I'm using some of my skills, and the main thing is that I get to wake up every morning, put on respectable adult clothes, and earn a real salary with benefits and everything.  Given the nature of airlines, my co-workers are very international and I find that exciting.  In my cubicle and the surrounding cubicles, I hear English, French, Russian, Arabic, and I'm always looking at other languages on the translated menus.  Working full-time means I still might not post more than once a week, but I do have some other Halloween-related posts stored away for the upcoming weeks.