Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloweentertainment: A Guide to Halloween Entertainment

So Halloween is here.  You're too old (or too embarrassed) to go trick or treating, you don't have any kiddies to take around the cul de sac, you don't want to keep getting up to answer the door, and your Halloween parties were over the weekend.  In short, you've got a free night.  But you still want to celebrate Halloween in style, even if you're not doing anything, right?  Here's a list of (admittedly random) movies, shows, books, music, and more you can enjoy, in no particular order, to stay in a spooky spirit.

You're Awful, I Love You by Ludo - Maybe an odd choice, but also an odd album.  Hidden behind pop-punk beats are deceptively dark and sometimes downright creepy lyrics.  Songs like "The Horror of Our Love" and "Love Me Dead" take a heavy slant on your typical love song with lyrics like "But I'll grind against your bones/Until our marrows mix" and "You suck so passionately/You're a parasitic, psycho, filthy creature."  "Go-Getter Greg" has all the makings of a stalker plot, and "Lake Pontchartrain" is straight out of a horror movie.  There are a handful of "ordinary" song but you'll often find yourself just a little uncomfortable throughout your listen.  While you're at it, be sure to pick up the Broken Bride rock opera EP and the band's most recent full length, Prepare the Preparations, to get your share of zombie songs.

The Nightmare Before Christmas - My all-time favorite holiday movie, and one of my favorites hands down.  It's got all of the traditional weirdness and heart that has become a staple of a film that has Tim Burton's involvement.  The animation is superb, the songs are catchy, and the story is beyond creative.  From Jack Skellington traversing the different holiday worlds to the showdown with Oogie Boogie, you'll find yourself captivated the whole way through.  The best part?  You can bust it out in two months so it can double as a Christmas movie, too.

Pan's Labyrinth - More a fantasy film than a horror one, Pan's Labyrinth is definitely dark enough to make the list.  The story follows Ofelia and her descent into a fantasy world in war-torn Spain.  It's about anything but fairy tales, though, as both the real and fantasy worlds take dark turns.  If you're familiar with director Guillermo del Toro's other work, from Hellboy to Mimic and more, you know he has an eye for imaginative, elaborate, and gorgeous costumes and makeup, and Pan's Labyrinth is no different.  From the faun to the Pale Man, the characters are beautifully designed and realistic.  The movie's a bit heavier than your average slasher flick, but it's haunting enough for Halloween to be sure.

Joe Hill - I was going to single out one of Joe Hill's books, but then I realized that that wouldn't be fair, so I'll just talk about his work as a whole.  Whether it's his full fledged novels Heart-Shaped Box or Horns, his collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts, or his comic Locke & Key, Hill knows how to write atmospheric stories with intriguing premises and full characters.  Hill has been nominated for and/or won a ton of awards, from Eisner Awards to Bram Stoker Awards and more.  Sure, his dad might be Stephen King, but that doesn't matter either way: Hill has the pulse of horror and fantasy down, and we can only look forward to him writing more.

Level 26 by Anthony E. Zulker - Zulker is perhaps (ok, definitely) best known as the creator of CSI.  If you don't know about CSI, maybe turn on a TV once every few decades.  However, Zulker has also authored a few books, notably (only?) the Level 26 series.  Level 26 definitely has elements of crime procedural and revolves around a terrible killer.  While there isn't anything necessarily new about the plot, the book is described as a "digi-novel": there's a digital portion that can be accessed online that furthers to story and character.  It's a great mix between an old school format and embracing the digital age and could be the forerunner of things to come.

"Epidemiology", Community - Any sitcom worth its salt has a Halloween episode.  It's topical, let's your favorite characters dress up in costume, and is easy enough to create a single-episode plot around.  So why single out Community?  Besides it being my favorite show and me being able to do what I want, Community is well known for its meta, parody, and genre-bending episodes.  "Epidemiology" is no different, as a Halloween bash goes horribly wrong as people become zombified.  Throw in classic horror tropes, some Aliens-inspired scenes, and, yes, an ABBA soundtrack, and you've got an episode that's not only hilarious but a loving throwback to all of your (much more serious) horror films.

Slender: The Eight Pages by Parsec Productions - While I'm suggesting this, I must wholeheartedly ask you to please not play it.  It's terrifying.  You walk around the woods in the dark, attempting to collect notebook pages, all the while avoiding the Slender Man.  What could be so scary about that?  Turns out, everything.  The game is minimal in terms of gameplay, graphics, and sound but it's that simplicity that heightens the tension.  Throw in the ominous Slender Man, who pops up out of nowhere, and it's quite creepy.  If you want to have a laugh instead, check out YouTube for some videos of people's reactions while playing Slender.

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean - While not a horror tale, strictly speaking, Arkham Asylum and creepy and unsettling enough to make the list.  Though ostensibly a Batman tale, this graphic novel is more about his rogue's gallery and even more about the Asylum itself.  Morrison makes the characters appropriately demented and twisted, and McKean's sketchy art, the moody colors, and even the stylized speech balloons all lend to an atmospheric read that's sure to get you in a Halloween mood.

The Cabin in the Woods - If you're a fan of horror movies as a genre, The Cabin in the Woods is a must-watch film.  Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have crafted a smartly-written, action-packed, stylish movie that's both a love letter and criticism to horror films.  Playing with and against tropes and cliches found from the most classic movies to the torture-porn of today, The Cabin in the Woods is a twisting ride that will leave you guessing, rethinking, and rewatching.

The Walking Dead - It's one of the biggest shows on TV right now, and for good reason.  This story of survival in a world overrun by zombies is captivating to say the least, and the end of each episode will immediately leave you craving for the start of the next.  Though concerns have been raised about some of the acting and the pacing of a few episodes, the show as a whole is engaging, gruesome, and the zombies look fantastic.  You can also check out the source material with 100+ issues of the comic The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.

Got any suggestions of favorites of your own?  Shout out in the comments or throw them up on Twitter, #Halloweentertainment

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