Countdown to Halloween: 13 Songs & Films that Get Me Stoked for Halloween by J.C. Lillis

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So I said I would do this list and then I realized I don’t read scary books, listen to scary songs, or watch scary movies as a general rule. I love Halloween but I mainly associate it with frantic yet meticulous construction of whatever costume the kid’s dreamed up, followed by a week of sneaking PB cups and fun-size Mounds from her candy stash. But writers are known for their Olympic-level talent for fudging it, so here goes.

Songs:

“Spooky” / Classics IV. I actually hate this song but I have a Pavlovian reaction to it: I hear the first chords and instantly think Halloween. I don’t know if it deserves its status as a Halloween classic, since the girl in the song is not particularly spooky, just sort of a flake. It kills me that the guy spends the whole song yammering about how she winks at other dudes and plays games with his heart, and yet he’s planning a Halloween proposal, like that’ll solve all their problems. Honestly I just ride out the song to hear the little “whooo!” ghostie sounds in the verses.

“Monster” / Lady Gaga. When the Fame Monster EP came out, everyone was creaming themselves over “Bad Romance” and “Dance in the Dark” and this song never got its due, despite being danceable and hilarious and awesome. If I had a Halloween party, which I won’t because that would involve cleaning and decorating, this would be #1 on my playlist.

“Time of the Season” / The Zombies. This is not technically a Halloween song but for some reason I always associate it with summer’s slow slide into fall. Plus one time my mom told me she used to think the lyrics were “it’s the time of the season for zombieeeeees,” like the Zombies were pulling a Wang Chung and name-dropping themselves in the song, so every time I hear that line I picture zombies doing jazz hands.

“Burn-Up” / Siouxsie & the Banshees. The entire Peepshow album is supremely freaky and makes an excellent Halloween soundtrack. I picked this one because it’s like a haunted hayride in song form.

“Monster Mash” / Bobby Pickett. This used to be a “dragged to the seventh-grade Halloween dance against your will” song, and then I used it in “Memory Hill” for the Lead Me into Darkness antho, and now it’s a “jaded ghost mourning unrequited love” song. It’s much nicer now.

“Red Right Hand” / Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Like, I should’ve just said “Nick Cave” in general, because Nick Cave could turn “Walking on Sunshine” into a murder ballad, but this song is pretty much the pinnacle of Nick Cave creepiness. It’s about this evil rich power-mad dude who gains followers by preying on fear and making false promises but actually thinks of people as “microscopic cogs in his catastrophic plan,” not that someone like that could actually rise to power today.

 

 

Movies:

What We Do in the Shadows. Definitely in the top three funniest vampire mockumentaries set in New Zealand.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After you watch WWDitS, you might as well watch this one, because the number of laughs per minute is roughly the same. (More in scenes where Gary Oldman turns into a hundred rats or Keanu Reeves has to act British.)

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. When I was a little Catholic schoolgirl I used to want to spend Halloween with Linus in his most-sincere pumpkin patch, waiting for the elusive deity to show his giant orange face. I hope Linus is now a comfortable Great Pumpkin agnostic who counsels other young believers through crises of faith.

The Addams Family. This is the film that launched my epic, invincible crush on Anjelica Huston. We rewatched it recently and it still holds up pretty well. I think we base like 60% of our parenting choices on “what would Gomez and Mortitica do?”

The Others. This is the only scary movie I ever bought on DVD. I like how old-fashioned it is, how it relies on psychology and the power of suggestion instead of gore and special effects. It’s so well made I don’t even mind the “they’ve been dead all alonnnnnng!” ending. (No spoiler warning for movies more than 15 years old.)

Return of the Living Dead. I can take or leave most things zombie, but how can you not love a film with 1) character names like Scuz, Trash, and Spider, 2) dialogue that contains multiple references to “rabid weasels,” and 3) a scene where the zombies eat the paramedics and then radio to “send more paramedics”? (I just found out there’s this band from Leeds called Send More Paramedics, which is the best thing I’ve heard in at least two days.)

Shaun of the Dead. The other exception to my anti-zombie rule. That scene where they’re arguing over which records to throw at the zombies—I can see someone being exactly that nerdy, and that someone is me.


J.C. Lillis is the author of contemporary YA novels HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, WE WON’T FEEL A THING, and the upcoming A&B, plus various other stories about fandom, friendship, love, and art. She lives in Baltimore with her patient family, a possibly haunted dollhouse, and a cat who intends to eat her someday.

More about J.C. and her AWESOME books:

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart: amzn.to/1rM486A

We Won’t Feel a Thing: http://amzn.to/1mndD6m

A&B: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32296251-a-b?from_search=true

website: jclillis.com

twitter: twitter.com/jclillis

instagram: instagram.com/jclillis

facebook: facebook.com/jclillisbooks

pinterest: pinterest.com/jclillis


 

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Countdown to Halloween: Halloween Watching with Ginn Hale

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Halloween Watching with Ginn Hale

I love Halloween; it has been my favorite holiday since 1976, when I first had the surreal experience of seeing the streets of my new neighborhood flooded with hundreds of small monsters—all clutching little sacks, laughing and running wild through the darkness.

At that time I was only eight and had lived in the mountains, largely removed from American culture. I had no idea what I was witnessing; I only knew that it appeared to be a night when strangers opened their doors to the weirdest of creatures and gifted them with candy, fruit, and baked goods.  

From my uninformed perspective Halloween seemed to embody the most generous and beautiful capacities of human beings and our communities. Here were people, looking past alien, strange, frightening and often ugly appearances—even welcoming them with exclamations like, ‘Oh what big teeth you have!’— and celebrating their very ‘otherness’.

As a stranger—and something of a little weirdo—I was nearly moved to tears.

Though I have long since learned about the genuine origins of Halloween, that first impression has remained with me. To this day I think of the holiday as a celebration of diversity; a time when the small generosities of a neighborhood can accumulate into treasuries of sweetness, and when strangers at the door are greeted warmly no matter what they look like or how different they seem.

With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of a few Halloween movies that I feel reflect my idea of Halloween.

The first two are very much a joy to watch for kids and adults alike.  

Nightmare Before Christmas

Vivid, animated musical about the king of Halloween, growing bored and deciding that he and his people should dedicate themselves to the production of Christmas.   

ParaNorman

Also animated and very stylized, ParaNorman tells the story of a boy who can see ghosts and his attempt to placate the spirit of a wronged witch. This one stands out to me for the depth of side characters, truly funny slap-stick and an ending that speaks to both the difficulty and power of forgiveness.

Next are films that contain more adult themes or violence but are still funny and also reflect a surprising depth of humanity.

Young Frankenstein

A comedy classic that still manages to evoke the poignant isolation felt by a monster. It’s hilarious, sweet, and silly.

Shaun of the Dead

A zombie movie that pokes fun at zombie movies, while staying true to them and contemplating the importance of friendship.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Like Sean of the Dead, Tucker & Dale is a send-up (this time of the slasher in the woods sort of films). But here the would-be killers are the protagonists while the boisterous college students who are so often the fodder of these kinds of films become the relentless threat.

The final list of films are, on the surface, straight up horror, involving vampires, zombies, insane killers and invading monsters. But these films are also studies of coming to terms with suffering, loss, alienation and violence both from outside and within ourselves.  Be warned that the endings of these films are often satisfying but not always happy.

(While Attack the Block and The Host both have comedic elements, their overall tone and their endings made me include them with this group instead of the more up-beat ones listed above.)

The Host (Korean Film not American film based on Stephanie Myers book)

A dysfunctional family slowly pulls together to attempt to save one of their own from a monster. It’s the unique combination of quirkiness, terror, and sincerity that makes this a fascinating watch, for me.

Pan’s Labyrinth

A beautiful and horrific recounting of the Spanish Civil War as seen through a lens of fairy tale grotesquery. This film is brutal in its depiction of war, cruelty and sacrifice. It would be almost unbearable if not for the sheer magic of it.   

The Babadook

An inventive, tense, and scary study of a woman battling not to succumb to a monster within, while still caring for her wild son and mourning the loss of her husband.

Let the Right One In  (Original Swedish version)

Young boy befriends vampire girl who is at turns a brutal, vulnerable and loyal friend.

Attack the Block

Inner city kids battle monsters from outer space in a London housing project.

the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_posterThe Girl With All the Gifts

A zombie film that explores the place of old values and societies in the face of a new kind of humanity.

So, those are a few of my favorite humanist Halloween films. Any I missed? I hope so because I would love to have recommendations from other folks!

Happy Halloween, to you all!

-Ginn

 

 


tiny-ginnGinn Hale resides in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and wayward cats. She is an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an avid coffee-drinker.

Connect with her on her website.

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Countdown to Halloween: This is Halloween by Piper Vaughn

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This is Halloween by Piper Vaughn

Hi, everyone! First, I wanted to thank Binge on Books for having me today! When asked if I liked horror and if I’d like to participate in their Halloween Roundup, I jumped at the chance. I’m a huge horror fan and have been for all of my life. October is my favorite month for several reasons, not in the least of which is Halloween. To celebrate, I always decorate the house. We take our son to a local farm and bring pumpkins home to carve, and of course, we dress up and take him trick-or-treating on the day.

There are other things I do to get into the spirit, too! Every October I have a horror flick marathon and I make it a point to watch a few scary (or just Halloween-themed) movies every week. Below are some of my favorites.

The Nightmare Before Christmas – I’m a longtime Tim Burton fan, and he was a producer of the film and created the characters. I love the painstaking stop animation that was used to create this film. It took them three years to finish! I also adore the score by Danny Elfman, and I LOVE Jack Skellington to the point that I have a ton of his merch – pens, a pillow, a scarf, a hoodie, socks, a mug, you name it. I’m a Jack fangirl, and I re-watch this movie both around Halloween and Christmas.

Hocus Pocus – I was about 12 when this movie came out and I had such a crush not only on Sarah Jessica Parker but also on Omri Katz, who played Max. It was just so much fun, and I can’t even think about it without getting “I Put a Spell on You” stuck in my head. I still thoroughly enjoy it, even watching it as an adult, and have passed my love of the film onto my son.

Beetlejuice – Again with the Tim Burton, yes. I’m a goth at heart, I guess, and his movies just work for me. Not only that, I was obsessed with Winona Ryder as a kid, and I also loved Geena Davis. I thought “Beetlejuice” was the unbeatable combination of funny/weird/creepy only Tim Burton can pull off. And I’ll never forget the dinner scene where they start singing “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and dancing around the table.

Jeepers Creepers – This is hands down one of my favorite horror flicks. It starts off as a road trip gone horribly wrong when a couple of college siblings bound for home are nearly run off the road by a really aggressive driver in a truck bearing the license plate “BEATNGU.” Things only go downhill from there, and every second of it is creepy, fantastic, monster-movie fun. Where’d you get those peepers? Well, if you’re the Creeper, you ate them right out of someone’s head. 😛

28 Days Later – I love zombies. LOVE. (*fist bump to my fellow fans*) I know some zombie purists don’t like to consider the Rage virus victims zombies because of their speed, but who’s to  say what makes a zombie and what doesn’t? (Save for maybe George A. Romero, but eh. I like variety in my zombies!) I love the opening of this film – the horrified, frantic confusion lasts for a good long while, and my heart was racing the first time I watched it. I liked the sequel too, but nowhere near as much as the first. Plus, Cillian Murphy. I mean, damn, he’s a beautiful man, and I loved seeing him vulnerable and terrified.

The Strangers – This one leans toward the darker end of the horror movie spectrum. It takes a LOT to scare me, typically, but terrorizing home invasion stuff is guaranteed to do it every time. Why? Well, I have a bit of a phobia about people breaking into my home and torturing/killing my family. This is partly to do with the fact that there was a home invasion/hostage situation on my block when I lived in Alaska. So, the idea of being trapped in a house surrounded by people wanting to torment me purely for their own amusement? Yeah, that freaks me the hell out. And yet, I’ve re-watched the movie a couple of times and probably will again. What can I say? I do like to be scared.

The Grudge – I’m a fan of Japanese films, and I loved this remake of “Ju-On.” I thought it was deliciously creepy, but what really made it scary and memorable for me the first time I watched it was actually the reaction of my best friend. She clutched at my arm and covered her eyes and screamed, and her fear and tension fed mine and frightened me in a way I wouldn’t have been if I’d watched it alone. I’ll always remember it fondly because of that. Silver Bullet – I love werewolves. I love Stephen King. Combine them, and I am sold! I saw this movie for the first time as a young, impressionable eight year old. It scared the crap out of me at the time. I’ve re-watched it as an adult, and while it doesn’t scare me anymore, I still appreciate it as a classic, cheesy ’80s monster movie. Love it!

The Lost Boys – Speaking of cheesy ’80s horror movies, this is a vampire flick I’ve long adored. Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland were so hot in this movie. Beyond that, I loved the Coreys and the music and the clothes/style, not to mention the humorous moments. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen this movie, and I know I’ll only add to that number.

stranger-thingsStranger Things – This is the most recent addition to my list, and it’s a show not a movie. It’s a Netflix original series set in the ’80s and reminiscent of so many films of that era. It came out in July of this year, and I’ve already watched it twice and plan to watch it again soon. It reminded me of movies like “Firestarter,” “E.T.” and “The Goonies.” It filled me with nostalgia, and I can’t wait for the second season. I hope it lives up to the first!

I could go on (and on), but that’s it from me for now! What are your favorite horror movies? I’m always looking for recommendations!

*haunted hugs and sinister smooches*

~Piper <3


Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.

Visit Piper at: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Google+


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Paranormal Romance review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

StygianStygian by Santino Hassell

Published by: Dreamspinner Press

Format: eARC

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Order now: Amazon

Reviewed by: fabulous guest reviewer, Anna

Get ready for: In Santino Hassell’s Stygian, rural Louisiana serves as the backdrop for four young musicians who are forced to confront conflict both with one another and with the [SPOILER SPOILER] vampires who’ve made them their prey. Read More

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