Justice League – A Review

justice-league-posterIt’s fine. The movie is fine. It’s not great or as grand as a Justice League movie should be. It feels small, but not in an intimate way. It’s scale and tone reminded me of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. For a movie that cost as much as it did, I sure doesn’t look great. There’s a lot to dislike about the movie, but, for the first time in this non-solo Wonder Woman series, there’s some stuff to generally like.

After the face-slap that was Man of Steel and the so-dumb-I-feel-bad-for-it Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I pretty much retired any hope of ever enjoying these films. Some people like the darker tones, the hopeless characterization, the over-complicated plotting and maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t want every superhero movie to look and feel the same. I simply had to resign that, like Deadpool, these movies weren’t being made for me.

After Wonder Woman gave Warner Bros. their first great DC movie since The Dark Knight, I felt a bit better but could tell from the lead up and trailers that Justice League was going to be messy. Zach Snyder leaving for personal reasons and bringing in Joss Whedon to rewrite and reshoot seemed like a good way to mess up the joint. And messy it was! But, somehow, the worst feeling I had while watching it was boredom. The anger I used to feel has burnt out and maybe that’s due to the small amount of sunlight that’s allowed through all the sepia tone and CGI-smoke.

justice-equipo-960x480First, I suppose, the good. Ray Fisher came out of nowhere and impressed me as Cyborg. In fact, while watching his story, I kept wishing I was seeing the Cyborg movie already, because it would have to be more compelling than what I watching at the moment. I didn’t hate this version of Aquaman, despite being the bro-est bro of bro-dom. I look forward to being surprised by him in his own, solo movie. And Gal Gadot is still a Wonder Woman I would follow into battle. Oh! That reminds me! The fight in Themyscira was fun! And, when there was action on screen, it was entertaining, for the most part.

Now, for the rest. During any scene that there was no fighting, I was bored. And, hey, I’m not some action junky who needs people to shut up and punch! The conversations between these characters, Justice League members or not, felt like time killers or placeholders for the real script. There was always the element of humor laced in the lines, but nothing was able to be truly funny, except for Batman’s, “I don’t not” line.

1024x1024Ben Affleck’s Batman was less interesting this time around, lack the fire of his previous performance. The Flash doesn’t really impress and I’m sure that’s due to the fact I’ve been watching a successful representation of the character weekly on the CW for three years now. And Superman, well, that character has been a wash since day one. They try to clean him up a bit, make him a beacon of hope and all, but it’s not enough. He’s still not a Superman I want to watch, even when using all his cool powers. These movies love showing off how strong he is, but the heart is never there.

I’ll say this, and I don’t want anyone thinking I like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or think it’s even close to a good movie, but Justice League feels small in comparison. BvS felt like an event, albeit a dumb one. It’s tone, cinematography and over-dramatic dialog made it feel like an important, stupid moment in history. Justice League just sort of happens. A big, gray monster-man shows up and is going to make more CGI fire and smoke and some people get together. This doesn’t feel mythic or memorable. If anything, it feels like a preview for a real Justice League movie, with a full roster and characters who aren’t learning their powers or motivations.

warner-bros-2-1So, to summarize, Justice League is fine. It’s watchable and has some moments that make it worth the time. It’s not epic and it’s not a trendsetter, which is a shame. The Justice League deserve better, they deserve to have the best superhero movie, to put the Avengers to shame. This is a team with the biggest names in super-lore and I had hoped for a feeling of awe and insperation. But, that feeling never comes. Sometimes, during the movie, Batman and Superman’s classic musical scores of the past will play and I was reminded of the good feelings and pleasant memories I had for these characters. Unfortunately, I realized, nothing on screen was causing that to happen this time around.. If anything, those themes emphasize the lack of direction and identity this movie has, requiring past visions to guide the way.

I hope a Justice League sequel will be better and I hope the characters can rebuild from here. Whereas the continuity in the Marvel films feels like a boon, these DC movies suffer from it. Every time a movie comes out, I can’t shake the past these heroes are burdened with. You can lighten Superman up, but he still snapped a man’s neck. You can make Batman a team player, but he still loves his guns and shooting people. But, with Justice League, they’re now another step in a more enjoyable direction. I hope they can keep that momentum and get past this version I’ve had not interest in before. I hope I can enjoy future DC films. But, for the first time in a long time with these movies, at least I can hope.

Book Review – Console Wars

18505802Books on the history of gaming are culturally important to my own life. Genealogically, I’m a mutt with little foundation. My family and myself have no real traditions or history we share beyond our own generation or two. I’m Italian but I don’t have a a deep identity in it. But, as a gamer, I have a history, music, traditions and my own self-perception is very much rooted in tabletop and video games.

When I read a book like Console Wars, it’s partly me accepting that this culture is bigger than myself and there’s elements to learn about. I felt that connection when reading Empire of Imagination or Masters of Doom, that this part of my life has been going on for longer than I’ve been around and there’s names and history that are important to it all.

Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars taps into that, except this was a history I experienced. Harris follows the war between Nintendo and Sega; how Sega fought for and won it’s place in the market and how Nintendo fought back. Both companies make mistakes along the way, sealing certain fates for themselves.

One factor that makes this book fascinating is it’s focus on the differences between the Japanese and American sides of each company. While Nintendo was more focused on having like-minds, Sega was much more divided. Sega of Japan rarely agreed with SOA and these arguments and differences would prove to be the companies downfall. Even with Sega earning it’s place in the market, it’s lack of strong leadership would have it go on to follow the success of the Genesis with multiple consoles with little individual identity.

Nintendo, on the other hand, had a direct and strong hand when it came to it’s leadership. So much so that some employees began to chafe against the lack of freedom. Whereas Sega of America was throwing everything against the wall to see what stuck, Nintendo was nailing their decisions to the plaster, even as the wall was crumbling to the floor. The desire to avoid direct competition due to tradition and lack of respect for it’s rivals led Nintendo to lose a few loyal employees, but also to the creation of Donkey Kong Country and Rare’s rise as a second party. It also was responsible for the Super Mario Bros. movie and stabbing Sony in the back when it came to CD technology, so not all good things.

The book is written in prose, using the facts and history to tell more of story than real life might have been. The dialog is where this technique is a hit-or-miss, but the rest of the book is a compelling read, with great insights into the two companies and their respective employees. This style might not be for everyone, but if you’ve read the aforementioned Empire of Imagination or Masters of Doom, you’ll be right at home. This isn’t the text book tome that was David Sheff’s excellent Game Over, it’s edutainment and a turn pager.

Reading about Sega’s marketing plans, Nintendo’s resistance to fire back, Sony’s frustrations with entering the market and the whole industries growth is highly entertaining. There’s a lot of egos on display and hindsight gives the reader a one-up on the players in this book. The most frustrating part of this book, for myself, is that it ends just as things are getting really juicy. The Sony Playstation has just entered the market, Nintendo is about to release their 64-bit console and we all know what happened to Sega soon after. I wanted an account of the next war, of the Sega Dreamcast and Microsoft getting ready to enter the fray.

But Console Wars is a dense book as it is and I’m sure someone is preparing a book on the stage that followed. If you’re interested in the history of video games, Japanese business practices, the thought process of marketing, 90s culture and the whole Sega vs. Nintendo fight, I highly recommend this book. You might have to get past any hangups over the style of writing, but, once you do, you’ll find this to be a great resource.

All the Books Show: Episode 116 – Spotlight on Lee Child

Hey! Get that spotlight out of my face! I can’t see the author we’re going to talk about on this week’s podcast! No! Don’t turn it off, you dummy! Shine that spotlight on Mr. Lee Child, creator of the hit, Nickelodeon character, Jack Reacher!

7183e3fdd6cb27aa43a70f6b0fa95c40-middle-name-short-storiesActually, I don’t know how many people come to this blog who haven’t heard of this author or character, so I’ll correct myself and point out that Jack Reacher is NOT a Nickelodeon character; he’s a wandering crime solver sometimes played by Tom Cruise in movies.

From what I’ve read and seen, these books are not my cup of tea. Jack Reacher, in my limited experience, comes across as someone’s wish fulfillment. No responsibilities, good at every single thing and massively tall (when not Tom Cruise). For some, that might make for compelling reading, but not for this guy. I like my Batman to be actual Batmen. Child’s style also doesn’t work for me, reading like a thriller but too dense to (Tom) cruise through at a quick pace.

We talk other stuff, like how I didn’t like The Book of Joe and how Nic did, which means we can’t be friends anymore. At the time of recording, I had just started Console Wars, but I’ll be reviewing it next week.

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Stream Recap – SOMA

soma___official_cover_art_by_sethnemo-d93l45jIn which I recap streaming a game I just completed. Please accept this stream recap.

Frictional’s SOMA depressed me and I found it hard to play for long stretches because of that. The tension of the horror elements, the grime of  the world and the hopelessness of the story left me having little initiative to keep going. Add in the fact that I’m worried I’m developing some sort of motion-sickness, first noticed while playing Dishonored, and it wasn’t a pleasant time.

Limbo was a depressing game but it had platforming elements to keep my brain occupied on something besides it’s oppressiveness. SOMA, like other so-called “walking simulators” has little in the way of actual “game. It’s immersive but that comes at a price. Like the main character, trapped at the bottom of the ocean, I felt like there was no escape. A tough sell for someone looking for escapism.

previewscreen_08-0Luckily, the story is well told and the voice acting is strong. But, the tension is raised by the monsters roaming around with you in this ruined science faculty. It’s not that I found the designs of these creatures to be incredibly upsetting, but the jump-scares that were set upon me made me feel anxious, which isn’t a state of being I love to be in. Sweaty hands from intense wall climbing and combat is one thing, but a queasy stomach because something is going to scream and chase me is another, less desirable thing.

I suppose that’s what makes for a fun stream. I don’t know how many other games have elicited a reaction so broad from me before. I’ve yelled and screamed before, but not in pure terror like I did in SOMA. I don’t know how much fun the monsters make a stream in the long run, since, after the initial scares, I had to spend most of my time just hiding and not looking at them.

maintenance-0The other problem, and this might be a technical issue on my end, is that the game is very dark, graphically speaking. Most of the tension, I would assume, would come from dark hallways and intense lighting. But, to get the game to be even visible on my Twitch, I had to raise the brightness all the way up, eliminating much of the atmosphere. Again, maybe I could have done something else to fix the problem, mess around with OBS a little more, but my days of being a technical problem-solver are coming to a close.

Either way, I’m glad I played SOMA and experienced it’s rich, sci-fi story first-hand. This is definitely the kind of tale I would have enjoyed in a movie or book. In game form, I still appreciated it, but it left me with a pit in my stomach. I doubt I’m going to go back and play-through Frictional’s Amnesia games, because I don’t think I could handle the tension. But, I’ll definitely be paying attention to what they do next.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Book Review – The Book of Joe

1623232The Book of Joe, by author Jonathan Tropper, has killer premise that should make all inspiring writers jealous. Joe, an author made famous by writing a book that tears apart his hometown, must return to be with his sick father. He must now contend with the truths he wrote about head on. What a hook!

This is where the jealousy ends. The Book of Joe is letdown by Tropper’s amateurish writing, careless pacing and unlikable characters. What was a concept that might have rivaled The Silver Linings Playbook is, quiet frankly, a mess.

The idea of this story is that Joe was wrong to write about his town the way he did, exaggerating the truth and making people look bad. Except, when we meet the people in his town, they all come across as jerks and losers. That makes sense in terms of how they would act to Joe but there’s never the other side of the coin. Everyone comes across as very one dimensional and I never believed they had much cause to be offended by how they were portrayed in Joe’s novel. Maybe that’s my natural disdain for small town drama, but I couldn’t care for any of these people, and I was never given reason to otherwise.

Joe’s realization of his wrong doing, the wrong doing I wasn’t invested in, comes way to quickly for a book like this. He states how much he hates the town and never looked back for the first couple of chapters but as soon as he enters city limits, his whole character changes. Suddenly, without much prodding or reason, Joe is navel gazing about how important his time here actually was, leaving very little room for growth.

There’s quite a bit of flashbacks, showing us the one summer that changed everything for Joe. The problem with these is that they actually revolve around Joe’s friends and the main character becomes a spectator. When Joe goes on and on about how that summer effected him, it’s weakened by the events we’re presented with. In fact, very little in the book actually needs Joe around. He’s a witness to important events but not a key component to them. Yes, he has girlfriend in his teen years, but I never understood what she saw in Joe.

Joe’s whinny, navel gazing attitude is rewarded with wisdom, closure and sex by those he left behind all those years ago. Everyone, including Joe’s ex-girlfriend Carly, gives this unlikable character the attention he craves but doesn’t deserve. There’s no challenges Joe has to overcome to grow and become a better person, everyone does it for him. Joe’s brother concedes, the high school coach apologizes, Carly kisses him, all of these things fix Joe but he doesn’t have to put in any of the work.

Every character, especially Joe, has an in-depth and analytical view of their psychological well-being and can express it at the drop of a hat. Subtlety is a non-resident of this town. Joe’s emotional journeys last all of a page and he moves quickly onto the next. In the end, very little closure is given. Joe’s book isn’t forgiven, Carly is willing to give him another shot, his family might be falling apart, but it doesn’t matter because he’s writing again. And the view on writing is the most flowery kind. It’s the type where everything simply “flows” and characters are “discovered” along the way. How books are written this way is beyond me, but maybe that’s how we end up with something like The Book of Joe.

It fails at being poetic, at being deep, it’s not funny or insightful and has nothing to say about small town living or guilt from past mistakes. What a waste of a great idea.

The X-Men Work Best When Outside the Marvel Universe

CLH1.CA.0e.0414.X220.0.1Rumors are going around that Disney is going to buy 21st Century Fox, at least, it’s entertainment side of things. I normally don’t care to write about such things and, besides the fact that it’s scary to imagine Disney owning even more properties and franchises, this isn’t my field of expertise. However, like anything worth talking about, the X-Men are involved.

I’ve written about the X-Men and their movies time and time again. This entry will not be the last. They hold a special place in my heart with their characters and stories. The movies, especially, have been an important part of my life, never rebooting and telling a constant, although convoluted, story as I’ve grown up. And Disney owning the rights to make those movies could ruin everything.

I don’t mean that I’d hate to see the series start over. I liked X-Men: Apocalypse for a number of controversial reasons, but one of them was that it had a crew of big name X-characters; Storm, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Psylocke, ect. If the movies rebooted, we could see a team of first class (pardon the pun) mutants headlining a film that hasn’t really happened since X2: X-Men United. Heck, that’s partly why I wish Gifted was a real X-Men show, giving us a Rogue that gets into the mix of things. And a reboot could even have a better prepared timeline, though, I might argue, there’s charm and artistic viability in not letting past films completely dictate new stories.

No, the reboot isn’t what I’m worried about. It’s the mixing of the Marvel Universe with the X-Men. Disney/Marvel’s Cinematic Universe would benefit from having a Wolverine, sure, but the X-Men, at their core concept, would be diluted. And this has been a problem since the very beginning.

xmen-90s-bannerBack in the 60s, when there were very few mutants on the scene, the idea of people hating and fearing the X-Men made sense. The few they knew about were some teens who wore funny costumes and a madman who could topple every city with magnetic powers. Of course they were scared. Even with Iron Man and Captain America, there was something different about mutants. Not everyone was going to survive a gamma bomb or get hit by cosmic rays, but anyone, even your neighbor or, worse, your own children, could be a mutant.

But, as the Marvel Universe grew, the differences became less important. There were so many non-mutant superheroes on the scene, how could you even tell who to hate anymore? Except, in the comics, as the general populace grew more tolerant of heroes, they still retained their bigotry towards mutants and the X-Men. And it made less and less sense. The core concept, of mutants being a minority and treated with fear, became less plausible, which watered down the X-Men. They still tried to tell X-Men stories like they always did, but, you had to start asking why Captain America wasn’t getting involved in protecting mutant teens from Sentinel attacks or why Doctor Strange let mutant massacres happen.

120e6cf4001aed45eb4700a28e90a4a4-grant-morrison-xmenAnother problem is that, in a shared universe, the X-Men could never attain their ultimate progression. Mutants are supposed to be the next stage in human evolution. Part of the fear humans have towards them is based in the fact that they will be replaced by this next step. Unfortunately, you can’t tell that story with Spider-Man around. Mutants can’t take over the world, or even come close.

Grant Morrison tried to tell that story in the early 2000s. He fast forwarded a bit but his X-Men stories were about mutants becoming a dominate force in the world. And Marvel retconned it as fast as they could and yelled, “No more mutants” and sent that number to under two hundred. They claimed they were bringing the X-Men back to their core concept, of being a minority, but, more simply, they couldn’t let the status quo get out of hand.

LOGANThe X-Men movies are flawed, I get that. Even the second movie, as fantastic as it is, has issues. Fox has made great X-Men movies and bad ones too. And now, with Hugh Jackman gone and three separate trilogies wrapped up, the movies are in a weird state of flux and uncertainty. But, with Fox retaining the rights, they’ve kept the X-Men in their own separate universe and have been allowed to explore concepts that wouldn’t work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea of a cure wouldn’t matter if mutants could join the Avengers someday, the world building in Logan would never make sense with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on hand and can you imagine Captain America letting X-Men: Days of Future Past happen? Like in the comics, the X-Men stories would be set to certain guidelines and limited in their scope.

Also, look at Inhumans and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How in the world would a company that makes those types of shows make something like Legion? Aren’t we at least a little better off in this world with a show like Legion on TV right now?

theres-an-end-credits-scene-after-x-men-days-of-future-past-heres-what-it-means-for-the-sequelIf Disney does buy up the whole world and owns the rights to make X-Men movies, I hope they would keep them separate from the Marvel films. Bring the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom over, but leave the X-Men alone. At the end of the day, however, I have to remember I’m not in control of this stuff, that whatever will be, will be. I’ll learn to live and let go of the X-Men movies I grew up on and hold my breath as a new wave comes to pass. There would be some great benefits. Disney and Marvel would be more likely to put the X-Men in their comic book costumes and have a fan favorite team that doesn’t just focus on Wolverine. And they’d get the love in the comics that they’ve been missing over the years and maybe a new video game! Also, new films under the House of Mouse wouldn’t negate and erase the movies I’ve loved for so many years. Heck, if it happened today, I’d still have nine X-Men movies (and Deadpool) and that’s something fantastic. I just believe, as the animated series and movies and even games have proven, that the X-Men work when they don’t have to fit in a world of super heroes and can just be themselves.

All the Books Show: Episode 115 – Interview with Naomi Shihab Nye

We had another author guest on the podcast and this time it was poet Naomi Shihab Nye! Neat!

90136d8f86e957dca2bad726522e2faa-the-turtles-chapter-booksDuring her talk at the David A. Howe Public Library, she spoke about revising poetry even after it’s been published, about being political vs. being rude and wondered what a state motto has to say about it’s state. It was a great night and her interview on the podcast gives you a peak into why. We also talk about previous guests to the library, such as Archer Mayor, Joyce Carol Oates and Alexander McCall Smith. What a lineup!

The rest of the show, we talk about Gwendy’s Button Box, the New York Times Best Sellers list and partake in our regular shenanigans. What a funny word “shenanigans” is. It’s tricky to say out loud, it’s spelled differently than one might think. It really does contain multitudes.

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Book Review – Carrie

carrie-first-ed-coverIs Stephen King’s Carrie a horror story? Did I make the right choice, picking it as a Halloween read? Was it once a scary book that’s been tamed by time?

Carrie is well known enough now that talking about the plot seems silly, but let’s get through it anyway. Carrie is a girl with a crazy mom. Carrie has psychic powers. Kids at school are super mean to Carrie. The kids cover Carrie in pig blood. Carrie loses it. Bad times are had by all.

So, is the book scary? Not really. It reads more like a super hero book, like a dark comic book in novel form. Psychic abilities aren’t very frightening, even when used by someone losing their mind. Like super heroes in general, Carrie almost reads like a power fantasy. Yes, when she lashes out on her fellow students and her home town, she takes it too far and kills a lot of innocent people. But, it doesn’t come across as horror, more like a disaster movie. Carrie, near the end of the book, is more of a force of nature, even though she’s able to target a few people specifically. A storm with a vengeance, but still a storm.

The idea of her being a natural disaster is backed up by the way the story is told through police reports, through interviews and headlines. Carrie is mentioned and talked about like she was a hurricane that passed through town. Dangerous, but not human. It’s an interesting way to tell this kind of story, it just doesn’t scream horror.

Carrie’s mother might scare some, but I find fundamental religious zealots to be the least effective way to make someone scary or interesting. The mother is a cartoon villain, a person beyond reason or relatability. She’s not real, in or out of the book. And, again, that type of insanity is at the bottom of the interesting-barrel for me as a reader. It always strikes me as lazy, as a quick wave as to why someone would act a certain way. Carrie is least interesting when dealing with that part of the story.

Not to say Carrie isn’t entertaining. It is, in both its destruction and seventies’ aesthetics. But, it’s more thriller than chiller. It reads like a super villain origin, which is fun, but I’m not sure how this has become a horror classic. I’m not even sure how it became a hugely popular book, as it doesn’t strike me as particularly earth-shattering in it’s plot or style. But, maybe I’m in the wrong place and time. Maybe, back in the late seventies, this would have scared the heck out of me. Or, maybe, I would have treated it like a Doctor Doom comic book and wondered what I’d do with some nasty telekinesis powers of my own.

Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box

51elgpd8rol-_sx320_bo1204203200_Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is short, being only a one hundred and seventy-five page novella. I don’t know how everyone else’s mileage will be, but it was a single sitting read for myself. The reason I bring that up is because I’m not sure if I liked it or not, but how bad can a book be that reads so quick?

The story follows Gwendy, a young girl given a button box that gives her candy that helps her lose weight and live a pretty great life. Sometimes, bad things happen and she’s not sure if it was her fault, the box or just fate. I feel like I just spoiled the book because that’s really all there is to it. Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but not by much.

The book reads quickly because the chapters are short and the information is dispensed at a pleasant pace. One thing King does well is show a day of the life of his characters, pinpointing mundane facts that are actually deeper insights into what makes that character tick. That’s what Gwendy’s Button Box is, days of the life of Gwendy. Sometimes, that’s interesting and, sometimes, it’s just the life of high school girl.

The supernatural elements are found in the button box, but again, their results are mundane. At times, when Gwendy is worried about the box being found or tries to get rid of it, there’s an old school sense of attachment given to the inanimate object. It won’t be ignored or thrown away, even though it doesn’t come across as threatening.

Again, quick read. Compelling? I’m not sure. King’s style creates a page turner, but easy-to-read doesn’t mean exciting. I was never worried or scared, and my interest didn’t rise above “mildly peaked”. I’d say it’s skippable, unless you really just need something this length.

The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 3

unnamedWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume Two! Be sure to check out Volume One and Volume Two!

Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s the only other one besides Christmas that takes up the whole month. From October 1st to the 31st, it’s Halloween. And a month long holiday needs a soundtrack, it needs holiday music.

And I’ve been around the internet, I’ve seen the “best” lists for Halloween tunes. Some are good, some are bad and all include “Thriller”. But, I have my own list. My own Halloween playlist. And, yes, their true form is that of mix cds. I’m going to share this playlist, focusing on each cd, each volume, per post.

Two things to note before I start. There’s a good amount of instrumental music in each volume. Many of those tracks are video game remixes, mostly found from Overclocked Remix. There’s movie soundtracks too, but I just wanted you to know that music from Castlevania, Doom and Resident Evil shows up quite a bit.

Second, everything is personal and subjective. If you love these, great! If you don’t, make your own. Send me your list! Maybe you’ll inspire me to create another volume in this playlist of mine. Now, I’m done with disclaimers.

Volume three was made the year after the first two and I had thought I had burned through the best songs. Little did I know! As it turned out, this third volume would see me discovering great songs I had never heard about. It also helped me find the spookiness in old favorites.

Thus, we continue with Hallows’ Eve: Volume Three.

1. “Bumps Gonna Goose Ya!” by Jack Black

The Goosebumps movie was better than it should have been and even had a non-fan like me in it’s nostalgic grip. It helps that it had this 90s-styled recap of the movie geared up before the film. Bad raps that recite the plot of a film are of a bygone era, and this shows why. But it has a killer chorus and Jack Black goes for broke.

2. “True (It’s Gone Now Mix)” by Steve Pordon

Again, Silent Hill is too scary of a game for me, but this mix is my kind of spooky. That guitar is a phantom gripping your back and pulling you away from your friends. It’s more of that girl-from-a-well type tune that we saw previously, and it feels like your in an abandoned city and can’t remember why.

3. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J

I don’t like Katy Perry. At all. But I can’t deny how creepy and seductive this song is. It’s like witchcraft. The lyrics tempt you even as they warn you. That beat is pure evil, but, during Halloween, it tricks you into a false sense of  security. It’s a lie. You’re trading your soul for a sick hook. Juicy J’s rap isn’t enough of a warning sign. It should be. I mean, if she tricked Juicy J, what hope do the rest of us have!

4. “Redemption” by Brandon Strader

The main theme from Telltale’s Walking Dead games is a great, somber piece. Strader takes that source and adds some life to it. It doesn’t take away the from the desperation, but there’s a bit more hope in the mix. I can’t help but think of mid-western wheat field, of Night of the Living Dead, of the dark closing in.

5. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash

Brought to the Halloween party by 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. Not a bad movie, either, though not one I rewatch like Romero’s classic. But, those opening credits show the world going to hell in such a splendid fashion, you’d be right in thinking that Zack Snyder should end all movies after the title sequence. “The Man Comes Around” is a fantastically evocative song on it’s own. Cash’s raspy voice in his last days has so much belief you feel like that pale rider is going to show up mid-song.

6. “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield

I will never watch The Exorcist and you can’t make me. But, boy howdy, if those tubular bells don’t press all the right buttons. It’s such a haunting theme that it could go with any possessed house. As soon as the leaves change colors, this song is in fashion. And that last minute has such a nasty guitar that any beauty those bells had is forgotten.

7. “Of Whips and Strings” by Super Guitar Bros.

The Castlevania soundtrack is all killer, no filler, and this mix brings a whole lot of it together. Out of the three Castlevania tracks we’ve had now, this is the most woodsy of them all. It sets the mood for a nameless European village being visited by the man who promises to kill their local vampire. It’s sad, but it’s exciting, all while being a bit doomed.

8. “Ghost Town” by Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is a big fan of Adam Lambert but he brought us “Ghost Town” so maybe he has something right. Club music for those haunted by spirits they can’t escape. That whistling is so lonely and so very empty. Try driving with this playing on the radio, when the night has fallen and the leaves blow carelessly across the road.

9. “The End of Hell” by Mazedude, Alisean

More Halloween, more Doom! But, this time, it’s not a remix of “Into Sandy’s City”! It’s just as disturbing, though. It has a Danny Elfman-vibe at times, sounding like it could have come out of the Beetlejuice soundtrack. It has that unrelenting bass that you’d expect from Doom, but there’s that wicked melody that throws everything off kilter.

10. “The Monster” by Eminem feat. Rihanna

The rest of the song is suspect in it’s spookiness but Rihanna is my favorite ghost gal. Her chorus wins this song a spot on the playlist. The music itself actually works well for the season, but come on, “I’m friends with the monster under my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head”? That’s wonderful. It’s nice that she’s escaped Disturbia but now she has to drive us crazy too? What a spooky treasure, she is.

11. “Dream Eater Mix” by Solkrieg

Is there Halloween dubstep? Is this all there is? Because this is something else. You have some of the coolest, loudest sounds to come out of October here and that creepy little girl singing who-knows-what? Maybe it’s not a girl, is it just instrumental? That’s CREEPIER! This isn’t the first time we’ve had Lavender Town’s theme show up but it will be the last because nothing is topping this. It’s scary but it rocks so hard. And that music box! GAH!

12. “Ghost” by Ella Henderson

Volume Three of this playlist has pushed hard against what should and shouldn’t be considered a Halloween song. I’ll admit it! And “Ghost” might be too pop to make it’s own case. But, if you force yourself to not think about this song as about a breakup, than, guess what? Ghosts!

13. “The Haunted Train Disco” by The Orichalcon

Good thing that voice clip tells us we’ve reached our doom or this would be too much fun. It’s another song that screams carnival. I’ve never been to a carnival during Halloween. You know, with rides and clowns. I’d imagine it’s great. Is that something that happens? Where would I have to go to find it? Not some harvest fest, for kids and crap. I want to think those people selling giant bears are out to get me.

14. “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones

This song is an absolute classic. That chorus is full of sorrow and fear. Pet Sematary is a disturbing book and the result of being buried there seems like a fate worse than death. After reading that story, it’s not hard to tell why you wouldn’t want to live that life again. Lot’s of great holiday imagery makes into the song; warlocks, wolf cries, goblins(!) but that chorus and fade out are the star.

15. “Halloween Theme – Main Title” by John Carpenter

Like “Tubular Bells”, the theme from Halloween is a scary piece of standalone art. It’s simple, but perfectly consistent. And that perfection is too much for my anxiety. Piano’s can be horrible to us when we let them. You can hear the grit of the 70s in this track and see the grain on the screen as that knives cuts through a door.

16. “Up Jumped the Devil” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

What makes this song so nasty is how Nick Cave throws himself into the role. As the character in this tale gives into his evil nature, he spirals more and more out of control. Yeah, we’re to believe he was born this way but he seems to be having too much fun to pity. And the music is chaotic and only gets more so as the song goes on. The images of “My daddy did a jig, With the drunk midwife” are nutty and insane. Nasty, yes, but cool enough to be a bad influence.

17. “Ada’s Groove” by ABG

I just realized how heavy this volume is with zombies! And then this track comes in to chase you down the hall, out to the streets and into the sewers. Why did you run into sewers? Those are never safe!  There’s that flute-like call in the song but it feels disconnected from the ticking clock of a beat. It’s frantic, it’s lonely.

18. “Jack the Ripper (Live)” by Morrissey

“Pet Sematary”, “Up Jumped the Devil” and, now, “Jack the Ripper” by Morrissey make for a trilogy of nasty songs. Halloween suddenly got less fun and more dangerous. We’ve been playing with fire for three albums and daring spirits. This song is told from the point-of-view of the Ripper, taunting the women he’s leading to their last moments. But line’s like “Crash into my arms , I want you, You don’t agree, but you don’t refuse, I know you” matched with a teasing and wretched guitar could seduce any of us down an alley we’d never return from.