Category Archives: halloween

Book Review – Lovecraft Country

61gn-jq7-ql-_sx328_bo1204203200_Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff, is an interesting book, both in concept and execution. Taking place in America, 1954, we follow the Turner family as they deal with racism and the supernatural threats that plague them. Throughout the book, we start realizing that one of those is much easier to deal with than the other.

We start with Atticus Turner, a young, black man simply trying to drive up North. Along the way, he’s pulled over for driving while black and there’s always the looming sense of dread just from the embedded racism that he’s trying to avoid. Eventually, he heads to Massachusetts to find his missing father and things start getting more eerie.

Now, I thought about saying, “Things start getting more Lovecraftian” but that wouldn’t be acute. See, all the racism that Atticus deals with while driving is already Lovecraftian, as the influential author was quite a bigot. When a white police officer threatens to shoot a black man if he doesn’t get out of town by sundown, that’s Lovecraft, even if he never wrote such scenes. When monsters and ghosts start showing up, they seem rather mundane to all the racial tension and, sometimes, almost act as a relief.

It’s relieving to deal with the supernatural because it’s not real. I know, for the most part, that I don’t have to worry about ghosts and inter-dimensional beings. I know that. But, in the real world, racism and bigotry are very much alive. As a country, we used to worry about witches and now’s it’s part of our history, but the hate and ignorance that permeates Lovecraft Country is part of our present. Ruff uses the supernatural as a hook to get readers who might not want to confront these issues.

In the book, ghosts can be reasoned with, monsters are indifferent. These scary, immortal threats might not be rational, as Lovecraft often had characters go insane when confronted with them, but in way, they act rational. Some feed, some kill, some of them are just lonely. But, they’re beyond petty things like hatred for different races. Racism, when compared to the threats beyond our own world, becomes the irrational.

Now, I had trouble getting into this book for two reasons. First, the stress of reading about a black family in the 50s was enough to make for slow, uneasy reading. Second, the book is told in parts. I couldn’t find a pace while reading because the first chapter is actually the first short story. Eventually, when I started realizing how the book was laid out, I found my rhythm and was able to cruise through the novel. Considering that Lovecraft mostly wrote short stories himself, you’d think I would have figured that out sooner.

In the process, the book became less creepy and more of an interesting cross between Lovecraft and The Twilight Zone. I didn’t find the overarching plot that connected the chapters to be that compelling, though the resolution is fun and brings all the different elements together. The individual stories, however, are memorable. Each follows a different member of the Turner family and shows a different aspect of 50s America and the supernatural elements of Ruff’s world. There’s talk of Lovecraft Country becoming a movie, but it  could make for a great HBO or Netflix anthology series.

I had started this for Halloween and it wasn’t a bad choice for the holiday, but it might let some people down if they’re looking for straight horror. Really, it’s more acute to call it urban fantasy, as nothing in it is much scarier than what you would find in a Jim Butcher book.  But, for a great example of how fantasy and science fiction can be a mirror into our world, how it can be a commentary on prejudices and our own faults, Lovecraft Country is easily recommendable.

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 – 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.

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.

All the Books Show: Episode 112 – Spooky-lite

It’s a spOoOoOoOoOky episode! Because it’s Halloween month! Did you know I like Halloween? I do. You should know this by now.

We talk about this year’s additions to the horror genre, both Young Adult and regular Adult! You want scary teen adventures? How about There’s Someone Inside Your House? You want ghosts and evil spirits? Boom, here’s House of Furies, You want twins in danger and James Patterson’s name on a cover. Good news, we talk Crazy House.

jemc-cover-largeNic talks about three books and they’re possibly too scary. That The Grip of It sounds horrifying. Anything without skin is scary. Anything. Picture a duck. Do you have a clear image of a duck? Now, picture that duck without skin. And, yeah, it still has feathers. That’s terrible.

Even that cover is scary. WHY DOES IT KEEP SAYING, “A NOVEL”?!?

It’s also the one I might pick up if I had to choose. Crazy House too, maybe. I don’t love murder, so I doubt I’ll be reading There’s Someone Inside Your House, no matter how “subversive” it is. Everything’s subversive these days. Not this blog, though. It’s very traditional. Paragraphs and all, you know?

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 – Alan Wake

61yl1rjcxsl-_sy679_In which I recap streaming a game I just completed. Please accept this stream recap.

Alan Wake was an interesting game, and one that felt like it was meant for the Playstation 2. Back on that console, a lot of games had one concept, sometimes two, and that was their main selling point. Prince of Persia had great combat and climbing mechanics, but it was sold on the concept of time manipulation. Final Fantasy X was a Final Fantasy game but it made a big deal about its voice acting. And Alan Wake is a third person action game with flashlight-based combat.

The core mechanics and concept would have fit right at home on the PS2 and I think the game might be looked upon more fondly if that was the case. But, the lighting and environmental effects needed the graphics of the Playstation 3 (or, in my case, a PC) to do it right. So, Alan Wake comes across as being part of two different generations. The PS2 qualities feel dated on newer machines, but it needs newer machines to work it’s mechanics.

alan_wake_f_01Playing the game today, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I found the simple flashlight-based combat to be a fun variation on shooting a bad guy til he’s dead. I liked throwing flares around like grenades and blasting shadow monsters with shotguns. It wasn’t complicated but it was exciting.

I didn’t come across the public’s negative feelings about Alan Wake until after I played the game, so I was surprised to see how many complaints people had. While it sounds like the majority found the story to be a disappointing failure, I thought it was a silly roller coaster ride, just throwing twists and turns around for the fun of it. None of it made a tons of sense, but, in the moment, it was intriguing. The game never took me out of the story.

alan_wake_2Maybe that’s because it’s told in an episodic format. I’ve read how that bothered people back when it was first released, as a full game with recaps and end-of-episode breaks. Today, the concept of episodic gaming, and owning full seasons of Telltale’s series, is commonplace and didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it helped with streaming the game, because it gave me a great stopping place and, then, a fantastic recap to get me jazzed for another session.

I chose Alan Wake because I wanted to stream a spooky game for October and, while it wasn’t scary, it brought that Halloween vibe. It’s not survival horror, not really, but the setting and style help create an atmosphere that’s creepy without being scary, that’s off without being Silent Hill 2. I jumped but I didn’t hide under my bed. It’s got shadow monsters, Stephen King references and crows that want Alan’s eyeballs for dinner. I wouldn’t play it again, but I would happily buy a sequel.

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

Book Review – Day by Day Armageddon

510vg5q2bdilJ. L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon is written as journal entries. The whole book is journal entries. Reading the book is liking reading a journal, because the book is written in journal entries.

I hope I got across that this book is written as journal entries because that’s the one and only interesting thing about zombie-tale Day by Day Armageddon. I’m not being too harsh either, since most of the marketing and blurbs about the book are about how it’s written. But, where as Max Brooks’ modern classic, World War Z, used a unique format to tell enthralling zombie stories, Bourne uses his style to hide a dull, plodding book.

The beginning of the book starts out strong enough, with an account of how the zombie apocalypse comes about and how it escalates. The cause and effect of the early chapters works because there’s momentum in the dominoes of the modern world toppling over. But, even then, cracks begin to show.

Bourne reveals his amateurish writing from the beginning. I don’t want to call it lazy, because laziness doesn’t complete a book. But, you can write a novel without having much skill in the art. There’s an overemphasis on descriptions, from locations to activities. As we follow our main character, every step he takes is accounted for, even if he does the same things everyday. Now, that could be interesting, as it could be an examination of how monotony can ruin a person’s psyche, especially in survival situations. That’s what Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is all about and it’s fascinating.

Unfortunately for Day by Day Armageddon, Bourne isn’t up to the task. He rarely brings psychological ramifications to light and, when he does, they’re random and thrown away quickly. Thoughts like “Why am I still trying to live?” and “What’s the point of tomorrow?” are ignored as quickly as they arrive. Either Bourne isn’t interested in that type of story, or he thinks these quick snippets are enough.

Now, not focusing on the psychology of the character would be fine if that’s not the type of story Bourne wants to tell. But, I’m not sure what he is trying to say. Day by Day Armageddon isn’t an action story and it’s hard to feel tension when we know the character had to survive to tell the tale. It’s not a book about relationships falling apart or the evil nature of humanity. None of the characters have enough depth to invest in and there’s no dialog to learn from. There is a group of survivors who show up and cause trouble for the main group, but they’re taken care of without much fanfare.

Without any unique perspective or point of view, Day by Day Armageddon is just a daily account of someone taking the bus to the office. Except, even that type of story could be interesting if it had the right focus. Here, we’re reading about survival without purpose. The book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger or closure, it just ends. There’s no inertia given for the reader to want to continue the series. Bourne shows he has the commitment to write a book and get the technicality of it down, but he doesn’t have the skill to make it something worth reading.

If you’ve read more than the first book, maybe you can tell me if he gets any better as a writer. I doubt it, but I won’t be finding out for myself. Day by Day Armageddon is a book I wouldn’t recommend, even if you were desperate for zombie fiction. Maybe, when this book was written in 2010, we had less options and would read anything we could find. Today, you could spend years reading zombie apocalypses and never need to pick this up.

The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 2

werewolvesWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume Two! Be sure to check out Volume One and Three.

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.

Fun fact about this volume, it was made at the same time as the first! It would be an annual undertaking afterwards, but I didn’t know that the first year. So, I went for broke with the first two and they act as companion pieces to each other.

Thus, we listen to Hallows’ Eve: Volume Two.

1. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

The first song on each of these volumes is an important decision. If you’re listening to this playlist in cd form, the perfect form, it’s even more important. I’ve tried to keep each first song a fun one, because you don’t want a happy Halloween mood shut down with something more somber. But, a happy Halloween song can lift your somber mood! So…Ghostbusters”!

2. “Shikashi’s Dream” by anterroir

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a creepy game. That giant moon just keeps looking at you…watching. The characters in the game aren’t that much better and there’s always something a bit off about them. This song could be the theme for any of them. Apart from the game, it’s the song you hear when you find a lone cottage in the woods, where you shouldn’t be. There’s something off about it too. Leave.

3. “Mitternacht” by E Nomine

Mitternacht means Midnight! What’s scarier than midnight during Halloween! And checkout that beat. I don’t know about your experiences with German techno, so Happy Halloween, I give you the treat that is E Nomine!

4. “Panic of the Undead” by Noppz

“Panic of the Undead”, a remix from the game Zombies Ate My Neighbors, is a fun tune that has that uneasy carnival vibe we find so much during October. There might be zombies, sure, but there’s a Ferris wheel that’s moving on it’s own and a clown that’s just laughing for no reason. Even the giant teddy bears seem to have teeth. This song is the tilt-a-whirl.

5. “Flame” by Bell X1

I like an October song that feels like Autumn as well. “Flame” paints that picture. Dark nights after it’s been raining, toasting marshmallows in a haunting light. It’s romantic too, with that deep sense of unrequited longing and sometimes that can get a bit unnerving too. It might not be about ghosts and ghouls but it creates a scene that leaves room for them.

6. “Clairvoyant Eulogy” by The Orichalcon

The creepiest Pokémon track from the creepiest Pokémon town. Lavender Town knows it has ghosts and the villagers just live with it! This source tune will come back in a later volume because it’s just so haunting. That repetitive opening, that sorrowful chorus, it fits the spirits that are still living in our house so well. Grab a flashlight before you go to bed.

7. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Hey, look, it’s “Thriller” on a Halloween playlist! Guess I’m a freaking sheep! Why else would I put this funky, rocking, so dance-able-it-makes-the-dead-groove song on my list? It’s probably the biggest and most obvious Halloween song out there, and even if you don’t like it, it has to be here. It’s earned it.

8. “The Accursed Seal” by Juan Medrano

A remix of “Bloody Tears” from Castlevania II was always going to end up on this playlist. It just so happens that Juan Medrano’s mix rocks too hard to ignore. It’s one of the harder songs throughout all the volumes, with that crying guitar just looking for someone to set it free. There’s that carousel-like bridge but it gets right back to business. This song chooses action over chills when it comes to vampires.

9. “The Twilight Zone” by Rush

The Twilight Zone is one of the best shows I never watch enough. Rush captures the sense of eeriness and otherworldliness that the show did so effortlessly. They wrap references and images in an already fantastic song, with that trotting bass and those almost teasing “nananas”. If a show like The Twilight Zone doesn’t deserve a song during Halloween, then nothing does. Also, 2112 is a fantastic album.

10. “Deadside Dance” by Alexander Previert

I’m such a sucker for voice samples in songs. “Deadside Dance” is full of moody and corny pieces of dialog, but, combined with the relentless beat of this mix, they create a spooky atmosphere of shadow and magic. We’re dealing with the end of the world and crossing over to the land of the dead here. You, like myself, don’t even need to have played the Nintendo 64 game to appreciate this song during those overcast evenings.

11. “Fatal” by RZA

The only good thing to come out of Blade: Trinity and I’m sure RZA could have put this out without that toothless vampire film. This song is the complete opposite of the movie, it’s all bite. Have vampires ever sounded this BA before? RZA makes them sound so frustrated, so ready to take back the night. It might be about Dracula, it might be about you. The important thing to remember is to not cross (get it?) a vampire in the night. (Also, I made that video more than ten years ago).

12. “My Loved Ones Are Gone” by Psycho Crusher

There hasn’t been a lot of sorrow on this volume but,  when it does shows up, it works. “Shikashi’s Dream” and “Clairvoyant Eulogy” had it and so does this song. It’s brutal, yes, like the moment you bust into that evil house and start cutting your way through the undead. But, you’ve lost many to get here and you’re not sure you’re going to make it out alive. How can you trust a guitar that sounds so heartbroken? That’s when it’s the most desperate!

13. “X-Files (UNKLE Variation On a Theme Surrender Sounds Session #10)” by Mark Snow

I really do mean to get back into the The X-Files. I think I’m in the middle of the third season? I remember an episode with Jack Black. For the purpose of this playlist, it doesn’t matter because the main theme from the show is strong enough to stand alone. It’s so eerie and evocative that’s it’s easier to understand why this was the one of the most recognizable tunes of the 90s. Even if you didn’t watch the show, you knew to be creeped out by this song. And this version from the last movie is a great variation that might even improve on the original.

14. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult

And classic rock is the gift that keeps on giving. I’d say it’s not as woodsy and Lovecraftian as Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” but this song is haunting in it’s own way. The images of blue candles, ghosts and lost loved ones fit the holiday well and the bridge is right out of The Twilight Zone. It helps that it’s one of the best rock songs of it’s time.

15. “Neighburgers” by Protricity

Zombies Ate My Neighbors are back! And on the same volume! What might have been a glaring mistake made by yours truly has turned into a happy accident as this mix is darker and a lot more teasing. It rocks a little more, feels less like a carnival and more like a chase you can’t escape. It’s rainy and suburbia is dark.

16. “Halloween (Speedy Mix)” by Aqua

We return to Aqua’s helium-induced singing for the StepMania version of their song “Halloween”. It’s quicker, shorter and would work well on Dance Dance Revolution. Not much to add, other than I like the song so much, I found a way to get it on this playlist twice.

17. “Blood Bath” by Mazedude

I told you we would return to Doom II‘s Into Sandy’s City” and so we have. The other mix, “31 Seconds”, was a somber piece of cheese wiz. “Blood Bath” is lactose intolerant and sets out to be horror show. The title seems all too appropriate. It’s heavy, it’s scary, it feels like the dark Halloween nights we don’t want to be part of. But, with a soundtrack this good, maybe it’s worth the risk. And the axe in the back.

18. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon

After “Blood Bath”. we needed to end on a lighter note. And sure, the werewolves have taken over, but it seems so fashionable. They’re hanging out with the Queen, for pumpkin’s sake! There’s still elements of danger, such as lungs being ripped out, but, mostly, Warren Zevon is more interested in their perfect hair. I’d rank this alongside “Thriller” in being required Halloween listening.

The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 1

79901561-image_561eb20db805fWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume One! Be sure to check out Volume Two and Three!

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.

Thus, we begin with Hallows’ Eve: Volume One.

1. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

Cheese and Halloween are best friends and this song is a no-brainer. I’m almost embarrassed to have this on the playlist, it’s so obvious. But, it represents an era that brought about the first monster movies and B-movie pleasures.  It’s a required addition, yes, but it’s a fun way to start of the holiday season.

2. “Castlemania” by AmIEviL

I love the energy in this one. It’s an old mix from the site but it still has life. It’s not a creepy song, at least not until the end, but the original tracks from the NES game have a gothic funk to them.

3. “White Claudia” by K. Praslowicz

I’ll be the first to admit that I like “spooky” not “horror”. So, no, I haven’t played the Silent Hill games. I’ve seen them played, I’ve read about them and even started the second one for about two hours. But, they’re too much for me. Luckily, I can handle the music and this song remixes the track in a grungy, creepy fashion that feels like an old Japanese horror film from the 80s.

4. “Halloween” by Aqua

I know enough about Aqua to tell you that their second album, Aquarius, is the superior one. It’s also the album that gave us this silly song that still has a way of building up anxiety. No, it’s not “Thriller”, even with a silly narration but it represents the comedy of the season and an ode to slasher films.

5. “31 Seconds” by John Revoredo

This is the first track on this playlist that mixes creepy with that sad, lonely feeling you get during October. Those voice samples recall 50s B-movies but the piano pulls the original’s metal qualities back to something more human. This isn’t the last time we’ll see “Into Sandy’s City” remixed, as the original is a killer and has a lot to play around with. But, this mix fits nicely here to add a somber mood to what’s has been some frontloaded silliness.

6. “Somebody’s Watching Me (Single Version)” by Rockwell

What I like about “Somebody’s Watching Me” is that, yes, it’s silly, but it’s still makes you look around to make sure you’re not being followed. I think a good, cheesy Halloween song can still bring the goosebumps. Halloween is us having fun at death’s expense, but death is still watching us as we laugh. Maybe “Somebody’s Watching Me” isn’t that deep, but it might make you check under your bed before you go to sleep.

7. “The 2nd Law – Isolated System” by Muse

I’m not a Muse fan, even though I keep finding Muse tracks that I like. This song was part of the opening credits of World War Z, and it’s now connected with zombies for me. That makes this the first zombie track of the playlist! Like “31 Seconds”, this song is sad and creepy. If I’ve had too much caffeine,  it’s probably stressing me out. It paints the picture of gray skies, falling leaves and not being able to trust anyone.

8. “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman

Maybe the closest Halloween has to a “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” for music. Danny Elfman is able to create a piece of music that might creep out younger listeners, but it’s all in good fun. If Christmas music is about reminding us of snowflakes and cookies, this song is about wolfmen and bog monsters. It’s a tour, if you will, through what makes Halloween so much fun. It’s also, surprisingly, the only real, full Halloween song in a Nightmare Before Christmas. 

9. “Lost Sanctuary” by Daknit and Eric Dude

I’ll show throughout this playlist that a repetitive, creepy riff will freak me right out. There’s nothing technically impressive with this song, it doesn’t change much throughout it’s four and a half minutes, but it gives me the willies. It’s persistent and lackadaisical, like a stalker in the woods with all the time in the world. Gah, just typing that while listening to this song creeped me out! You’re a chicken! YOU!

10. “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash

An old song that hasn’t been bettered since Johnny Cash got his hand’s on it. He’s able to take this song that’s part country living, part morality warning and turn it into something that fits a leaf-covered cemetery. Is it his voice, that already has a haunting rasp? Is it that Cash even seems a bit unnerved by the sight of these ghost riders? I mean, if Johnny Cash is shook up, who am I to pretend to be brave?

11. “The Predator” by E-Type

I mean, this about vampires, right? It has to be! I never saw the movie but it feels like this would have fit for Jennifer’s Body. That was vampire film, right? Also, who says we can’t dance during Halloween? And, yes, I have a whole story for this song laid out, about a boy in college watching all his friends get taken out by this girl, and he’s the only who believes she’s a vampire, so he hunts her down and they have a big fight in the school’s chem lab which catches on fire and they end up out the window into a busy freeway and she gets away but he was right, dammit! He was RIGHT!

12. “In the House – In a Heartbeat” by John Murphy

As unnerving as they get, really. The track is from one of the most intense scenes of the excellent 28 Days Later but that guitar carries the song out of the movie and into every October. You can just feel your blood pressure go up as that unrelenting piano gives the sense of escalation without ever picking up speed. Axes in doors, window’s breaking, something on the roof. It’s Halloween!

13. “Season of the Witch” by Donovan

Donovan is one of the greats and here he creates a trippy, twangy creepshow. Is he losing his mind or is something really after him? All he knows is it must be the Season of the Witch. This is a song that works during anytime of day, making mornings just as eerie as nights. That organ doesn’t help matters. You know who plays organs? Witches.

14. “Wet Grass Inspired” by AmIEvil

Diablo is another game that freaked me out when I was younger so I’ve never played it all the way through. AmIEvil (he’s back, baby!) takes the creepy, atmospheric tune that is “Tristam” and folks it up a bit. There’s a chill in the air and it still feels at home with a forest-cloaked village. I wouldn’t want to get lost in these woods.

15. “Disturbia” by Rihanna

Let’s take a moment and be thankful for Rihanna. Not every generation gets a Rihanna. Which means not every generation gets a “Disturbia”. Still one of her best, it’s also the perfect track for any Halloween party. The song is celebrating the chaos, all while lamenting being trapped in this upside down world. It’s a haunted house of a song that spills out into to the neighborhood. It keeps us dancing while we’re trying to remember if all the knives are put safely away.

16. “Grindhouse (Main Titles) by Robert Rodriguez

The last track of the first volume of this playlist and we close out with filth and debauchery. The music is from the opening titles of the only good film from the double feature Grindhouse. Planet Terror is a silly, schlocky zombie film but it knows it. Likewise, this sax-guitar sleezefest knows what it’s about. Zombies, blood, burnt out cars and empty hospitals. Halloween can be silly but it can also bring out the punk in all of us and while that might be a little funny, it can be dangerous as well.

George A. Romero – A Brief Retrospective

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When I first watched Night of the Living Dead, I was fifteen. I had only gotten into the world of zombie fiction earlier that year when I watched the first Resident Evil movie. The very concept of zombies was relatively new to me, and creeped me right out. Even with that fear, as someone who found the first Alien movie not scary or that great, I wasn’t expecting to be put on edge by an older horror film,  no matter the monster.

Watching George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead made me check my attitude at the door. It didn’t matter how old the movie was, it was still unsettling. The zombies were still creepy and only grew in number throughout the night. The building tension was just as palpable as I imagine it was at the drive-in during 1968. It also showed me what zombie fiction was really about, the living. The whole movie is a boiler because the occupants of the house are flawed, sometimes destructive people and just because there’s a horde of zombies outside doesn’t mean the survivors are going to work together. Technically, it’s an amazing achievement of budget constraints and independent film making. While aspiring directors may look to Scorsese or Tarantino for inspiration, what Romero did is both attainable and impressive. It helps that Ben is one of the great movie heroes of all time and the shambling extras make for convincing zombies.

gaylen-ross-david-emge-ken-foree-et-scott-hDawn of the Dead is all of that but bigger. While not as focused as the laser-sighted storytelling in Night, the sequel is great and stands on it’s own. Less frightening, its an examination of consumer culture, as well as the struggle to survive in a world that will never get better. The opening raid in the rundown apartment complex is brutal, but so is watching the relationships break apart. I’ve watched both Night and Dawn multiple times and they both bring something new to table with each viewing.

It was by luck that I came upon Day of the Dead on TV.  I was hooked by that creepy synth playing over the calls for any survivors during the opening credits. The story is maybe less focused and maybe the budget wasn’t up to the Romero’s vision. Taking place in an underground military base, the movie does have a sense of claustrophobia akin to Night. New to the table is the idea that zombies can be domesticated, maybe brought back from the brink. Of course, being the dark film this is, it doesn’t work out but the journey is still entertaining. The end is one of the best shock/relief moments of the series as well.

261025-1For my money, one of the most underrated movies is Land of the Dead. It made money at the time, riding the wave of growing zombie mania, and most critics liked it, but no one talks about it like the previous films. The focus on rich vs. poor in the undead landscape is just as depressing as the zombies themselves. And Dennis Hopper’s character, ruling over the high tower, might have been too ahead of it’s time. If this movie was released today, it would be considered a political attack on the current administration. Luckily, the themes are relatively timeless. And it has some of the most impressive zombie carnage the series has to offer.

Romero would go own to make more zombie movies, such as Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead and he has a whole career of non-zombie films that are worth checking out. But what I find so fascinating with the man is that he created a genre of film, of storytelling, and then used it to make the movies he wanted to create. Others might have decided to focus on the lore of these new worlds or made them into action films, like World War Z or the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. But not Romero.

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Romero wanted to tell stories about people, politics, race, consumerism and classism. So he told those stories, tricking viewers with zombie horror and gore. Creating a brand new genre wasn’t enough for him, he had to perfect it and show how many layers could be found within it. Heck, Night of the Living Dead could be done as a stage play and it wouldn’t lose anything in scale and would be just as compelling as Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Because of that, Romero made movies that will outlive him and remain watchable and timely. Because, while zombies may someday fall out of fashion, the ideas that fill his films will always be relevant. They’ll continue to inspire hopeful directors, writers and viewers. And they’ll continue to scare those who think age has weakened their potency.