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The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 1

79901561-image_561eb20db805fWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume One! You can find the volume two here!

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.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – A Review

valerianWe shouldn’t compare Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to The Fifth Element, even if director Luc Besson is behind both of these films.

We shouldn’t compare the two because The Fifth Element had lead actors we liked, like Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. Valerian, on the other hand, has Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne. Dehaan, who was compelling in Chronicle, is a black hole of charisma in this film. As the action lead, he’s a failure. Too young to be taken seriously, too much of a snot to be likable, Dehaan’s portrayal as one of the galaxy’s best soldiers is hilariously off mark. Delevingne, who you might remember as the shaking, shadowy non-character Enchantress from Suicide Squad, fairs betters in the film but not by much. She has a flat, no-nonsense delivery that helps some of the lifeless dialog seem planned that way. But, she too comes across too young for the type of character she’s playing. If I’m supposed to believe either of these two have the field experience to be given any of the responsibility they have in Valerian, then consider me unconvinced. The only time I had any affection for them was when the two were dressed like characters from Final Fantasy X. Then they changed clothes and I lost all my positive feelings.

valerian_and_the_city_of_a_thousand_planets-hdWe shouldn’t compare Valerian to The Fifth Element because that nineties film had an energy that felt more like a comedy than a drama. It’s almost a scifi Rush Hour and not just because of a manic Chris Tucker. Valerian’s plot moves at a snails pace but I still found myself forgetting what our “heroes” were doing or if it had anything to do with the plot. The movie’s second act is a huge detour from anything that matters to the story and, when it finally gets back to the main plot, I had almost forgotten the goals and problems I was supposed to be invested in. A good example of why we shouldn’t compare the two movies is how The Fifth Element has that famous opera scene that connects to main plot. In Valerian, we had a strip tease from Rihanna that has little to do with the threat to the city (of a thousand planets). Sure, Dehaan needs her help, but only because of a sidequest that’s taking up forty minutes of the movie.

valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-2017-dane-dehaan

There’s not much more to say about Valerian. It was an exhausting film and not in the way that War for the Planet of the Apes left me ragged. I was bored after the first half hour and was never won back. Clive Owen gives a performance that left me feeling bad for the guy. None of the supporting characters, alien or otherwise, were charming. While I complained about the reason Rihanna’s character is involved, she’s has an energy that the film desperately needs but then ignores. The alien race we follow from the beginning is too noble to be interesting and too passive to connect with. The film’s opening of humanity greeting hundreds of new races to it’s space station, all set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is charming but false advertising for the rest of the movie.

Yes, we should support original scifi (even adaptations), especially the ones that get bigger budgets. But, when the results are movies like Valerian, it’s hard to fault studios for not wanting to fund one hundred and fifty million dollar films, no matter how pretty they are. We shouldn’t compare Valerian to The Fifth Element because we still talk about that movie and Valerian will probably not last in the public consciousness. Heck, this review is running short because there just wasn’t enough on screen to talk about.

All the complaints people had about the Star Wars prequels apply here. Technical aptitude over plot, archetypes over characters, and stilted dialog over, well,, human dialog. George Lucas was torn apart by fans. Yet, for some reason, I’ve seen people trying to give Luc Besson a pass because he tried something big and grand and failed in the process. Maybe they’re just fans of The Fifth Element. But Valerian is no Fifth Element. Let’s not compare the two.