Welcome to a special, giant-sized edition of My Favorite Things! Normally this is a spot for us to share our recent favs, but we couldn’t resist putting a ghoulish twist on the column for one of our favorite holidays — Halloween! There’s no better day for carving wicked jack-o-lanterns, marathoning horror movies, and gorging yourself on way too much candy. Read on and you’ll discover our favorite Halloween traditions, including spooky movies and TV specials, the best book to read every October, a creepy-fun video game, and a few great ways to spruce up your living space.
Nicole’s Favorite Thing is… Until Dawn!
Until Dawn was a PS4 exclusive released August 2015 — and what a game it is.
It follows several teenagers as they stay overnight at a friend’s home in the mountains. Already horror-story fuel, right? You play each character at different times, making choices that lead to different fates a la choose your own adventure. Make good choices, people live. Make the wrong choices…I’m sure you get the idea.
There is so much to love about this game. From the creepy atmosphere and excellent design that takes in even the smallest of details (some of which, once discovered, can be downright disturbing), to the fact that even jump scares serve a purpose. I love how everyone has a different experience upon the first playthrough, and how it makes the game well worth playing over and over again to find all the totems, clues, and make every possible choice or combination to see how things play out. And as I watch yet another person play, I’ve come to realize how beautifully the game’s creators made it simultaneously a psycho killer, ghost, and monster horror game. All three elements are involved here, and as the story unfolds you discover which pieces of the puzzle are true and what you really should have been afraid of the entire time.
I’ve lost track of just how many people I’ve watched play and I still take immense pleasure in watching others dive in for the first time. And even though I know every facet of the game, there’s still the adrenaline rush of watching them panic over quick time events, the delight or despair over certain choices, and of course, their faces as revelations are revealed. And since Until Dawn uses the motion control in the most terrifying way possible, I still hold my breath and pray for them — I don’t move.
J.L. Gribble’s Favorite Thing is… The Crow!
I don’t have any Halloween traditions, but I have tried to maintain a Halloween Eve tradition since high school. October 30 (Mischief Night, Devil’s Night, or whatever you’d like to call it) is the evening reserved for my annual viewing of The Crow. I’m not really a “horror” person, but I love the supernatural/mythological aspects and the ridiculous hyper-violence. I’m not really a “romance” person, but I’m a sucker for a heart-wrenching love story that transcends the boundary between life and death. However you define its mixed genres, The Crow has been one of my favorite movies almost as soon after it came out over 20 years ago. Throw in the tragedy and mystique of lead actor Brandon Lee’s fate during filming, and it’s the perfect way to spend a cozy autumn evening before gearing up to party away with the other ghosts and spirits soon after.
Carey’s Favorite Thing is… Lady in White!
One night in the early 90s my friend picked up Lady in White at the corner video rental store (we didn’t even have Blockbuster in my little town), and we were almost instantly mesmerized. Lady in White is a supernatural, magical, tender tale about murder set against the backdrop of 1960s small-town New York. When bullies lock Frankie Scarlatti (a very young Lukas Haas) in the school cloakroom after the class Halloween party, Frankie witnesses a ghostly reenactment of a murder that rocked the town ten years before. The problem is only the ghost-victim is visible. Later that night the real murderer comes into the cloakroom, discovers Frankie, and chokes him to death. Frankie, floating between life and death, meets the victim, a sweet, little red-headed girl named Melissa, who asks him to reunite her with her mother — the Lady in White. Frankie is resuscitated; recovering at home, discovers he would have been the twelfth victim, and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of Melissa’s death. Melissa, having found a kindred spirit, has followed him home. Every night she floats back to the cloakroom, only to be killed. Frankie and his older brother Geno follow her and discover a clue to the killer’s identity — what the killer was after the night he choked Frankie. Meanwhile, racial tensions in the town flare as the African-American school janitor has been arrested for the children’s deaths, then is released due to lack of evidence. Director Frank LaLoggia wrote the story and even composed the music; he made Lady in White on a shoestring budget, got Alex Rocco, Jared Rushton and Katharine Helmond to star in it, and barely made another film ever — which based off this experience is a complete shame.
Sharon’s Favorite Thing is… Streaming Horror Services!
When streaming horror services compete, you win!!! Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, it should. Long relegated to the dusty, unloved sub-basement of Netflix, streaming horror is finally getting its due with competing services Shudder and Screambox. With both sites dedicated solely to horror films and television, lovers of a good scare no longer have to settle for gorging on horror during the month of October and then starving the rest of the year.
So which service to go with? (Because I’m assuming you love horror as much as I do). A comparison:
First thing to note: both services offer a 7-day free trial. After that? Both charge the same amount for a monthly fee — $4.99 per month — but Screambox’s yearly membership discount is steeper ($35.88) than Shudder’s ($49.99).
So does that make Screambox a no-brainer? In my opinion, no. Although Screambox has some nifty original content and lovely subcategories (Rednecks or Home Invasion, anyone?), Shudder more than justifies its higher yearly membership. With a third more permanent titles in its library, curated collections by guest auteurs, a wider selection of international horror, and a deeper vault of classic horror, it’s a severed head and shoulders above Screambox.
So sign up for Shudder’s free trial, browse around the site (Eco Terror? Killer Kids? Or Winter Chill, to get you in that holiday spirit?) and get your horror cravings fed year round.
Nancy’s Favorite Things is… Halloween — Buffy Style!
Because part of me will always been that teenage girl whose life revolved around Tuesday nights, when the latest Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode would air, how could I pick anything but the show’s fabulous Halloween episodes? The one that gets the most loved is the incredibly fun “Halloween,” where a spell transforms the characters into their chosen Halloween costumes. The great thing about this episode is it allows the actors to explore different sides of their characters. The strong, competent Buffy becomes a helpless noble woman (the kind of woman she believes that her beau Angel wants her to be). Comic relief Xander Harris turns badass when he dresses up as a soldier. And the normally-shy Willow has to take control of the situation, as everyone around her seemingly loses their minds.
The second Buffy Halloween episode isn’t talked about as much, but is just as good, if a tad more serious. In “Fear, Itself” the Scooby Gang gets invited to a frat party, only to find the house possessed by a fear demon. The team is split up, and each member finds themselves facing up to their greatest fears, allowing for some wonderful explorations of character. “Fear, Itself” is 100% a classic Haunted House episode, and as someone with a weakness for the genre, I’ve loved this episode from the moment it first aired.
I can’t wait to watch both episodes this Halloween!
Tez’s Favorite Thing is… “Bart Simpson’s Dracula!”
Halloween isn’t for me, but a Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” special is always welcome. My favorite mini-episode is a silly good time. 1993’s “Treehouse of Horror IV” saved its best part for last: “Bart Simpson’s Dracula.”
The Simpsons are invited to Mr. Burns’ castle, where Lisa’s theory is confirmed that their host is a vampire. But if you want to restore one back to the person they were, you must kill the head vampire…but who could it be?
This may not be the most creative effort from the TV show, but it has an appealing charm: The way Homer ominously says, “Pennsylvania.” The Super Fun Happy Slide. And Marge’s classic concern, “Today he’s drinking blood; tomorrow he could be smoking.”
This is Halloween the way it should be — not triggering anyone’s phobias, and full of enjoyment rather than fear. Hopefully there will be a “Treehouse of Horror” marathon on TV this year.
Lane’s Favorite Thing is… A Night in the Lonesome October!
One of my very favorite annual rituals is rereading Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October. It is a book designed to be read around Halloween and it is an utter delight, a total treat during trick or treat season. The plot is… well, the book’s not really about a plot. It’s about the characters! The main character and narrator is Snuff, the dog, and he guides us through this goofy story with doggy panache and style. This book is kind of the ultimate mash up for me. Is it horror? Yes. Vile deeds are done violently! Is Night a cozy mystery? Yes. It’s about neighbors in a small town infighting until murder is done. Is it a romance? Yes. Dashing boy meets magical girl, but who will seduce whom to the dark side? Which one is the bad guy, anyway? Is Night a loving homage to famous and infamous characters in movies and literature? Oh most definitely. The cameos come fast and frequently. Is it a comedy? Absolutely! The writing is tongue-in-cheek all the way through. As an example, Snuff and his new associate, Larry Talbot (yes, that Larry Talbot), spy on an old church with a vicar of dubious sanctity. They look at the giant, black, upside down cross, and Larry asks, “Do you know what this means?” “Religious distress signal?” replies Snuff.
Snuff’s narrative is charming; he’s intelligent, yet is still a dog to his core, concerned with doggy things and perceptions. And for a book (novella, technically: Night is short and sweet) about enemies grappling with each other for the fate of the world, there’s a huge found family element which is something I always love. These people are all violent, crazy zealots, but hey, they can be violent, crazy zealots together.
To top it all off, the book is illustrated by the amazing Gahan Wilson. All in all, a delight.
Janicu’s Favorite Thing is… mypapercrane!
I find it really inspiring and soothing to discover what people can make by hand (I love art and design and entrepreneurship). One of my favorite blogs in this area is mypapercrane, which is where artist Heidi Kenney posts about her plush and 3D sculptures, craft weekends, amazing vintage finds, fabric designs and all kinds of cool as heck stuff. What this has to do with Halloween you may ask? Well, hers is my favorite blog when it comes to Halloween. This woman does Halloween right! She starts planning months in advance (yes, I am a creepy blog follower who notices this), and every year she comes up with some new awesome idea to celebrate. I am going to point you at her halloween tag, with the warning that you may lose yourself for a few hours. If you don’t have a few hours, check out her super cute Halloweeen-themed fabric she designed, this post on The Beistle company (a party decoration and supply company), these glimpses of what her house looks like at Halloween, the blocks she made for an epic Halloween quilt (the spider one is killing it), or her how-to on making a Halloween themed wreath. Oh, and check out her Halloween mixes on 8tracks (she picks vintage songs and it is great).
Any thoughts on the selections above? What are your favorite Halloween traditions?