31 October 2016

Halloween Night! 31 Days of This Shit!

Well folks, it's finally upon us - the hour to go ask strangers for candy is almost here, and with that it's time to go through what to watch during the last three days in October. Never mind that we only have five hours left in October - this is all you really need to know. As you gather your family close by the burning pile of tootsie rolls know this - you're never alone. Michael Myers is watching you.

#29: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Movie

I first saw Rocky Horror the way it was meant to be seen - alone in my parent's house late on a Saturday night while I was still in High School. Fuck that shit - Rocky Horror ought to only be seen when dressed up as a weirdo at midnight at some sketchy-ass theater with a few hundred people who know the film well enough to quote every line. It's an insane bit of pulp that's become the definition of a cult classic, and with its ghoulish send-up and frankly, now very progressive depiction of transsexual Transylvania, Rocky Horror is terrifying, hysterical, sexy, and wonderful at every turn. It's still niche enough that it's not truly mainstream - despite what anyone says, there aren't a lot of Rocky's and Frank-N-Furter's running around this season. It's the kind of film that you have to earn a membership with to really be considered a true fan, so hey - there's no time like 2016 to clue into this 41-year old movie. There's not a lot else out there that so combines the horror and goofiness inherent to Halloween, but boy does this number do it.

#30: "Thriller" - Song / Short Film / Album / Revolution

Even more so than the "Monster Mash," no Halloween is complete without "Thriller." Everything about this epic 14-minute long music video is spectacular. Not only did it launch the music video as an artform, but also the career of Michael Jackson. It's lost to history why exactly he decided to center his magnum opus around a Werecat / Zombie epic, but who's to get upset? Digging into this thing reveals a ton of stuff immediately that make no sense. What is he doing, watching an old movie from the 50s that also stars himself and his current girlfriend? Why did they go with werecat? Zombies haven't been around for 40,000 years, Vincent Price! Nothing has! That predates the pyramids by many thousands of years. Still, "the Fuck of 40,000 Years" just has a cherry ring to it, right? Also was Mikey really worried that we'd think he had a belief in the occult? People were crazy in '83. And what's with that ending? Is she really in a zombie house or a normal house? Is this all an elaborate mind game from Michael Jackson? Is he possessed by the spirit of the evil werecat he played in a movie from the 1950s? None of this narrative holds up! And I'm usually good at rationalizing and finding meaning in these things. I suppose it doesn't actually matter at all. It doesn't matter than nothing makes sense - look at him dance! And that beat is dope as hell! This is the mainstream Halloween pop epic jam that we've always wanted and needed - and even though there's really only about 3:30 worth of actual lyrical content, we got a 5:58 jam on the album Thriller, and a 13:42 piece of pop cultural excellence here. That really doesn't exonerate the homosexual pedophile, but this song is so damn good that it actually comes close, which is more insane than any Halloween ghoul.

#31: Fun Size (2012) - Movie

Speaking of Michael Jackson...

That's right. This is how you win the Troll Prize of the Year. Fun Size, baby! This is a spectacularly dumb but fun comedy from a few years back about Victoria Justice losing her kid brother on Halloween night that only gets better with age. I am going to try to keep typing with a straight face. Some might use the words "egregiously obnoxious" or "what the hell?" when describing this film which seems like it was intended for children except for all the sexual and adult situations. No one knows who this movie was made for and that's the point - we've already established that Halloween Mysteries are the most scary thing of all. Most importantly, though, this film united Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll, who would team-up the next year to make the immortal American Classic, Bad Grandpa (2013). This is definitely a guilty pleasure, in the sense that you feel guilty about really misusing the past 86 minutes of your life. Those are minutes that you could have spent looking at Facebook updates, reading Halloween Lists, or best yet, just sitting quietly. Minutes that you'll never get back.

And that's all she wrote, folks. Another Halloween passed, another horrible list of dumb things to do on Halloween to go with it. There will be many more great holiday moments to savor in the years and decades to come I'm sure, but for now, this should sate your fiendish appetites. Good night and have a GHOULSIHLY GOOD TIME! AHAHAHAHA!!!

29 October 2016

Almost There: 31 Days of Horrorween Hallows!

As we close in on the big day here we have come at last to the unofficial Celebration Day for every insane drunken adult out there - even though we're two days out, no body's dressing as a slutty Ken Bone making out with Harley Quinns and Princes out there on Monday. In a few short hours the orgy of candy, fallgaritas, and blacklights will begin. in that honor, let's get through four more Halloween...things.

#25: Trick 'r Treat (2007) - Movie

This little gem seemed to come real quick and make no splash after its studio heavily delayed its release, but in the near-decade since, it's grown a nice little cult following. It contains a standard horror anthology of four inter-related flicks, which as this site says, is more Four Rooms (1995)-ish than standard compilations. It wins points around this time of year more than other horror anthos, though, due to its incessant and complete Halloween-ness. There's literally a little pumpkin-headed dude, who will really fuck up your day if you're not celebrating Halloween correctly. There are better horror movies out there, hell, there's better ones on this list, but this could be the most Halloween-one, and that's including one eponymous number coming up.

#26: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror - TV Show

Each year it gets a bit more difficult to watch every Treehouse of Horror - after all, there's 27 of them now. That's like nine hours without commercials. I have talked at various points at length about how these have become the definitive TV Halloween Special, and I'd agree more or less with these rankings to this day. We probably deserve a whole new ranking, although the top five certainly wouldn't change. I'd say X, I, XV, XIV have trended up to me lately, XXII, XVII, and XVIII are certainly down. It's amazing how much they seem to have bungled Kang and Kodos since "Citizen Kang." In terms of the four specials since 2012, XXIV outside the Guillermo del Toro opening is garbage, probably bottom tier, XXV and XXVI are decent, middle group stuff, and the latest, XXVII is a solid contender for worst ever. I know, this is impossible to remember just by roman numerals. I have given you the pain of looking all these up for yourself. Even the section titles can be tough to remember. Just....just trust the word of Norwegian Morning Wood here, folks. Fine, I'll throw together an updated ranking.

#27: "Monster Mash" by Bobby Picket - Song

Here's Halloween Trivia for whatever party you're headed to tonight: Who first released the "Monster Mash" and in what year? Bobby "Boris" Picket, 1962! That's got to be the lamest party ever if you're sitting around trading "Monster Mash" trivia. Here's a video of this dude - can you imagine, like, Kanye West doing this on national TV these days? This is the Halloween equivalent of "Jingle Bells," though - the perfect Halloween Carol if we've ever had one. Sung ostensibly from the viewpoint of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the song focuses on his monster rising from his slab, and starting a huge dance party. The lyrics are really insane though - apparently zombies, the Wolfman, and Dracula (as well as his son - what the hell?) all show up, Drac gets pissed because they left out his favorite dance, the Transylvania Twist, but then they rectify that somehow, including the Prince of Darkness in their band or whatever. And then Bobby "Boris" Picket includes himself in a weirdly toned "Tell them Boris sent you!" to invite everyone into the Graveyard Smash. And who the hell are the Crypt-Kicker Five? There are so many questions here. Of course, that's what adds to the horrifying Halloween mystery machine.

#28: Halloween (1978) - Movie
ooo la la Mikey1

Perhaps the grandaddy of all Halloween movies, and certainly of most modern slasher movies (although a solid case can be made for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974]), Halloween for all its glory demands viewing on its namesake holiday. For all this hyperbole, though, there's actually not all that much to do with Halloween in this film. Sure the change of seasons, incoming death, and naïve trick or treating play a big part, and wee lil' Mikey Meyers committing his first murder dressed in costume on Halloween carries significance according to whatever definition for his madness you can ascribe - evil possession, disassociative identity disorder, being a douchebag, whatever, but this feels like it could be a horror for all occasions rather than holiday specific. I mean, the Rob Zombie 2007 version came out in August for knife's sake. All this would make it seem like I'm trouncing the film, and in a lot of ways this probably shouldn't be ranked as high as it is, but there's still something definitively Halloween-ish in watching it this night, if only for tradition's sake.

Wait - what's that?

You thought we'd blow the whole wad up to #31 two days before Halloween! You're crazier than a machete-wielding Red Wings fan! You're going to have to wait until the day of Satan's Reckoning to see what our Top Three picks are and I will guarantee you that the #1 will be stupid enough that you never read this site again ever.

25 October 2016

31 Additional Days of Hallow Treats: Earnest Scared Shitless!

Welcome again eager readers to our Halloween Countdown of All Things Scary! What's scariest of all is that we're totally disinterested in offering little bits of spooky cultural ephemera each day, but instead are rather content to blast huge chunks to you all at once. So today we have six more fun-filled gobtacular bits of pop culture to shove down your miserable throats. Let's jump back into the insanity pit:

#19: The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Movie

A few years back when The Cabin in the Woods was all over Netflix, this was an easier must check-off on the Halloween List, and even though it's not anymore, it's still a great time getting some meta-scares in during October. The trope-busting is reminiscent of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), but much more blatant in its postmodern treatment of classic creepy slasher conventions. Its ending is also the best ending of any horror film ever (well, the monster mash, at least. SPOILER Sigourney Weaver's blah blah Ancient God sacrifice is a bit forced), and a nice way to chunk in every (mostly modern) horror icon in one big go. Its bloody gory greatness is a sublime pay-off to a film equally stuffed with satire on bureacracy, horror, and teen dumbness. Defying genre at almost every turn, it's one of the best modern classics we got.

#20: Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) - Movie

This is probably the most horrifying moment of my childhood on this entire list. A lot of really dumb shit scared and scarred me for life in my formulative years, and Trantor the Troll is about at the top of that list. That motherfucker who sucked the life out of boys until they became wooden dolls still scares the stupid out of me. Was that whole thing a metaphor for abuse? With Ernest P. Worrall at the helm, most likely. Ernest was such a flash in the pan cultural touchstone, which seems completely bizarre now. Somehow there were a whopping nine Ernest films, five of which were released theatrically. There's almost no cultural memory of the doofy hick janitor, though, which seems weird in the least. I suppose none were all that effective, and who the hell knows what Jim Varney is up to now. Ernest for President! Anyway, Ernest Scared Stupid is at least the third best of the films, probably after Camp (1987) and Jail (1990). Did Ernest get raped in prison? These are the questions we may never know the answer to.

#21: Scream Queens - TV Show

So, like American Horror Story, I just had a huge bit about this show, which is my ultimate guility pleasure. Both Season 1 and the current Season 2 have largely centered around Halloween; this season in particular has used the holiday as a supreme focal point. There's not really a better show that has captured the spirit of Halloween to such an extreme degree that it bleeds into some actual bleeding - murder, mystery, and ghouls galore! From its endless trash and insane over-the-top characters, Scream Queens screams Halloween like a dream.

#22: "A Nightmare on Facetime" from South Park - TV Show

There are a couple television shows that just consistently do Halloween episodes right. The Simpsons is the obvious paradigm, but from The Office to Parks and Recreation, year in and year out, the stuff works. "Bolloween" from Outsourced was also totally that show's best episode. Yes, I watched Outsourced. That show was terrible. But South Park is a show that really gets the combination spooky and doofy, from "Pinkeye", "Korn's Groovy Ghost Pirate Mystery", and "Spookyfish" all the way to the beautiful "Hell on Earth 2006." I might go rogue here, though, and name "A Nightmare on Facetime" as my favourite South Park Halloween episode. From the spot-on 2012 costumes that make it a perfect time capsule (all Avengers and Psy) to the brilliant melding of Blockbuster and The Shining (1980) into a damned good Randy episode that also finds room for a lot more of the regular cast of characters.

#23: "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - TV Show

It may just be that this episode dropped at the perfect time in my life, but for a while, I lived a lot of Halloweens like the one depited here. "The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre" gets big points for actually owning a few genuine horror-tinged elements, but for a real twenty-something bar-hopping Halloween nut, "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" takes the cake. It follows the gang as they try to piece together a series of inter-connected drinking brown-outs into a singular story of what happened one Halloween night where Sweet Dee was knocked up. It's exactly every Halloween I had from 2008 to...uh...shit. Present. Still going strong. It's that element that's missing from most standard specials: Halloween as one of the top drinking days of the year!

#24: An American Werewolf in London (1981) - Movie

Turning away from television and back to movies for a second, this is the last Horror film on this countdown that doesn't have anything explicitly to do with Halloween. It's just scary, gruesome, and likely the best werewolf movie of all time, even if it faces stiff competition from The Howling (1981),  and to a lesser extent Silver Bullet (1985), Bad Moon (1996), and the recent old blind man werewolf epic Late Phases (2014). In fact, you could make a pretty coherent argument that every subsequent werewolf movie has gotten worse since London, which is more frightening than any man-canine lurking in the dark. John Landis mixes terrifying horror with great gore, decomposing corpse-ghosts, a dash of humour, romance, and tourism, and the single best werewolf transformation ever committed to film. Awoooo!! Roped into this is really Warren Zevon's 1978 single "Werewolves of London" (somehow the Adam Sandler cover in the best), which also blends silliness into mutilation. Why are werewolves way funnier than Frankensteins or Mummies? I suppose we just like puppy doggs. But "Werewolves of London" has also found its way into Halloween Soundtrack proceedings.

Wanna go for a Pina Colada at Trader Vic's?
There's the latest installment for you. As you can tell, we're really getting deep into the All Hallow's Eve Spirit by know. There are assuredly some great films, songs, television shows, and feature-length music videos to get through - Halloween is just that kind of fantastic holiday! Stay tuned for more this week as we break down the next two installments of this Big List of Halloween Junk!

21 October 2016

31 Days of More Halloween Stuff: Diving into Creepy Obscura

We love lists as a people and October's near-perfect amount of days is a damn good means to countdown a ton of stupid, scary, funny, creepy shit to indulge in before the rancid opulence of All Hallow's Eve takes over our souls. We've gone through twelve personal things I partake in and even though we could have made this an every-day kind of thing, who cares about that? This is about splurging and blowing the wad - so here are six more for days 13-18 for ya heartless bastards:

#13: Zombies Ate My Neighbors - video game

Obviously a top pic here over Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or Dead Space, this 1993 feast for the mind and body dropped on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles to endless acclaim by insane pulp-driven boys and girls everywhere. I owned the SNES version and never beat the thing - how many levels were there? Like 666? I did get all the way to that Giant Red Spider Boss, which I'm looking up now was Dr. Bug at Level 36 in one play where upon I was totally wasted. Back in the Age of Passcodes, though, that didn't matter for shit since hey-oh! Final Boss! Codes were hard to earn pre-Internet, though, and we posted a giant list on our wall. Zombies Ate My Neighbors remains the perfect horror game because it found a way to blend every conceivable bit of classic and (at that time) modern horror - from Universal Monsters to B-Movie Nightmares, a heavy dose of slasher knock-offs, and even bits from sci-fi from Tremors (1990) to Day of the Tentacle. It codified and canonized a lot of this horror pop culture with a loony edge and sardonic eye-rolling attitude that relished and made fun of its protagonist's situation at the same time.

#14:"Tricks and Treats" from Freaks and Geeks - TV Show

It must surely be insane to anyone who dismissed the show at the time (considering it lasted one season in infamy, this was most people), but Freaks and Geeks definitively shaped the comic landscape for the next sixteen years and counting, if only because everyone involved, from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow behind the camera to Seth Rogen and James Franco in front of it, exploded onto the scene. For those who paid attention to this little obscure show, though, all of that success was a given. "Tricks and Treats" remains one of the show's best episodes and one of the better episodes of Halloween TV in general. It's still what I think of when I think of the show and it nails a lot about both that awkward time where you probably should stop trick or treating and start egging the wieners who haven't realized they should stop yet. Ah, those Golden Years.

#15: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) - Movie

A true modern cult classic that threads a brilliant rope between comedy and horror and spinning tropes like a more honest version of The Cabin in the Woods (2012), this is still on Netflix Streaming and why haven't you watched it yet? I don't understand how Tyler Labine hasn't broken out more between this and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011), although I suppose that's mostly because no one on earth has seen these two movies. That was also like five years ago. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a brilliant hillbilly send-up that loves PBR as much as offing dumb teens, which works on every level.

#16: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) - Movie

This also belongs in that category of "DVDs I happened to have and so watched on Halloween." I distinctly remember having a few people over once and I happened to be watching it and volunteered to turn it off because for the uninitiated this is a weird fucking movie. We powered through it. Not only are Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis reliably fantastic, but I dig it for offering both the King and Jack Kennedy a more honourable legacy than both of their untimely real-life deaths did as well as a case for the Retirement Age Action Hero in an actual sense of mostly fucking up and falling down, but still saving the day. It's a compelling story that's totally bonkers yet also decently grounded in character, longing for glory days past, and an urge to do something great with what's left of a pathetic life. I also went as Bubba Ho-Tep for Halloween a few years back. No one got it.

#17: American Horror Story - TV Show

You should probably head over here for a detailed opinion on this typically fiasco-level show, but for every Halloween in the current decade, there's been a great outlet for horror on Modern TV courtesy of Brad and Ryan. I haven't been able to invest in too many of these. I made it through Coven and hopped in and out of Hotel, although the current incarnation, Roanoke, which feels like it's busting down all of its own tropes has been an incredible ride so far. AHS seems to trip on its own set-ups more often than not, lacking the ability to truly pay-off the fucked up ride it offers week after week. Still, narrative issues aside, this is a beautiful horror anthology unlike much else out right now and a grand Halloween gesture.

#18: Mary Shelley's Frankenhole - TV Show

From the mind of Dino Stamatopoulos, the premise of this claymation series from 2010 is that Victor Frankenstein has invented an immortality formula as well as time portals that helps him deal with problems historical figures have. You know, like Lyndon Johnson switching brains with JFK or Gandhi turning into a vampire. Typical stuff. It's all real sadistic, unforgiving, maudlin, and hilarious. It of course came from Mary Shelley herself, merely adapted into silly claymation. It's completely off the wall and somehow at the same time probably the truest adaptation to the character of the principal actors from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Yet no appearances by Boo Berry. Or Yummy Mummy.
As the wolves howl and the moon glows bright red so we rest on another batch of Halloween check-offs. This will keep the people satisfied for decades to come. Avast ye scoundrels - till another day breaks!

18 October 2016

31 Days of Halloween Stuff: Cartoons, Zombies, and the Best of Burton

Once again we bring you an irregular series of posts purportedly tied into the 31 Days of Halloween, which exists as a marketing gimmick as much as any sort of real thing. But still, October is Creep Month, and although Creep (2014) isn't on this list, we still have #7-12 of cultural junk I specifically ingest to get in the mood for the season. So let's jump in to this issue of madness:

#7: "Spooky" from Conker's Bad Fur Day - Video Game

To offer some background, I'm a complete Rareware nut, dating back in the Super Nintendo / N64 era in the 1990s. I've played the series of Donkey Kong games and their spin-offs endlessly. Conker's BFD was in many ways the last hurrah of that specific era, superficially just another cutesy platformer, but in actuality dripping in ironic adult postmodernism. I've talked about my love of this game in two separate posts from 2009. Needless to say, while I've played my share of creepy games, this one takes the cake. Oh, it does! Maybe it's the limited controls (that are daresay...realistic?), or the simple fact that it's a crazy left turn from where the game seemed to be going, but the nonstop onslaught of zombie squirrels is way more panic-inducing than it has any right to be.

#8: "Sugar Frosted Frights" from Rocko's Modern Life - TV Show

Alright, deep cut from my childhood. Again. When I was a wee lad, this episode of the surreal children's show scared the hell out of me. With trepidation I re-watched it this week only to discover that it's really...not scary at all? It's certainly bizarre, though. You can watch it yourself totally legally on this totally legal site right here. I don't know why this haunted me so. Maybe it's actually that the structure and sequence of the episode really throws you off - when you expect the biggest scare you get this weird moment of camaraderie that blatantly doesn't make any sense (even Filburt is thrown for a loop). Essentially when the big bad, the Haunted Hessian is going in for the kill the episode flashes forward a year where he relives the "goofy moments of yesteryear" with the principal cast. Still, who took those pictures?!

#9: Stranger Things - TV Show

Here's just about the most contemporary installment on this list, but still a goodie. It's probably too recent in our memory to really necessitate a re-showing in October, but 1) If you haven't seen it yet, solve that, and 2) in years to come this will certainly be a Halloween viewing requirement, if we can get over the fact that it feels SO Summer '16. Season 2 I'm sure will leave us equally indebted to creepy throwback child horror, and if it debuts anywhere near Fall, all the better. All in all, despite the addictiveness, in the end it'd be nice if there was a bit more pay-off to the lot, and it's assuredly an ironic combination of nostalgia and recency that puts it on this list. Hopefully it has staying power. You know Barb does. #1 Halloween Costume of 2016.

#10: The Walking Dead - TV Show

I've had a long and tormented history with The Walking Dead. After reading the comics I was pretty amped for the show, which delivered with aplomb for the first two or three seasons, then a solid hate-watch season, then around the time the Governor died I completely lost interest. Joe Bernthal, who's brought his tortured masculine intensity from Shane into his new role as the Punisher on Daredevil, remains the best character the show has ever had, and although its "anyone can die at any time" philosophy does wonders for its visceral and merciless world-building, it really fucks with its narrative reasons to keep watching. It's still a Halloween staple, though, and apparently everyone else is still pretty into the trite shit it's become. I've also written about this before.

#11: "The Day the World Got Really Screwed Up" from The Angry Beavers - TV Show

This is one that I really got into for a while. The Angry Beavers was a really surreal show in an age of constant surreal kid's shows. It was subtle and stupid and more often than not made no sense, even with adult eyes. "The Day the World Got Really Screwed Up" presents the pinnacle of this assertion and the show itself. It's as if The Mist (2007) took place as a B-Movie spoof in a 90s cartoon starring Beavers. It aggressively makes no sense, but all the little boys wanted to dress as Oxnard Montalvo back in '98. It's such a specific bit of culture to parody - I'm at a loss understanding why it was a priority. The results, though, is built more for adult stoners than small children. I have no issue with this.

#12: Ed Wood (1994) - Movie

For a while this made its way on my October must-watch list by virtue of it being one of the only slightly creepy movies in my DVD collection. It's not out and out horror, of course, but its focus on the film career of B-Movie...well, probably C-Movie (D-Movie?) legend Ed Wood who specialized in the macabre (or attempted macabre) makes for a fine Halloween time. The flick certainly stands out as being better than any film Ed Wood actually made and for definitely being Tim Burton's best work. It lacks the out and out fantastical creepiness of his other more overt Halloween-outings, but for whatever reason I never actually got into those. I really dig creepiness, but for some reason none of his other twisty, Danny Elfman-infused movies ever clicked for me. I suppose that's because he tends to be creepy, but also really family friendly, which kind of disarms the horror. But Ed Wood is still golden.

Also Gender Identity Progressive
So now we're over a third of the way through our Halloween List to End All Lists. Stay tuned throughout the week as we blast through more insane things from childhood and normal life to wrap our ghoulish little balls around. Kick back with a Fallgarita and enjoy the Death of the World!

14 October 2016

31 Days of Halloween Lists: The Only List for Halloween Priorities

It's the time of the year for creeps and tricks and general horrific nonsense all around, which means it's a great opportunity for a bit of listology, too. Now, there are lots of ways to go about this. I could have cited 31 movies, one each day, or 31 creepy movie scenes, or the best Halloween Episodes, but I think we can be a bit mor grandiose than that.

And 31 is obviously the magic number here - virtually all of October qualifies as Pure Fall - the slow death of the seasons that looks gorgeous while a chill runs through the air sapping all hope and joy from the excess of summer. So I'm going with an October checklist, if you will. Here is a list of priorities to go through each October Season to get you in just saucey enough of a mood for the revelry of Samhain that comes at months' end. This is my personal list, and it gets pretty personal - but in just five easy installments for the rest of the month, we're going to cover it all. So, neglecting any sort of day-by-day posting, let's get through our first SIX THINGS TO LIST FOR HALLOWEEN.

1. JAWS (1975) - Movie.

JAWS gets its place here from being an immortal horror movie, but it's also totally more a summer film than a Halloween film. There hasn't been a better monster movie since, and I still jump when Brody chums some of that shit into the water and Bruce rears his head. There's a reason why this kicks us off, though - nothing about it feels October-relevant, but as a bridge from Summer to Fall, this is a nice combo of daylight beach-time horror. That will be about the last we see of that, though.

2. The Shining (1980) - Movie

Here we get a bit closer, but The Shining is really to winter horror what JAWS was to summer. I'll freely call this the scariest movie ever made, from the steady dreadful strings that make up its score to shocking suddenness of all its big scares. There's something in this whole film that makes it unsettling, whether it be the abstract, impossible geography, constant haunted feel, or eeriness. It's still not quite Halloween, but a great subtle fear-monster.

3. Ghostbusters (1984) - Movie

Trending in the opposite direction, Ghosbusters nailed the horror-comedy in ways that no one has been able to achieve since (including the 2016 version). There are still parts of this that feels more like a summer movie, though, probably just due to its blockbuster-ness. Its theme song has luckily made its way on to every Halloween Party playlist ever, though, so it gains a lot of points for Ray Parker alone.

4. Fallgaritas - Drink

Stay with me here, but back in 2010 I started sucking down these bad boys as soon as the wind turned cold. I distinctly remember pouring my first during a rousing viewing of Harry Brown (2009), and each and every October since then I get sauced off these treats. Jim Beam and Cider with a rim of caramel and a Kit Kat or Reece's garnish is a delectable treat to make bad Halloween decisions to.

5. Lowcountry - Short Story

Stay with me here, because I said this was personal. We do have a little-known sister site for prose, unwrites.blogspot.com. There, also back in 2010 I committed to the screen Lowcountry, an epic tale of forbidden love between Mummy and Frankenstein. It's certainly stupid; some would say extremely stupid, but I try to give it a re-read every time things get creepy. If you're looking to waste a good hour, I highly recommend as well!

6. Sleepy Hollow - Story / Horrible Movie / Worse TV Show

There are a lot of classic Halloween tales out there, but to me, it's all about Sleepy Hollow. It's the Halloween version of A Christmas Carol, passed down and re-told for each generation. It's really all about the pumpkin-toting Headless Horseman, who is underrated as far as classic ghouls go. That could be because he lacks a definitive classic portrayal. Sure, Chris Walken went nuts as the mad Hessian in Sleepy Hollow (1999), and the Nichole Beharie / Tom Mison show which used the Horseman...of the APOCALYPSE (wha-hey!!) as a jumping off point for a completely bonkers supernatural historical procedural. It's still nearing that golden Halloween-ness we're looking for, and so it's fitting to leave on for now.

What does he do when it rains? Does it just go down the neckhole?

I hope that saits your Halloween List appetite for now. We've got quite a bit more to cover - twenty-five more...THINGS for Halloween, so stay tuned, folks. It's gonna get weird and terrible and I love it.

05 October 2016

Welcome to Ryan and Brad's World - Crime, Horror, and Scream Queens

It's been a nice break this month after the flurry of the Summer, but it's about time we get back at this pop culture stuff. Sure there have been some significant releases this past month, from Sully (2016) to Blair Witch (2016) and The Magnificent Seven (2016), but the latter two didn't really do anything their predecessors didn't, and I really have never cared about that Hudson landing, as impressive as it is. There's something way more trashy and interesting to dish on, though, and even though I've been decently immersed for a few years now, I've never quite broached the topic, which is a true shame. That's the television takeover by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. I will admit my full expertise is in the supreme guilty pleasure that is Scream Queens, so I'ma focus mostly on that, but there is a breadth of quality across genres here that is astounding. Let's dish on this for a while.

Both Murphy and Falchuk have been at this game for a while with their fair share of hits and misses, but their first really catchy series was Nip/Tuck, which Murphy created and Falchuk wrote for, later producing and directing. Do you remember Nip/Tuck? Back in those early FX original days of The Shield and Rescue Me - what an era. Looking back on Nip/Tuck you can actually see quite a bit of the modern Murphy/Falchuk paradigm of applying genuine drama to awful trashy characters. I'd be surprised to not see many Nip/Tuck references in the current season of Scream Queens, considering they share a hospital setting, although the lack of any of the Nip/Tuck cast appearing across their many other series, which really seems to be their thing, would indicate that they've somewhat moved on from this first series.

After Nip/Tuck the duo sank their teeth into Glee, which became a huge cultural phenomenon for like, a season. It somehow cranked out six seasons of declining quality before it exited without a whole lot of people caring. Looking back on Glee it almost seems like a weird part of the duo's oeuvre, which is weird because when American Horror Story was announced, that seemed like the stretch of their genre expertise.

Glee was a big indicator of their later interests, though. It's full of really contemporary stuff that appeals to crazy teens. It's super-inclusive, simultaneously nerdy and sexy, and there hasn't quite been television like it before or since. That's perhaps the most coherent thread running through all of their works - they never settle for tired genres or old staples. There's always something new and outrageous pushing everything they do. Yeah, this may have caused Glee to spin its wheels a fuckload in later seasons, and it probably leads American Horror Story into a damned desperate corner each and every year, but for a split second, the freshness is phenomenal.

Speaking of AHS, the contained yet somewhat interconnected mini-series (since by and large, the whole show seems to take place in the same world), has found a decided niche on FX, even if its narrative excellence probably peaked in Season 1, and its zaniness peaked in Season 2. Again, though, I give them credit for reinvention. The current spectacle, My Roanoke Nightmare tends to defy all sorts of convention, blending what's real and what's dramatized, while on the way not totally feeling like any other AHS at all. There's this big buck against staleness, which is daring.

Of course, that doesn't totally mean that it's any good. Coven built and built to a pretty big letdown. Freak Show seemed more into shock than substance and Hotel was a parade of black-haired beautiful men until it burned itself down. The important thing we need to go back to, though, is how much this duo revels in trash. It's a complete glorification of pulpy weirdness, and I sure as hell appreciate the mainstreaming of this sort of insanity. Is AHS mainstream yet? Maybe not. It sure is disturbing as hell. The current season has actually had far more restraint, which has naturally made the horror even more visceral.

Let's jump to American Crime Story for a second, because I really want to dish on Scream Queens last. Otherwise known, at least in its current incarnation, as The People vs. O.J. Simpson this wasn't created by Murph and Falch (that honor goes to Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski), but the trashy duo are front and center as producers, and the casting from Sarah Paulson to Connie Britton is pretty AHS. Of course, even more telling is the absolute stunt casting, which the duo excel at.

David Schwimmer, John Travolta, and Cuba Gooding, Jr are all pretty good gets that experienced excessive 90s popularity and not at all that much these days. AHS casting is an insane assault that gets wackier every year, especially since great actresses like Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett have become sincere regulars at this point. The crown of this is probably Lady GaGa, but randos like Michael Chiklis, Wes Bentley, and Gabourey Sidibe is all kind of goofy. Again, we'll wait until Scream Queens to really dig into this debacle.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson took the country by storm almost as much as the actual case did. There was this weird OJ nostalgia this year, which is terribly misplaced, since I'm not sure anyone actually wanted to remember how fucking insane everything surrounding that case was. Still, even though it's not a true Murphy/Falchuk joint, it's got a lot of their staples. Actors chew scenery like it's the last scrap of meat at the campfire. Characters are outrageous and larger than life. In some cases this is really just reflecting reality, because that case was nuts. It's also really unafraid to create all these insane characters and watch them bounce off each other. It's as if the characters are exaggerated, but the ensuing drama created by that exaggeration is treated more authentically than the pulp it is. It's all a delightful mix that creates damn entertaining television.
Billie Lord should probably be in a Star Wars at some point.
Niecy Nash too.

So, let's Scream Queens, which is the absolute pinnacle of Murphy/Falchuk television. It's the ultimate guilty pleasure. I've never watched another television series that so loved its own trashiness, its own despicable cartoon characters, and the sheer chaos created by them smashing into each other. I love that Emma Roberts played a character identical to hers in Coven. The stunt casting is endless and fucking sublime. Ultimately, no one here is a normal actor or normal character. In Season 1 we had Skylar Samuels as our anchor, but around her everything went haywire. There were former teen idols (sort of....?) Keke Palmer, Abigail Breslin, and Ariana Grande. Former scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis who would have lended respectability and gravitas if not for her swinging for the fences with every take. Nick Jonas and Lea Michele, the latter playing the exact opposite of her Glee role round out the cast, but the real star performance here is Glen Powell, whose utterly hopeless rendition of Chad Radwell is amazing. There's no one that better sums up Scream Queens' unique blend of trash, satire, insight, indulgence, and cartoon-ism. It's a brilliant, underrated turn that makes you laugh and queasy at the same time.

This season so far has done a fair job at topping any ridiculous Season 1 could have provided. John Stamos is equally brilliant as Dr. Brock Holt as his now-nemesis Chad Radwell is. He's broad, dark, and weird and nothing quite like anything he's done before. Taylor Lautner almost seems to be riffing on his public persona as someone who can't act as a character that doesn't really express any emotion at all. Jerry O'Connell shows up doing his best Jerry O'Connell impression. Finally, Kirstie Alley, in her first notable role in uh...let's call it a fucking while, shows up as the ostensible villain, although with this sort of murder mystery it's never the obvious choice. Unless the red herring actually did it this time around, because I wouldn't put that past this insane series, either.

Season 2 lacks a direct protagonist, but if it's anyone, it's Keke Palmer's Zayday Williams, who is competent to the point of parody, but generally the only grounded, sane character in this cast. It's the kind of show you watch continually in disbelief that it's a show that could be on TV, much less on network TV. There's no better exercise in sheer ridiculousness and dramatic trash. It also strikes an incredible tone between comedy and horror that is unparalleled, creating its own genre in the process.

After a break this week, Scream Queens returns next Tuesday on FOX, while American Horror Story: Roanoke just finished about ten minutes ago and will return next week. They're a double-whammy of crazy trash TV that's totally worth getting sucked into.

Are you on board?
Related Posts with Thumbnails