Tag: Halloween

Halloween Recommendations II: Music Edition


Since my last list was such a hit, it’s only right it get a sequel. This time we’ll focus on those auditory oddities to darken your day, those musical maladies to frighten your friends (or should we say fiends?). Listen up, we’ve got a slew of tunes that will make you the death of the party.

Corb Lund – “Dig Gravedigger Dig”

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As Halloween is almost upon us, let me introduce you to one of the terrifying figures from Khmer folklore. Admittedly, there are not many such figures. We have the generic ghost (khmaoch) and the monster (besach). And when foreign characters are introduced, we just get more specific with what we call them. The vampire becomes […]

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I have always hated “Monster Mash.” It’s a terrible song. It’s not even the actual “Monster Mash.” It’s a song about a guy who claims to have once witnessed a Monster Mash. Literally every Halloween song is better than “Monster Mash.” Here’s 13 of them in no particular order. Some of you may have heard […]

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This week on a Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve,” guest host Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Miranda Seymour, novelist and definitive biographer of Mary Shelley, author of the classic Gothic novel, Frankenstein. Ms. Seymour shares some of the main features of Shelley’s brilliant and tragedy-filled life that the general public and students should know more about, starting with her parents, who were gifted late 18th-century writers and radical thinkers. Ms. Seymour recounts the dramatic origin story of Frankenstein, influenced by Shelley’s circle of Romantic poets and intellectuals. They explore the novel’s cautionary lessons about the excesses of human pride; modern science, and medicine; and about humanity, loneliness, and education. Ms. Seymour also describes Shelley’s personal life, and why she remains compelling in our era. Ms. Seymour concludes the interview with a reading from her Mary Shelley biography.

Stories of the Week: News reports of declining performance nationwide on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, point the finger at pandemic school closures – but is there more to the story? Cara and Gerard offer insights.

Halloween Recommendations


It’s that season, the season of my people. Since some folks only watch horror flicks this time of year, I thought I’d provide my services and offer up a charcuterie board of spooky movies for those precious days we have left before All Hallows’ Eve. I assume you already know Beetlejuice and The Bride of Frankenstein. This will be a list of the lesser known, the overlooked, and the unsung. Grab a bag of Takis and let the Caro Syrup flow.

Fiend Without a Face (1958)

Movie Review: Hellraiser (2022)


A couple weeks ago, Hulu released a reboot of Hellraiser. There hasn’t been a good Hellraiser movie since the first one and that came out before I was born, so it was strange to have any interest in a new installment. Stranger still to suffer even a bit of anxiety over how good it would be. After nine bad sequels, what harm could one more do?

The information we got before release was heartening. Attached to direct was David Bruckner, a notable horror director whose previous work (The Ritual, The Night House) has gone unseen by me but has received enthusiastic reviews. One of the producers was Hellraiser creator Clive Barker who hadn’t been involved with the series since the fourth entry, Bloodline, and when the trailer for the ninth, Revelations, included his name took to Twitter to complain, “If they claim its [sic] from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.” (Dimension Films later removed the reference to him from the trailer.)

The reboot’s budget hasn’t been made public, but assuming it’s even a modest Hollywood production would make it more expensive than several of its predecessors put together.¹ This was not a slapdash job to hold onto the IP nor was it an unrelated script retrofitted to include Pinhead² as many of the direct-to-video sequels were reported to be.

Film Review: Hellraiser (1987)


What if there was a puzzle box and if you solved the puzzle, sex demons appeared and tortured you to death? That’s the question Hellraiser seeks to answer. Summarizing it as such may come off snide, but I only mean to highlight how bold and weird the film is. Hellraiser gets lumped in with Halloween, Friday the 13th, et al., but structurally and thematically it’s a far cry from your average slasher. Nightmare on Elm Street comes closest. Both films focus on their supernatural elements, their iconic baddies have personalities rather than being silent, faceless killers, but tonally and in myriad other ways, the two diverge.

Hellraiser begins in a bazaar in some unnamed country where Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) buys the aforementioned puzzle box, a black lacquered cube with unique patterns of filigreed brass on each of its six sides. Frank solves the puzzle in his attic, then hooks shoot from the box to tear him apart. His square brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Larry’s wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into Frank’s house, oblivious to what happened there. While hauling a mattress upstairs, Larry cuts his hand on a nail. His blood seeps beneath the attic floorboards where it is absorbed by what remains of Frank.

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Tomorrow is the first day of October, which kicks off the Hallowthanksmas holiday cycle. It’s time to put out the decor, and I usually do a fair job of it (see below).  We were already planning on scaling back a bit this year. I anticipated buying a few strings of lights to replace the old […]

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Movie Review: The Burning Moon


What’s the best horror movie tagline?

In space, no one can hear you scream”? “Who will survive and what will be left of them?” “Be afraid, be very afraid”? When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth”? All good guesses, and we could spend this whole post listing these, but I’d like to give the honor to Intervision’s DVD release of German indie, The Burning Moon, which boasts:

Uncut. Uncensored. Unconscionable.

Film Review: Strange Circus


The Creepiest Show on Earth

“Everything looked like a guillotine,” narrates Mitsuko in the beginning of Strange Circus. She is recounting her childhood living under the torment of an emotionally sadistic father. Like any abused child she is in a constant state of anxiety, worried she may do something to draw her father’s ire. In that situation, even the walls must look dangerous, like armed guards blocking any chance of escape.

Mitsuko’s father, Ozawa, is also the principal of her school where his face is broadcast into the classrooms each morning on a TV screen like a low rent Big Brother. The school hallways are soaked in crimson. Crimson ceiling, crimson drapes, crimson walls, crimson carpet. The walls are textured like dripping blood frozen in place. It’s disquieting when two students slowly wheel a TV down the hall, Ozawa’s stern eyes staring daggers from the screen. These halls show up frequently, sometimes empty of people, other times looking like they’ll drown the pale little figure of Mitsuko.

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For Halloween, I bring back a tale told a year ago. Lights out, gather round for a tale well calculated to keep you in suspense. Pleasant dreams. It was a dark and stormy night. The snow fell heavily – except at occasional intervals, when it was driven sideways by a violent gust of wind which […]

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Halloween, the Boogeyman, and Why ‘Lord of the Flies’ Matters


He served in the British Navy during World War II. Before the war, William Golding was a humanist, assured that people are perfectible, that humans can bring into being some future utopia. In Golding’s words, “All you had to do was to remove certain inequities and provide practical sociological solutions, and man would have a perfect paradise on earth.” After the war, Golding wrote a novel, the theme of which was about what he called “the defects of human nature.”

William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies tells the story of military schoolboys left to themselves on a desert island after a nuclear holocaust. Apart from any adult supervision, the boys devolve into a state of savagery, falling from modern to primitive. Split into two groups the boys vie for power. One group, fighting an island beast, erects a pig’s head on a pole which is soon surrounded by flies. The title of the novel, Lord of the Flies, reveals the true nature of the beast – the monster is not the pig but the boys themselves.

Monster costumes around Halloween are related to Lord of the Flies. The word “insect” comes from the original word for “bug,” later, boogeyman. Movie titles with the words “ghost,” “specter,” “goblin,” or “scarecrow” come from a fear of some beast, some Lord of the Flies. But as Golding and his novel teach us, the real monster, the real beast, is us. We may be haunted by supernatural entities – which do indeed, exist – but our first problem is the problem of our nature. Just like the boys on the island, left to ourselves, we will always be the monster. So, dressing up for Halloween as our favorite monster might be easiest if we just go as ourselves.

The Confectionery Come-On


It began two weeks ago, and it is only getting worse. Up and down these office halls I walk, and everywhere I turn, on every table in the break area, and nearly every door I pass, therein lies a bowl of sadistic sugary seduction. Oh, what foul season this is! … that breaks even the most conscientious of calorie counters. One piece, so small, barely registers on MyFitnessPal, surely can’t hurt – and then one piece becomes another becomes another – those sinister sellers of sweets, foiled again!

Little tiny packages of Snickers, Milky Way, Hershey’s bars (Hershey’s Dark, if you please), Peanut M&Ms, Twix, Butterfinger, Reese’s Cups, and my personal kryptonite – the Kit Kat bar. All are conspiring against me, even the unnamed malted milk balls that are wrapped like little eyeballs – in keeping with the season of course.

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Our last heavily-wooded neighborhood consisted of a large circular, gravel road with night lights only coming from our lamp post and the moon. It was over half built-out, and the few kiddies outgrew trick-or-treating.  Yet every year, we faithfully bought candy, dressed up and I turned up the volume on my spooky tape. I bought […]

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October 29, 2006: Our first snow, first Halloween, and first day moved into our new house. (Read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here,  Part V here,  Part VI here,  Part VII here,  Part VIII here,  Part IX here, and Part X here.) Preview Open

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Halloween and Kids Having Fun!


My neighborhood had a fun and “normal” Halloween.

@bethanymandel has expressed frustration about the number of educational, socialization, and fun things the adult powers-that-be are depriving children these days. In at least one podcast she particularly lamented that some places were banning Halloween trick-or-treating, an activity that is conducted out in the fresh air with minimal brief contact between homeowner and child. So, I thought I’d report our neighborhood’s experience last night.

Halloween and the Monster Pandemic: The HARM of Universal Masking


I live in a very red state now, apparently redder than Georgia and Texas. I live in a neighborhood that I love because there are small homes with neatly mowed lawns near old mansions with roman columns. You could say this area meets the progressive definition of “diverse,” which cares only about neighbors having different hues as they sit on their front porches, as people still do here. But it meets my definition of “diverse,” too, because there are Trump flags galore and Biden/Harris signs staked in the grass, and no one disturbs anyone else’s stuff.

The truth is that I rejoice on almost every run through these streets littered with leaves about how plainly American this very mixed neighborhood feels because it’s plain to me that these families have different incomes, different demographics, different opinions, and it is fine. This is a reflection of the country I grew up loving. Unlike the hyper blue bubble of Austin that I recently began to find so suffocating that I had to leave it behind me, this place feels normal.