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Spoooooky October Recommendations

 

Ten mostly brief, somewhat off-the-radar things to read, watch and listen to this (and every) Halloween. Most of this stuff isn’t terribly new, but they’re all things I tend to google every year to put me in the October mood, so it’s satisfying to put them all in one place.

 

Binary System Podcast #98–Horror Movies

Last October the siblings and I sat down to discuss some of our favorite scary films, and then we delved into other Halloween-y things (many of which are also mentioned in this post).

 

It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers

An aggressive ode to fall décor.

 

Two-Sentence Horror Stories

Some of these could use some gentle editing, but they are, by and large, still chill-inducing.

 

Wooden Overcoats

OK so it’s not explicitly Halloween-y, but it’s an audio sitcom about funeral directors, so it’s sufficiently dark (and clever, and wacky).

 

Selfie From Hell

A 90-second scary movie—the video equivalent of those two-sentence horror stories. Every time I decide to watch this, I have to almost physically force myself to keep my eyes open through to the end.

 

Bear Hugs

A seven-minute comedy/horror film about one family’s struggle with Build-a-Bear. One of the darker things you’ll ever laugh out loud at.

 

The Truth, “The Dark End of the Mall”

A quiet night at the bridal store, when in walks a disheveled stranger…

 

Snap Judgement Presents: Spooked, “A Friend in the Forest”

The “storytelling with a beat” radio show presents this seasonal podcast series of people describing their supposed real-life encounters with the supernatural, accompanied by a custom soundtrack. Go ahead and suspend your disbelief and sink into the ambience. There are scarier Spooked stories than this one, but the atmosphere (not to mention the Irish accent) is delightful.

 

Story Etc., “Fear”

A deep dive into fear and fiction, with discussions about what scares us and why we like it, interviews with performers and creators, and a couple of creepy audio pieces. (And check the show notes for links to all sorts of scary stuff that gets discussed in the ep.)

 

Text Messages from a Jack-O-Lantern

A really weird way to feel happy and then sad about Halloween.

 

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Final Escape

Seriously, Lena, put a fucking towel down or something.

 

Holy crap. I have been looking for this little nugget of television for years.

 

As a kid, I watched an anthology TV ep that scared the pants off me so well that, even at like age 7 or whatever I was at the time, I passed through terror and came all the way back around to admiring the shit out of the storytelling.

 

Then I forgot about it for most of my adolescence.

 

But every once in a while, it pops into my brain, and within the last decade, it seemed like something I should be able to track down, what with the interwebs and all. Here are the details I could remember:

 

  • Anthology scary stories TV series (not Twilight Zone).
  • Prissy rich blonde woman in prison, desperate to escape.
  • African American dude who works in prison’s carpentry department or whatever—ie he makes coffins—needs eye surgery.
  • Lady bribes/tricks him into helping her escape via coffin.
  • TERRIFYING LAST-SECOND PLOT TWIST.

 

Yet I was thwarted, every google.

 

Then today, in the midst of a British comedy-panel podcast binge, someone described this exact story as portrayed in an Alfred Hitchcock show.

 

 

HOLY FUCK HOW DID I NEVER GOOGLE HITCHCOCK.

 

One search (“alfred hitchcock tv show buried alive”) and thirty minutes later, here we are.

 

Turns out it’s an 80s-tastic reboot of a 1964 episode, and OK, you can maybe-probably guess the terrifying last-second plot twist, but it blew my wee little brain back then, and like any quality scary story, even if it’s predictable, it still bears retelling. Knowing (or figuring out) the ending doesn’t spare you the intensity of the experience.

 

Give it a watch, won’t you? Filtered through my acknowledgement that it’s 30 years old, I think holds up well. It suffers from some mid-80s TV-as-an-art-form style issues, but even cinematically, they do some things here that filmmakers these days are still fucking up.

 

 

Also, here’s a moment-by-moment recap (low-budget live tweet) of my rewatch.

 

Alfie’s intro: I…do not understand. It seems to be maaaaasssively misogynistic, with the “wives peek in from the kitchen” bit and the woman…stripping…behind him? But I maybe it’s all part of the tongue-in-cheek gag? I, uh…y’know what? Let’s just get on with the story.

 

Scene: a courtroom, “Lena” being found guilty of murder in the first. “I’m sorry, your honor, could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over my MASSIVE SHOULDER PADS.”

 

According to IMDb, Lena is played by Season Hubley, who was once married to Kurt Russell. So there you go.

 

Oh! She’s a cunt! She’s very much a cunt. I’d totally forgotten. All this time I’d thought she was just pathetic. This is good texturing.

 

Scene: the confiscation of her possessions. Enter the Golden Lighter of Meaning, which will go off in the second act because it’s pronouncedly absent in the third. That’s some fan-fucking-tastic Chekhovian yoga when you think about it. (Don’t think about it too hard.) (EDITED TO ADD: Although…if they’d worked in somehow that she’d gotten the lighter back and had it in her possession for the final scene, it may have been even more powerful. Hold please, I’m fixing Hitchcock.)

 

Lena and her wet hair just kicking back on the bottom bunk bothers me more than anything else in this episode. Cellie seeeeeriously needs to be like, “Bitch, get off my mattress.”

 

Scene: Lena tries to “charm” Shirley the Olive-Skinned Queen of the Prisoners (played by steely-faced Irishwoman-by-way-of-San Diego Patrice Donnelly, 5’9”), who is now in possession of the Golden Lighter of Meaning. Lena has all the flirting game of Noel Shempsky. Shirley, on the other hand, has a wicked left hook.

 

Enter Doc (played by Davis Roberts, the Morgan Freeman of Mobile, Alabama) and his vague coffin duties. Unnecessary Wood Planing is the most overused bit of carpentry business. Artisan fucking bespoke DOC caskets hand-made by a caring and sensitive blind man? Why escape? I’ll bet the canapés in the mess are to die for.

 

“They’re all idiots,” Lena mutters to herself while attempting a prison escape inspired by the children in a Tide commercial.

 

Enter Angry Warden. EPIC BOW TIE ALERT.

 

“I’ve been thrown in solitary in better places than this!” Yeah, OK, Lena. “Good one.”

 

Wowsa, for a minute there I thought that ass-kicking scene was going to get rapey. That was some intense woman-on-woman violence. I like to think Ms. Hubley got all method and kept fighting back too hard so Ms. Donnelly (who is now, per IMDb, a personal trainer) finally had to kick her ass for real.

 

Scene: the infirmary. Why is Doc, Master Casketeer, hanging out the clinic? CASING HIS NEXT “CLIENTS,” PERHAPS?

 

Oh my. I could’ve sworn I heard, “My husband used to work with black kids.” BLIND. She said “blind kids.” Thank you for not being THAT bad, 1985.

 

Oooooooh, that broken glasses/“Let me read to you the letter that reveals whether or not you’ve received funding for your eye surgery” shit is proper devious. Respect.

 

Playing up the awfulness of climbing into a coffin that already contains a corpse is a great move. Excellent misdirection. Same for how relaxed she is when she hears the dirt hitting the lid. Jesus. Makes my palms sweat.

 

Slow descent into panic, natch. Jerk-laughing “Who do you think you are?” to the corpse is both sinister and totally on point for that character.

 

Aaaand here comes the reveal. Man, acting in a confined space with a lit match deserves its own award. (Though fire in a limited-oxygen situation is dumb. WHO’S AN IDIOT NOW, LENA?)

 

And there it is. Points for the screams (I’ve always thought full-throated screaming is an admirable talent that not all actors can commit to) and for the simultaneous stillness of the corpse. Yep, still gives me chills.

 

 

 

 

 

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So This is the New Year

I meant for years to put together a New Year’s-themed mix CD, but never got around to it. These are the four songs I can remember from my master list, anyway. Not the cheeriest lot—the holidays do tend to bring out somber reflection, don’t they?—but all songs I like. They all include a certain accuracy about being an introspective, self-deprecating, neurotic adult during the holidays.

“A Long December,” Counting Crows

Always one of my favorites

“Pretty Good Year,” Tori Amos

For when “Long December” doesn’t satisfy your self-pity impulses
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“The Ice of Boston,” The Dismemberment Plan

Even bad New Year’s Eves can be funny, too

(I always recommend not watching the user-made video when listening to a youtube song, but it’s funny how this video includes a pic of the Bolts’ Evgeny Artyukhin getting popped by Chara.)

Also, heh: “…and it’s my mother.”

“The New Year,” Death Cab for Cutie

Acknowledge the day’s not really momentous and then celebrate anyway

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