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Spine tinglers for Halloween week

Wed, 10/25/2023 - 9:00am

    It just may be time to settle down with a magical or frightening book or film, or two, in the comfort of home. With the week before Halloween, or Samhain for we pagans out there, upon us the time is nigh for indulging in those seasonal pursuits that are a bit more home-based, less clowns wielding chainsaws and zombies rising from graves... am I right?

    How about a few bedtime stories? Anything by Stephen King, Poe, Lovecraft, and (Anne) Rice insidiously fit the bill. And some, like William March’s “The Bad Seed” (the stuff mother’s nightmares are made of), Ira Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby” (ditto), William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist,” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” were also made into films, quite good ones, too.

    When the subject is horror, King takes first place, I think. While I was writing this, curiosity got the better of me and, well, I had to look up which of his books King thought the most horrifying. And his answer echoed mine: “Pet Sematary.” My paperback copy is still bound with the rubber bands I wrapped around it immediately after reading. However, binding the book did nothing to bind my mind’s eye, or block creepy memories of it that I can still vividly recall. The final chapter...the scent of earth and decay as the lead character realizes his wife has risen from that ancient burial ground and just like the family cat … just like he wanted – she’s baaaack! (Insert involuntary shudders here.) Poe’s chilling “Tell Tale Heart” is a read aloud short story to be shared (insert witch cackle here). Finally, “The Exorcist” is one scary freakin’ read. Which is more frightening – the movie or the book? It’s a toss up, really, although the movie didn’t include the creepy “spider walk” Reagan does down the stairs (disturbing on multiple levels); and Reagan’s head moving clear around … just thinking about any of these scenes, and others, makes me shudder.

    But, there’s lighter, shuddering-from-laughter, family-oriented Halloween movie fun to be enjoyed! “Hocus Pocus.” Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy star as the witchy Sanderson sisters who are returned to life after being executed in Salem in the 17th century are raring to put a spell on you.

    “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Every Baby Boomer has a soft spot for this one released on Oct. 27, 1966. Charlie Brown and the gang out for tricks and treats, except for Linus and Sally who wait in what Linus believes to be the most sincere pumpkin patch anywhere, sure to attract the Great Pumpkin. Boomers and all the kids who came after love watching this one – just 20 minutes or so long. No longer aired as a holiday special, you have to own this one, or catch it on Apple TV.

    “The Addams Family” with Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez, Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. Don’t forget to wear black and have a vase of rose stems (the flowers were beheaded, remember?!) nearby.

    “Practical Magic.” What a classic starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock as witch sisters raised by their delightful aunts in Salem (of course) played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest. This one is best to watch with your kids age 11 or 12 and up cos there are moments that could be disturbing for the younger set.

    Mel Brooks’ classic “Young Frankenstein,” with the perfect all-star cast: Gene Wilder (Dr. Frankenstein, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Brooks himself. This is a must see and laughter, much laughter is guaranteed – and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it. Mel Brooks was the master of comedy films in the 1970s, in particular.

    “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – Tim Curry. “Don’t dream it, be it.” Enough said.

    Scary flicks are necessary this time of year, particularly due to the indoor holiday décor: the ambiance of candles flickering around you, the jack-o-lantern sneering from the coffee table, orange and/or purple lights hanging round the room, shadows rising and falling around you … Makes me smile just thinking about it. OK. Here we go … “Scream” – particularly films 1, 3 and 4; King’s “Rose Red” (streaming on Hulu right now); “The Blair Witch Project” (major creep factor), “The Exorcist,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Nosferatu,” “Poltergeist,” “The Omen” (original). Don’t forget the classics starring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Vincent Price …

    With all this reading, watching and preparing for the magical night of the year when the veil between this world and the next (and quite possibly others) has thinned, you may need a little something to calm your nerves. How about a bit of libation? A few sips of Death in the Afternoon – a Hemingway recipe of absinthe and champagne – ought to loosen you up a bit. Or, a Bloody Maria (tequila) or Mary? Nightmare of Bourbon Street? Witches Brew? Don’t mind if I do!

    Have yourselves a ghoulishly groovy Halloween week and, try not to be afraid in the night, in the dark. I leave you with a Stephen King quote, “Sometimes human places create inhuman monsters.” Hmmm … perhaps that isn’t the best choice … Cue creepy laughter now ...