There’s nothing deader than a Halloween haunt with bad music

Pick this playlist for your party to get in the mood for a spooky season

There’s nothing deader than a Halloween haunt with bad music

Whether you’re a goblin or a ghoul, every creature that dwells in the darkness loves to get down and freaky at a good dance party. Halloween is upon us once again — there will be pumpkins, monsters, but also parties popping up to scare you at every street corner in the country.

If you choose to host a party, or if you just want to get into the Halloween groove, here are my top 10 Halloween songs to help you become a frightfully good party host and get all your monster homies into the Halloween spirit!

“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, 1962

This song has withstood the test of time. The lyrics of this iconic song allude to monsters such as Wolfman, Frankenstein, and Dracula all enjoying a spooktastic dance party. It is truly a graveyard smash with its catchy beat and addictive lyrics.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson, 1982

The music video for this song is almost as famous as the song itself. Who can resist hordes of zombies dancing in unison? As a bonus, no mere mortal can resist the legendary Vincent Price doing a stellar voice over.

“It’s Almost Halloween” by Panic! At the Disco, 2008

In the middle of the dark woods, there is a party in a clearing. Are those mummies, vampires, and werewolves partying? Nope! It is the American pop punk band in full costume! Although it’s one of the newer songs on this playlist, Panic!’s “It’s Almost Halloween” might just be the best in the genre when it comes to explaining just what Halloween is really all about. Check out the music video for the full picture.

“I Put A Spell on You” by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins, 1956

This song has risen in popularity through its many covers and is also featured in the classic 1993 Halloween film Hocus Pocus. The original singer of this song was frightful in his own right, because Screamin’ Jay usually pulled voodoo aspects into his performances. It’s a great one and definitely worth a listen!

“Addams Family Theme Song” by Vic Mizzy, 1964

They’re spooky and they’re kooky! In the 1960s, there was a fondness for the unconventional, yet still relatable, child-friendly world of the monsters. Not only was The Addams Family a result of this trend, but it also produced The Munsters and Bewitched.

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr, 1984

Just like many other songs on this playlist, this is a track to a cult classic Halloween film. Ghostbusters has a sequel and a feminist revival too, leading to more alternative renditions by artists like Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot.

“Calling All the Monsters” by China Anne McClain, 2011

“Calling All the Monsters” makes appearances on numerous Disney television shows. The lyrics are about facing your fears. Compare that with the monster-filled dance party in the music video. What more is there to say? Give it a play.

“Spooky Scary Skeletons” by Andrew Gold, 1996

There’s just something about those darn skeletons which keep bringing the spirit of Halloween year after year! This song became popular after a video of a pumpkin-masked, black leotard-clothed man did his fangtastic dance on YouTube. Give it a watch. I dare you.

“This Is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson, 1993

Marilyn Manson is scary. Now imagine him creating a song about the scariest day of the year. Terrifying, right? This song rose to popularity when it was featured on the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a classic and you should pop it on your party playlist ASAP.

“Modern Monster Mash” by Key of Awesome, 2014

This one is a little different from the rest. Instead of being a song on a CD, this Halloween hit is actually a YouTube viral sensation. Creative YouTubers Key of Awesome updated “Monster Mash” by changing the lyrics to include newer horror film icons. You’ll find Freddy Krueger from The Nightmare on Elm Street series, Michael Myers from The Halloween series, Jigsaw from Saw, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, and many more.



Revisiting the sparse genre of Halloween music: Nightmare Revisited

Halloween is a better holiday than Christmas #hottake

Revisiting the sparse genre of Halloween music: <i>Nightmare Revisited</i>

I subscribe to the school of thought that the Halloween season should be as widely appreciated as the Christmas season. Every October 1, I immediately bust out all my creepy clown decorations, pour over my horror movie collection, and start saving up for my Halloween costume.

By Thanksgiving, my mantelpiece is littered with jack-o’-lanterns, witch paraphernalia, and a tasteful rhinestone-encrusted skeleton head. It seems that the only thing missing from this otherwise robust holiday season, at least vis-à-vis Christmas, is the music.

Halloween music is a genre that proves frightfully sparse. Aside from a few classics, there’s not much to pick from — and there are only so many times you can play “Monster Mash” before you start doubting whether it would really be a “smash” in any graveyard.

Enter the musical genius of Danny Elfman. Perhaps the greatest Halloween CD of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas never fails to get me in the Halloween spirit. But with only one 1993 CD in my Halloween music arsenal, I, much like Jack in “Jack’s Lament,” “have grown so tired of the same old thing.”

From this need for even more Nightmare music, the brilliant cover CD Nightmare Revisited emerges. It offers a second album for your Halloween playlist, as well as a much-needed intersection between emo culture and the world of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The album’s standout is Marilyn Manson’s glorious heavy metal rendition of “This is Halloween.” Other tracks seem less intuitive, yet offer the same vitality; Rodrigo y Gabriela perform an enchanting instrumental cover of the iconic “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” featuring an ensemble of intricate acoustic guitars in which even the throaty percussion is provided by drumming on guitar bodies.

The beauty of this cover is that it doesn’t try to compete with the wildly entertaining original — unlike Tiger Army’s slightly off-putting attempt at remaking Oogie Boogie’s anthem — instead offering something entirely new. In contrast, Amy Lee’s rendition of “Sally’s Song” is indisputably better than Catherine O’Hara’s weak original, and her sultry vocals make this track perhaps the most worthwhile one on the album.

The standout on the 1993 CD is arguably the Christmas classic “What’s This.” Though nothing can beat Danny Elfman’s version, alternative metal band Flyleaf delivers a dream-like rendition, heaviness dripping from each note. The song begins with a panoply of instrumentation, featuring slow guitars and crashing drums blending with languid, fluid vocals. Tying it all together to make pure rock-and-roll psychedelia, Flyleaf’s “What’s This” ends in a surprising minor key, offering the song a haunting tone that makes it perfect for when you’ve been listening to the original on repeat for several hours and need something slightly new — but only slightly.

Alternatively, Fall Out Boy offers another take on “What’s This,” overlaying tinkling piano with electric guitar and drawing listeners in with a breathtaking opening note loaded with melisma and melody.

Other tracks that shouldn’t be missed include Korn’s nu-metal spin on “Kidnap the Sandy Claws,” as well as The All-American Reject’s impressively angsty “Jack’s Lament.” Rise Against lends the already frenetic “Making Christmas” a punk rock sound with fast heavy guitars, distorted instrumentation, and spitting vocals.

The lesser-known “Town Meeting Song” is revamped by The Polyphonic Spree as an epic rock opera reminiscent of Rocky Horror, transforming a three-minute plot-driven song into a goliath nine-minute masterpiece.

So if you’ve been decking the halls with pumpkins and cobwebs, but you can’t seem to find the right Halloween tunes to tie together the spooky ambience, give Nightmare Revisited a try for a twist on your favourite holiday classics.

An alternative movie list for Halloween

Hereditary is going to be the next cult classic in the Halloween film genre

An alternative movie list for Halloween

Sometimes, we need to prepare ourselves to watch a movie. That’s why we marathon all eight Harry Potter movies before any new Fantastic Beasts release and why we watch all the Star Wars movies before a new addition to the franchise.

But when a new movie doesn’t come with others backing it up, we construct makeshift watchlists. Here is one to prepare you for Hereditary, a horror movie that is already out. Due to its success, it will most likely be one of the biggest Halloween-esque films in decades.

It is this standalone property that makes Hereditary, and movies like it, all the more special, so I made it a rule for this list.

I realized it would be much harder to compile a list when most films are either remakes, sequels, or prequels, but I stuck with it. Some honourable mentions that unfortunately didn’t fit the bill are the 2013 Evil Dead remake and 2016’s The Conjuring 2.

Three rules for this Hereditary pre-watch list: the film had to be released in the 2010s, it had to be a standalone, and it had to fit the horror genre — no thrillers. Sorry, you won’t find Green Room or Don’t Breathe on here.

1. The Babadook, 2014 — directed by Jennifer Kent, Australia

You’ve probably heard of The Babadook. In the four years since its release, it has acquired a sort of cult following. And for good reason. The Babadook follows a mother and son duo who find an eerie storybook on their doorstep one day. What ensues is a haunting by a boogeyman that makes for innovative scares.

One of the reasons I appreciate The Babadook as much as I do — and why I think it is perfect for this list — is that it really utilizes the most that it can within the film medium to make your body literally shiver from fright.

You cover your ears when you’re scared in anticipation of loud noise?

That’s fine; The Babadook has imagery that will tattoo itself onto your consciousness.

You cover your eyes when you’re scared in anticipation of such tantalizing imagery?

That’s fine; The Babadook arguably has the most unsettling sound effects that will condition you to grow anxious, like when you hear nails on a chalkboard.

And the best part? Absolutely no jump scares. All of the thrills in The Babadook are created thanks to tension and storyline.

Yes, it really is that good.

2. Under the Shadows, 2016 — directed by Babak Anvari, Iran

If The Babadook seems a little overwhelming to you, it’s best to start off with Under the Shadows, a simple yet effective Iranian horror movie that showcases its horror in the same manner, but in a significantly less intense way. In a war-torn Tehran in the ’80s, a mother and daughter must stick together and battle an evil that presents itself within their apartment building.

Not only is Under the Shadows an incredibly clear cultural vignette of a city divided by war, but it perfectly balances political commentary with complex family dynamics and good, old-fashioned horror. Under the Shadows is a lot easier to watch than The Babadook, but it is nonetheless an extremely effective horror movie.

3. The Witch, 2015 — directed by Robert Eggers, US

The Witch received a limited release in 2015; it was a revelation of a horror movie. The Witch is as much a period piece as it is a horror movie: set in 1630s Puritan New England, a family is plagued by a witch — or are they? — and they begin to grow distrustful of each other, leading to a horrifyingly memorable finale.

The Witch, like The Babadook and Under the Shadows, relies on a calculated storyline, a well-curated score, and cinematography to instill tension.

There are no jump scares or cheap loud noises. The fear is warranted. And don’t believe the buzz, because The Witch is incredibly watchable. You’ll be hooked from the first minute.

4. Raw, 2016 — directed by Julia Ducournau, France

I was a little hesitant about putting Raw on this list. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to have many fantastical aspects. But once you delve further into its reality and the story arcs that Julia Ducournau expertly builds, you come to find yourself facing a world that is nothing like our own, and yet eerily similar.

Raw follows a young girl, raised by a family of cult-like vegetarians, as she enters her first year of veterinarian school. There, she must wade through new and foreign temptations to find out who she really is.

Despite what the title may suggest, Raw is not solely a dissertation on vegetarianism. The film examines the awakening of identity and hunger, both literal and spiritual. It does so in such inconspicuous ways that the moral of the story hits you rudely only after you’ve finished watching.

What makes Raw so scary is that it is essentially the product of feeding Western society and norms through a distorted filter. It feels familiar but doesn’t look like it.

In short, Raw is the funhouse-mirror reflection of human nature and obsession, and if that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

It’s also gory — beware.

5. The Wailing, 2016 — directed by Na Hong-jin, South Korea

I am not going to mince words or wax poetic. The Wailing is, by far, the scariest and the most astonishing movie I have ever seen. It is also criminally underrated, and so I hope that if you consider yourself even a slight horror fan, you’ll give this treasure a watch.

The Wailing has a runtime of two and a half hours and follows a detective in a small village in South Korea as he handles what can only be called a zombie-like disease outbreak. But this is not a zombie movie in the slightest. The villagers suspect that an old Japanese man, a recent immigrant, is the cause of the virus and, as you can predict, madness ensues.

The Wailing examines xenophobia and paranoia better than any political drama ever could. The film references the relations between Japan and South Korea, the use and reliance of shamans, and overall spirituality and religion in South Korean society. It forces you to become vulnerable, to give yourself up to the narrative and reality of the story. And once it makes you vulnerable, it bombards you with one horrific scene after another.

It is riveting and jaw-dropping, with no unnecessary jump scares. The Wailing is the perfect film to get you prepared for any further ­­— potential — horror you may see in Hereditary.

Seven books of transformation

These powerful reads will inspire you to change

Seven books of transformation

Halloween is a time of transformation, as our everyday surroundings become darker and more sinister. In this spirit, I offer you this reading list as a spell for resurrection, more powerful than simply washing your sheets or changing your hair colour. Good luck.

The Trouble With Being Born by Emil M. Cioran

Validation for the unmotivated, this book offers an answer to the mysteries of life. Read it on the floor of your teenage bedroom, listening to Jimmy Eat World.

How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Glittering and striking, with prose that feels like an Adderall high, this book offers comfort to everyone who knows that escape routes can sometimes become prisons. A manifesto for the lonely party girls, this book teaches you to look for the beauty in small moments.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

For anyone who has ever contemplated murdering an ex: read this under a blanket to protect your exposed nerves. This book will destroy you in a good way.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

A dystopian novel that feels painfully real. Read this and understand the urgency of change. Give a copy to everyone you’ve ever loved.

The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

Bewitching and at times horrifying, this book feels like a fever dream. Dedicate yourself to this reading after you’ve swiped on scarlet lipstick and smudged your mascara. This book offers a strange rebirth to make you want to try again.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Required reading if you’re haunted by jealousy, and recommended for anyone looking to be seen. For the madwomen in the attic, those who’ve worked hard to be loved, and everyone who occupies the space between good and evil. Read this in a gothic mansion, with nails painted black.

My Ariel by Sina Queyras

A prayer of resurgence for all the angry girls, reading this is a good thing to do if you feel stuck. This is the kind of book you steal from your best friend’s shelf and never give back.