Alvin Schwartz terrified all of us grade school kids with his Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books, but apparently he wasn’t satisfied with that. Mr. Schwartz also wanted to terrify the kids in kindergarten, and so he released this little tome: In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. In A Dark, Dark Room is an “I Can Read” book, if you can believe that, and it has seven subtly scary stories, including “In The Graveyard” (which seems like a variation on “There Was An Old Woman All Skin and Bones” to me) and “The Green Ribbon”, which is a story about a wife with a neck problem which I’m sure we’ve all heard. It has illustrations by Dirk Zimmer, and while those illustrations are not nearly as terrifying as the ones by Stephen Gammell in Scary Stories, they are still somewhat disturbing. I still remember and fear the white monster from the cover to this day.
Most of us have probably advanced beyond “I Can Read” books by now, but if you’re looking for some good Halloween material, and you’ve already been scarred by Scary Stories, you might want to check out.
I’ve been searching Amazon.com for books on Hammer Studios for quite some time. The books that have popped up in the past have always been tragically too pricey for me to pull the trigger on. And then, just last Saturday, this one showed up. Hammer Horror Remembered is a self-published ebook (much like, oh, Anesthetized or The House of Thirteen Doors). The author, Alan Toner, lives in England and so is a little closer to the source of all the Hammer goodness than we colonials are. From that authoritative vantage point, Toner gives us a quick read that consists of mostly short chapters on various Hammer horror topics. Some chapters focus on actors, others on series, and other on individual films. My favorite was the chapter on Brides of Dracula, which I’ve always seen as special among the Hammer Dracula series because A) Dracula isn’t in it and B) I had a hard time finding it. Overall, the book does what books like this should do: it not only gives you some information and discussion on movies you love, but enables you to mentally experience those movies again. I highly recommend it to all Hammer horror fans (which I imagined is most of us). You can get it at Amazon.com and other online ebook vendors for a reasonable 99 cents.
Between all the traveling I’ve been doing for work and the tropical storm coverage that’s been on the news, Halloween snuck up on me this year. To get me in the mood for tonight’s festivities, I pulled out a few of the Halloween records I purchased last year and played them on the turntable. First up is a Disneyland record: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.
This album is a great two-for-one, as not only do you get classic haunted house sounds, but you also get (as you can see on the front cover) “spooky party hints”! As far as haunted Halloween sounds go, this album is fairly run of the mill. With tracks like “The Unsafe Bridge,” “Cat Fight,” and “The Very Long Fuse,” listeners have a pretty good idea what they’re getting here.
The “Spooky Party Hints” are printed on the album’s paper sleeve. One side contains instructions for Spooky Party Games, including “Snow White’s Apple on a String,” “Fortune Teller,” and “Toss the Ball Game”. I’m not sure who really needs printed instructions for “Toss the Ball Game,” but they’re there. The flip side of the paper sleeve contains advice on lighting and decorations, along with the helpful hint of reminding party throwers to send out invitations. Perhaps that’s why people never used to come to my parties!
Next up is Famous Ghost Stories!
I think the word “famous” may be overstated, with stories like “The Haunted Gold Mine” and “The Ghost Ship” included here, although the record does include “The Headless Horseman” so at least one of the stories is famous. The back of the album cover contains drawings of a few horror characters done with an ink pen. The characters include an executioner, a guy that looks like William Shakespeare with his head cut off (he’s conveniently holding it), and a guy who looks suspiciously like Vincent Price.
Third on my playlist is the appropriately titled Halloween. In stereo!
It makes me smile to know that there was a time when this could pass for album artwork. I also like the fact that although the album was recorded in stereo, there’s a reminder on the front that the record “can be played on monaural players” as well. Whew!
So many of these “sound effect” records have been produced throughout the years that sometimes it’s hard to find something to say about each one. This one contains “Ghost Combo,” “Storm,” and “Ghost in Dungeon”. There’s also “Spooky Sounds” which contains of “Dogs Howl,” “Glass Breaking,” “Water Running,” and “Goblins Laugh”. Another track, “Halloween Night,” is made up of “Witches Brew,” and “Witches and Warlocks”. The most interesting track to me was “Ghost from Outer Space.” The last track on the record is “Ghost Parade March,” along with comes the note, “The Ghost Parade will provide the music for your school festival march.”
Wow, it worked! I’m more in the mood than I was before! Happy Halloween, Retrofans!
Halloweens 1, 2, and 3 are my favorites in the Halloween franchise. I watch them every year. Halloweens 4, 5, and 6…not so much. I watched them once, and don’t think I ever will again. Sure, I thought 4 had an good ending, but other than that, there was nothing in these films that really moved me.
Other than the openings, that is. Maybe it is just my enthusiasm for the franchise, but I like the openings of these films almost as much as I like the openings of the first three.
Halloween 4 breaks with the tradition of pumpkin openings we had in the first three. Instead, it gives us a series of Halloweenish shots, showing us not only Halloween decorations spread out across a rural area but just eerily calm Autumn and harvest settings.
Halloween 5 brings us back to the pumpkin. This time, we see Michael (I presume) slashing a jack o’lantern into shape. The slashes are intercut with the credits, though, rather than running beside them as in the first film.
Oddly enough, Halloween 6 doesn’t have an interesting opening, at least not in the “producer’s cut” version. It is just orange credits leading into the first scene.
The latter three Halloween films are definitely not as good as the first three. I don’t know if that’s really saying anything, as few films are as good as the first Halloween, but it is true. Nonetheless, their openings are still worth a watch at this time of year.