Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Monster Special: Ghosts and Ghouls

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fiend for Halloween. So, in the spirit of my favorite holiday, I’m gonna highlight some of my favorite spooky movies, TV shows, and books this week, divided up by monsters wreaking all the havoc. First up, ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.

Before he rocked your world with Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls, Bryan Fuller had another criminally underwatched TV show on Showtime, Dead Like Me. Though it only lasted two short seasons, Dead Like Me packed a lot of great morbid humor and touching moments into 29 episodes, all of which are available on DVD. Starring Ellen Muth, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Gayheart, Laura Harris, and a slew of other insanely talented people, Dead Like Me followed a group of not-so-grim reapers who were tasked with collecting doomed souls and coaxing them into the light. If you’re at all a fan of Pushing Daisy’s morbid, quirky humor, add Dead Like Me to your Netflix queue. And keep your eyes out for the much anticipated 2009 direct-to-DVD movie.

Before you trundle out to the theatres this weekend to catch Angelina Jolie’s Changeling, check out the totally different and totally kickass movie with a similar name. The Changeling came out in 1980, and when I watched it on our brand new VCR in the mid-80s it scared the everloving shit out of me. This movie imprinted upon me a fear of creepy little kid ghosts, and to this day, nothing spooks me out more than dead little kids.

I love when a TV show can roll out a good Halloweeny episode. Of course, with shows like Buffy and Angel, where every day is Halloween, it’s perhaps less impressive, but each series yielded great, surprisingly moving ghost-themed episodes that, happily enough, are available on Hulu. So point your browser here to watch Buffy’s second season episode, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and here to watch Angel’s first season episode, “Rm w/a Vu”. There’s also “Four Scary Stories”, an anthology-style episode of Dawson’s Creek. I can’t find it online, but it is running on The N at 5 a.m. this Tuesday morning if you want to set your Tivo. It’s a great Dawsonfied urban legend-flavored standalone episode that is blessedly light on the annoying, fiveheaded titular character. You can also catch “Living Dead Girl”, another ghost-themed Dawson’s episode, at 4 a.m. on Wednesday on The N. And, hey, awesome news! While looking at The N’s TV schedule, I noticed they’ve started re-running Are You Afraid of the Dark? Tivo season pass, here I come!

Finally, I don’t scare easily, having been pretty much raised on a steady diet of horror movies. That said, there are a few recent movies that have cost me a few nights’ sleep post-viewing. Here are a few ghost stories that got under my skin and gave me freakass dreams. The granddaddy of them all, the first movie to give me a nightmare post-childhood, is of course The Blair Witch Project. Can you seriously watch that last shot and not pee your pants a little? That same year yielded two other great scary ghost stories, The Haunting and The House on Haunted Hill, the latter of which I think is underrated as it contains some genuinely horrifying imagery. Next came The Ring, which made me regret having a television in my bedroom. Finally, two movies that really got under my skin and which I feel are underrated, Pulse and Dead Silence. Pulse has that overused-but-still-damned-effective Japanese-style aesthetic and asks us to imagine a world without cellphones (scary!), while Dead Silence features freaky dolls and includes a cameo by Saw’s Billy. I should probably stick with vampire movies from now on, those at least let me sleep afterwards. (Or, in the case of 30 Days of Night, during.)

Speaking of vampires, I’ll be tackling them later this week, along with werewolves, assorted monsters, and my beloved zombies, so check back in to see what else I dig up. Horrified more by what’s not on the list than what is? Then post your Glaring Ghostly Omissions in the comments.


Sex Mahoney for President said...

Dead Like Me was actually pretty good. Not watch the whole series good, but I wouldn't turn off an episode if I saw one on.

My wife and I were talking about Are you Afraid of the Dark recently, and the only thing we could remember about the series was the Canadian accent that the entire cast had. Boy, this sure is scary, eh?

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

Yeah, I think a lot of the vintage Nick shows came from up north. Still do, too, actually. What do they know that we don't?