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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

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Spooky Scene Selections 2023

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Trey Paine | The Observer


It’s spooky season, and the Scene staff have curated some of their favorite Halloween media for your enjoyment. Look no further for ghouls, ghosts, vampires and other delightfully spine-tingling haunts.

Read on ... if you dare.

“Punisher”

Gabrielle Beechert, Assistant Managing Editor

The minute I realized we were doing Spooky Selections, I knew I had to talk about “Punisher.” Phoebe Bridgers sets the spooky, somber tone of the album perfectly with the cover art — she stands alone in the desert, illuminated by a red light, staring into the vast night sky. Shadowed rocks loom behind her, and, of course, she rocks her skeleton costume. Rolling Stone said her music presents as “skeletal emo-folk,” and I think that’s an incredibly apt description. And, the album literally has a track called “Halloween.” I can listen to Phoebe Bridgers year round, but the haunting quality of her music makes it perfect for this season. If you do choose to listen, keep an ear out for the dog and dead bird metaphor. It’s going to rock your world. 

 

“What We Do in the Shadows”

Anna Falk, Scene Editor

“What We Do in the Shadows” is the best vampire franchise to exist. I know — “Twilight” fans will get me — but hear me out. The movie, written by Jemaine Clements and Taika Waititi, is a mockumentary horror comedy detailing the daily lives of vampire housemates living in Wellington, New Zealand. Waititi and Clements star along with Jonathan Brugh, all playing vampires from different eras in time from across the world. The audience gets a sneak peek into their lives as they search for their next victims, deal with their familiars, encounter other vampires in the city and go up against their werewolf enemies. A show of the same name follows the lives of a vampire group in Staten Island, and both are absolutely hilarious. It’s a must-see for lovers of blood-suckers.

 

“The Conjuring” Universe

Lucia Aguzzi, Scene Writer

I’m not a huge scary movie fan, but even so I think the best part of watching one is undoubtedly the atmosphere you are in. I’ll never be the type to go watch one in a theater, but under huge blankets in a group on the couch? Sign me up. “The Conjuring” movies have some awesome jump scares, and while they can be gory, I think they have a very solid plot line (I love the Warrens!), so watching them with all my cousins during holidays has always been a favorite family tradition of mine. While I am partial to the first two movies, the other spinoff movies and especially the Netflix miniseries like “The Haunting of Hill House” also have some chilling moments that will have you screaming one second and laughing at yourself the next. 

 

“Over the Garden Wall”

Natalie Allton, Scene Writer

Are you looking for something kid-friendly, beautifully animated, laugh-out-loud funny, sufficiently weird and outright creepy with undercurrents of Dante’s “Inferno” and late-19th century folklore? Look no further than “Over the Garden Wall,” which has rocketed to cult classic status in the nine years since its release. See also the accompanying soundtrack, which contains full versions of every song featured in the show — “Ms. Langtree’s Lament” in particular is brilliantly written but doesn’t get its due in its episode — and a few that aren’t, like the grievously underrated “Send Me A Peach.” If you’ve never seen it, there’s no better time to get into it than now — especially in the wake of the recent controversy surrounding its removal from Max ahead of the spooky season. Ain’t that just the way!

 

“Cabin in the Woods”

Rose Androwich, News Writer 

“Cabin in the Woods” is a must-see horror movie for those who are disillusioned with the unrealistic nature of horror movies. The satirical nature of “Cabin in the Woods” plays with the tropes within horror movies. It tells a story of five friends who decide to visit an isolated cabin in the woods. Each friend fits into a horror movie character trope. “Cabin in the Woods” brings the characters past their tropes and provides a commentary on horror movies. The formula for horror movies often fails to shock viewers or provide something unseen. “Cabin in the Woods” is a horror movie for those who remain skeptical of horror movies.

 

“Beetlejuice”

Michael Askins, Scene Writer

“God, I hope you’re ready for a show about death!” The Broadway musical “Beetlejuice” is a theatrical adaptation of the 1988 Tim Burton movie and is a bold departure in plot and characterization for the better. A heartwarming comedy, the show follows the young Lydia as she deals with the aftermath of her mother’s death, the newly-dead newlyweds Adam and Barbara navigating the afterlife and the ghostly bio-exorcist Beetlejuice trying to make his return to the land of the living. While the show’s Broadway run came to an end earlier this year, and there is no official recording of the stage production, there is a fantastic cast album led by Alex Brightman’s Beetlejuice and Sophia Anne Caruso’s Lydia to listen to this Halloween. 

 

“Monster House”

Cozette Brown, Scene Writer

Puberty. Death. Dads who call you “buddy” too much. These are the things that should scare us most, and “Monster House” knows it. I remember stumbling across this DVD for the first time as a kid, not really knowing where it had come from or who had bought it — but I watched it, and for some reason, it stuck with me. Sure, the animation is pretty bad, the storyline is a bit strange and the jokes might be too heavy-handed to go right over kids’ heads, but it’s also surprisingly quotable and funny. Besides, you can’t go wrong with Steven Spielberg producing and Steve Buscemi voicing a cranky old man. DVDs may no longer be a thing, but you should still find a way to add “Monster House” to your watchlist of underrated classics this Halloween.

 

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Allison Elshoff, Scene Writer

I know — the title of this movie does not scream “Halloween.” Yet, Tim Burton’s 1993 classic is, in my opinion, a perfect movie for spooky season. Between memorable songs like “This is Halloween” and the fantastical plot line, my brothers and I watched it religiously every October growing up. Rewatching it now, I’ve come to realize the movie’s beauty. Not only was it the first full-length Disney movie to be entirely stop-motion animated, but it’s a gem filled with lovable characters and important messages. While the beloved pumpkin king’s attempt to take control of Christmas goes awry, it can hardly be called a failure. The story is a testament to trying new things while simultaneously a lesson in being able to “know thyself.” Jack Skellington took a chance and walked away from the experience with a greater understanding of who he is and appreciation for the people around him. 

 

“Calling All the Monsters”

Rachel Hartmann, Scene Writer

Back in October 2011, little 10-year-old me had no idea what was in store, but my life was about to get a whole lot better thanks to China Anne McClain’s “Calling All the Monsters!” This song totally gets you into the Halloween spirit with its eerie and playful lyrics. It’s like your very own personal Halloween party anthem! It’s got a super catchy tune that grabs you right from the get-go. The beat’s so peppy that you can’t help but bust a move and sing along. If you were a fan of “A.N.T. Farm” and all those Disney Channel shows back in the day, this song’s like a time machine that whisks you back to those exciting childhood moments. It’s a slice of nostalgia that reminds you of the good old days when Halloween meant endless fun and getting as much candy as possible. 

 

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”

Peter Mikulski, Scene Writer

The “Ring” cycle: a set of four massive operas by Richard Wagner meant to be a “gesamtkunstwerk,” or “total work of art,” meant to unify music, poetry, acting, dance, painting, sewing, said to be the pinnacle of 19th century German Romantic art and a national epic. The “Peanuts” holiday specials, reader, are America’s “Ring” cycle.  Great animation, great writing, and a great soundtrack — the greatest of them all has to be “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

 

Universal Studios’ Dark Universe (An Obituary)

Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

While Marvel Studios’ accomplishments in developing a universe of interconnected films and television series is impressive, it is not the first Cinematic Universe. That would be Universal’s Monster Movie Universe from the 1930s to the 1950s. Starting with the iconic 1931 “Dracula” and ending with the 1950s series of “Abbott and Costello Meet” comedy films, Universal introduced a set of characters that would meet, fight and bond over their collective bloodlust. But this isn’t the “Universal Dark Universe.Universal’s attempted reboot has had multiple false starts. 2014’s “Dracula Untold” was the proposed start for a new cinematic universe, until the film flopped. Then it was supposed to be 2017’s “The Mummy,”featuring Tom Cruise, until that flopped. The studio has since focused on stand-alone films, such as 2023’s “Renfield” and the widely popular 2020 remake of “The Invisible Man.” 

 

“Haunted Mansion” (2023)

Cecelia Swartz, Scene Writer

“Haunted Mansion” (2023), inspired by the rides at Disneyland and Disney World, follows a mother and son who move into a haunted mansion in New Orleans only to become trapped and discover that the house is haunted by hundreds of ghosts and something much more sinister. The movie is a supernatural horror comedy filled with many amusing references to the ride, physical humor and borderline corny jokes. It is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it has compelling characters, decent storytelling and genuinely funny humor. The motley cast of characters including a fake priest, medium, historian and tour guide/physicist, who all get hired to help excise the ghosts, play off of each other well to produce much of the humor as hijinks ensue. If you want a spooky yet lighthearted and cute film for this Halloween season, this one is perfect for you.