The British make the best fake documentaries. There was the BBC’s “Spaghetti Harvest” of 1957 (which resulted in a flood of phone calls from people asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree), and “Alternative 3”, a show on Anglia TV in 1977 that purported to uncover a secret plan to set up bases on the Moon and Mars (which despite including easily disprovable “facts” and a cast listing at the end is still taken seriously by some conspiracy nuts).
Then there was Ghostwatch…
Judging by movies and television, everyone loves a good zombie. The walking, or perhaps shambling, shuffling dead, or undead, if you prefer…. Things that look like human beings but aren’t, so you can beat the crap out of them without any pangs of conscience.
Having done a bit of reading on the topic, I have concluded that there are actually six distinctly different types of zombie.
For whatever reasons, the major networks moved away from horror and suspense in the 1980s. Perhaps it became too expensive to produce the anthology series that were the mainstay of the genre. It was left to syndicated shows to provide the scares.
Quite a few horror movies have turned into veritable franchises, with many sequels (Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th leap instantly to mind). But even though television cannot reproduce many of the scares that movies can, there have been plenty of television shows that are just as loved and appreciated as some movies. Often, it doesn’t take more than a few notes of the theme music to bring back the memories.
Pretty much everyone – at least I hope so – is familiar with Cassandra Peterson’s character “Elvira”. The self-styled “Mistress of the Dark” gained fame for her obvious sex appeal while hosting cheap horror movies on syndicated television in the 1980s. The popularity of her shows made her a national icon for Halloween.
The tradition of “horror hosting” that she epitomized goes back much further; at least to the 1950s. American Scary is a documentary that looks at this American tradition as a form of entertainment worthy of our appreciation.
A handful of things that aren’t enough for separate posts:
Last year, the British Film Institute had a months-long festival celebrating Gothic cinema. They produced an awesome trailer for it:
Even though the festival is over, they’ve still got a lot of the information up at the website – http://www.bfi.org.uk/gothic.
Now I could just share that with you and be done with it, but that’s a cop out. So I might as well pad things out with my thoughts on Gothic Horror, and how it works in movies.
It may just be me on the verge of becoming an Old Fogey, but it seems to me that the great tradition of sanctioned extortion known as “Trick or Treating” has fallen victim to societal changes and probably unjustified paranoia. That annual ritual has been replaced by Halloween parties.
Way back in the mists of time – about ten to fifteen years ago – the radio station WFMU hosted a Saturday morning kids show called “Greasy Kid Stuff”. It wasn’t your standard Disney-type music; instead the hosts played music for your inner child. They Might Be Giants, Kenny Young and the Eggplants, Jonathan Richman, Shonen Knife, et al. Anyway, every year the last show in October was devoted to Halloween music. One year, they gave some simple recipes for a kid’s Halloween party.
In a blatant attempt at bringing traffic to my blog, I have joined the “Countdown to Halloween” this year as a “Cryptkeeper”. This means I have committed myself to posting regularly this month on Halloween-related themes. Since as a baseball fan, I will be unable to avoid commenting on the playoffs and World Series on occasion, my posts for the Countdown will feature this banner:
I’ve got nine posts ready to go. Now I could post them daily, one right after the other, but I’d completely run out of all of my possible ideas well before the end of the month. So I’ll be spacing them out, posting one every few days.
In order to have something a bit more for you right now, the Free Music Archive has dozens of collections of Halloween-themed music for you to download. Should be plenty to put you in the mood….
By the way, this year’s Countdown has nearly 200 Cryptkeepers. Click on the banner to get to the Master List – and give them page views and comments!