I need to give the most wonderful time of the year and the best holiday a nod today. Whether it’s fond childhood memories of favorite trick-or-treat costumes, gorging on candy, creating construction paper monsters, jack-o-lanterns, haunted houses, or having the bejeezus scared out of you by the Exorcist or Salem’s Lot to the point where you develop new phobias, Halloween is a hell of a lot of fun. Here’s a few new things worth mentioning.
The Exorcist (2016 TV Series, Fox)
Oddly there wasn’t a new episode this week, but it’s a great chance to catch up on the first five episodes. I was skeptical that they could pull off a horror series based on the classic movie, and I could not get into The Walking Dead or American Horror Story. iZombie, based on the comic, was disappointing, but the first season of the French zombie series The Returned was okay, though I have not yet been motivated to watch the second season. So far The Exorcist is more than okay, with a strong cast, including Geena Davis, Alan Ruck (remember him from Ferris Bueller), Alfonso Herrera as Father Tomas and Ben Daniels as the badass gun-toting but haunted Father Marcus. There’s even a nice tie-in with the original movie. Given it’s a series, the terrifying bits have to be spread out amidst the story and drama, but it’s well done so far. Taking place in Chicago, it puts forth a most interesting theory as to the cause of the increased violence and shootings. Definitely worth checking out.
Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem In Blue (Dark Essence)
Heavy metal has had a long and fruitful symbiotic relationship with Halloween, at least loosely, with it’s horror and Satanic related themes. My first exposure was, like for many, Black Sabbath. My neighbor had the first couple albums and the cover of the first one, with the blurry image of what could be a witch, along with the ominous devil’s tritone introducing the title track, literally gave my 8 year-old self nightmares. It probably warped me enough so that by the time Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast (1982) came along, I was primed and ready. There’s a ton of stuff that could fit from this year, but I’m picking Greek psychedelic black prog metal band Hail Spirit Noir because it just came out last week and deserves some attention (my album of the week was their labelmates Madder Mortem, but this band shouldn’t be overlooked). Obviously there’s been so much extreme metal in the past 25 years that nothing is really going to truly shock or terrify. However on their third album Hail Spirit Noir create a nicely eerie atmosphere while also sounding pretty unique with their eccentric mix of psych prog and black metal. I have a low tolerance for the shrieking featured on the majority of black metal, and thankfully this band bypasses that, with a mix of clean and rasped vocals that do not send sonic needles through my eyeballs. The band feel free to include all sorts of untraditional metal elements, including electronic effects, saxophones, banjos. Celebrate Halloween by giving “Lost In Satan’s Charms” a whirl and see if you’re not entranced.
The Conjuring 2
I’m not a huge horror movie connoisseur, because most of them delve too far into torture porn or ultra violence. The Conjuring movies are just the right balance of demonic possession and hauntings, though the second one is pretty similar to the first, but set in England this time, in 1977. There’s a nice connection to the original The Amityville Horror (1979) and is loosely based on alleged real events. It’s also way better than the Paranormal Activity movies. I’d rather annoying teenagers or millennials be the primary target rather than small children, but overall it’s pretty satisfying. For a non-scary comedy option, I finally found the sweet spot in the Netflix queue to get the new Ghostbusters delivered. I can’t believe how much bitching and whining there was about this movie featuring all women. Come on people, don’t be dicks. The cast was excellent, and in many ways surpassed the original. Talk of the script being a dud was also off the mark. I re-watched the original recently and while it holds up, there’s plenty of bad writing in it. The overall story isn’t as clever as the original, but I’d say there were many more laughs, especially from the amazingly unhinged Kate McKinnen and Leslie Jones. Hopefully both of them will have opportunities to star in their own movies just as prominently as Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig.
Starr Creek – Nathan Carson (Lazy Fascist)
This isn’t officially out for a couple weeks but I highly recommend pre-ordering this novella for all fans of Lovecraftian horror and the Stranger Things series. Despite the fact that this book was started long before Stranger Things was out, there are a lot of similarities. It takes place in a small town surrounded by creepy woods (this one in Oregon in 1986 rather than Indiana in 1983) and features two sets of protaganists — pre-teens and teenagers. What bothered me about Stranger Things is that no way would these kids in a hick Indiana town be listening primarily to post-punk. Sure The Clash, but Joy Division and Television? Not likely. They would much more likely have been into Sabbath, Dio, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Carson would never make that mistake, having served as the drummer and founding member of the doom metal band Witch Mountain for over 15 years. Metallica among other bands are the soundtrack for these kids. He’s also a veteran writer, having done thousands of reviews, and transitioned to writing fiction. With a few horror themed short stories under his belt, the writing in his debut novella is crisply economical but with an evocative atmosphere that drew me in quickly. I finished it quickly, within a couple days, and it was a nice break from Alan Moore’s unwieldy new novel Jerusalem. Just a warning, parents might not want to buy this for kids younger than 16. There’s creepy hillbilly violence, horrifically gross demon sex, and copious drug use in this sweet little horrible baby.
Slasher Dave – Exorcisms (Bellyache, 2016)
There’s so much fun stuff you could put on a Halloween mix, like Ghoul, Hooded Menace, Frightmare, Horrific, Troglodyte, Acid Witch, Municipal Waste, Harley Poe, Ichabod Crane, Dead Man’s Bones, Bloody Hammers, The Cramps, Ghost, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, King Diamond, Alice Cooper, Misfits/Samhain/Danzig, Nick Cave, etc. But considering the trick-or-treaters are coming in just the next few hours and you’re probably at work, an easy shortcut to having some spooky music playing when the beasties and ghoulies start ringing your bell is Slasher Dave, who also served in the above mentioned Horrific and Acid Witch. Acid Witch’s Evil Sound Screamers was supposed to be released today on Hell’s Headbangers, but that didn’t happen for some reason. Inspired by John Carpenter’s 80s electronic horror soundtracks and Italians Goblin, users at RateYourMusic have assigned Slasher Dave the genre tag “horror synth.” The third album, Exorcisms, released back in February, isn’t rated nearly as well as Spookhouse (2013), but it’s all pretty equally effective background music to my ears.
Dark Night – Day Of The Dead (Vision Of God)
While this Brazilian King Diamond influenced band isn’t the greatest thing ever, they’re not on Spotify, so I thought they were worth mentioning, as their latest album was released earlier in the month. Their other five albums all have Halloweeny titles — Night Of Halloween (2011), Cemetery Porter (2012), Tales After Midnight (2013), Zombie (2014), and Funeral Night (2015). This band is rolling with an album a year and don’t seem to intend to stop until they’re dead in the ground, resting in pieces.