Jack-o-lanterns grin from Hanover’s porches in the last orange bursts of peak foliage, the year’s most anticipated horror movies premier onscreen and campus anticipates spooky festivities with candy and costumes. It’s time for horror enthusiasts like me to relish in our favorite genre. In the spirit of Halloween, many students scrounge for something scary to consume and find themselves looking at a foreign menu. For anybody with no idea what to order, I offer a few humble recommendations.
What better contemporary way to get in the spirit of Halloween than binge watching horrific television over the month of October? Let’s begin with Netflix; horror has been blowing up in popular media in the last few years, yielding unusual television hits and Netflix Originals. Such sensations include “Black Mirror,” a Netflix original series ongoing since 2011. Each episode sets up a different storyline set in a futuristic universe in which technology complicates the lives of humans in unexpected ways. The essential unsettling factor of this show is that many of the predicaments the characters find themselves in are not too far from reality. They make viewers think about the consequences innovation could have on our freedom and safety if we don’t keep it in check. From season three’s heartfelt “San Junipero” to season two’s emotional rollercoaster “White Christmas” to episodes that cling to the brain for days after watching them like season four’s “Black Museum” or season three’s “Shut Up and Dance,” most thresholds for horror are accommodated by “Black Mirror.” This recent winner reflects aspects of “The Twilight Zone,” an eerie show popularized in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s that depicts characters combatting nightmares on the very edges of reality in the same nonconsecutive episode style. Netflix continues to stream hundreds of the 25-minute black and white episodes.
In a similar vein, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s series American Horror Story offers binge-worthy bizarre storylines in a choose-your-own adventure format. Each season’s unique plotline tackles a creepy and often unprecedented issue, ranging from the psychologically unsettling to the downright gory, and they make as much sense watched in isolation as they do in their release order. Although originally aired on FX, Netflix streams all but the 2018 release “Apocalypse.” For light thrills, try season three, “Coven,” or season five, “Hotel”. Able to stomach some gore? Settle down with season four, “Freak Show,” or season seven, “Cult,” for some truly stomach-churning but genuinely well-produced television.
Alternatively, books are still a fabulous and timeless way to seek thrills and keep Netflix addictions in check. For the burgeoning horror fanatic, begin with publications by prolific genre typhoon Stephen King. He alone has published many of the classics renowned in horror today including his novels “Carrie” (1974), “The Shining” (1976), “The Stand” (1977), and “Misery” (1987). Most recently, King has published “Sleeping Beauties” (2017) with his son Owen King and “The Outsider” (2018), both admirable contributions to his 40-plus years of publishing. Many of his pieces have been converted to movies, popular contemporary works including the 2013 remake of “Carrie” by producer Kimberly Peirce and the 2017 release of the movie It by Andrés Muschietti, and revered classics including the 1990 rendition of “Misery” starring Kathy Bates and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining.” Although a fan of all of the above movies and books myself, I most strongly recommend reading “The Shining” and then watching the movie adaptation. Both forms created by geniuses in their respective arts, they each take fundamentally different approaches to the same story, leaving consumers with two entirely separate masterpieces. While the original book filters the primary characters’ suffering through the evil personification of an isolated Coloradoan hotel, Kubrick takes a different approach onscreen by making the family patriarch, Jack, and his diminishing sanity the bringer of all wickedness.
Spotify also streams on-the-go horror fixes through podcasts. With an astounding variety to choose from, I’ve only worked my way through a handful of what the app has to offer. Thus far, “Criminal” hosted by Phoebe Judge provides entertaining investigations of real-life crimes from money laundering to murder in bite-sized 20-30-minute episodes. For a taste of science fictive horror, “The NoSleep Podcast” narrator David Cummings illustrates skin-crawling urban legends from all across the country in fantastical detail. Most episodes run for over an hour, so this is the kind of podcast to get spooked out to on long drives or keep on in the background of the room.
Most people confine their horror consumption to the month of October, but it’s a genre populated by genuinely talented authors, actors, producers and visionaries with a lot to offer at all times of the year. The recommendations above are an incomprehensive sampling of some of horror’s best works, but there’s so much more out there to explore and appreciate. Please take these meager words of wisdom and use them as the starting point for a deep dive into the terrifically peculiar world of horror.