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The Dartmouth
April 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Fall Narratives to Help You Cling on to the Last Days of Autumn

Autumnal and atmospheric, here are five fall favorites for the end of your term

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It’s week 9 and I’m tired. Between problem sets and outlines for final papers, I’m looking for an escape. So whether you’re on the market for a movie that will scare you more than finals or a book to curl up with once you’re home for Thanksgiving, here are five of my favorite fall stories with fall written all over them — pun not intended.

1.     The Illustrated Man (1951) — novel by Ray Bradbury

“The Illustrated Man” is a grown-up version of the scary stories told around the firepit during Halloween time. The novel begins when the narrator meets a former circus performer whose body is covered in tattoos — and each has a story to tell. It’s classified as science-fiction, but the stories often delve into highbrow horror, so you can reminisce on fall and the Halloween season no matter what time of year. 

If you suffered through “Fahrenheit 451” in high school, don’t be intimidated by “The Illustrated Man.” Even though the narrative begins and ends with the tattooed man, the stories in between are essentially unrelated, making it a story you can dip in and out of between your 10A and your 2A, or whenever you have a spare moment. If this seems too pretentious for you, try Chuck Palahniuk’s “Haunted” — it’s like if Quentin Tarantino directed Bradbury — or the quintessential classic, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”

2. Rules of Attraction (1987) — novel by Bret Easton Ellis

This was one of the last books I read before coming to college and it holds a special place in my heart because of how much it shaped my expectations for Dartmouth. Although the novel takes place at the fictional school of Camden, it’s based on Bennington College — where author Bret Easton Ellis went for undergrad and befriended “The Goldfinch” author Donna Tartt. 

Dartmouth students are actually mentioned several times throughout the novel, because both Bennington and its fictional counterpart are located in Vermont. Ellis’s friend and classmate Tartt wrote “The Secret History” — often regarded as the quintessential campus novel — but I find Easton’s postmodern portrayal of college life much more realistic. Told from the rotating perspectives of the three main characters — Lauren, Sean and Paul — “Rules of Attraction” perfectly encapsulates the morally ambiguous years of college and the ludicrous feat of trying to figure out who we truly are, all against the backdrop of a perfect fall in New England. 

3. Evil Dead (1981) — film by Sam Raimi

I have a deep, dark secret: I love horror movies. This isn’t actually that much of a surprise to any of my friends who have heard me talk about my childhood dream of being a special effects makeup artist or my days spent in Blockbuster searching for the scariest movie I could get my little hands on, but it’s always been a big part of my taste in movies and books. If it were up to me, this whole list could have been scary movies, but I limited myself to one: “Evil Dead.” I’ll be honest, it isn’t the best movie, but it’s unique in the fact that there is something about it that is so unmistakably creepy, whilst also being entertaining. 

The plot revolves around five friends who go to a cabin for a weekend, only to find an old book that awakens an evil spirit. Cheesy, I know, but the only reason the “cabin in the woods” trope is so overdone is because of this movie; “Evil Dead” was the pioneer for this and so many horror movie staples. It was written and directed by Sam Raimi, who was only 20 when production started, and it was made for less than $400,000 — with cast and crew members asking for money from their families. Its amateur conception is visible in the final product, with shaky camera work and raw sound that actually contributes to the movie’s unnerving atmosphere. I also think it’s such a fitting film for Dartmouth; the woods and the house itself are so daunting, they become their own character. Thank goodness our nights spent in DOC cabins are much more peaceful. 

4. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) — film by Wes Anderson

Whenever people ask me what my favorite movie is, I usually answer “Blue Valentine,” “Oldboy” or “Y Tu Mamá También.” While I love those films dearly, they’re a poor grab at sounding more grown up than I actually am, because the real answer is “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Although this movie is on just about everyone’s list of quintessential fall films, I couldn’t bear leaving it out. Everything about it just embodies autumn — from the color palette to the Thanksgiving-esque party scene to the soundtrack. 

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” stands out to me as a near-flawless movie because it caters to people of all ages: perfect for kids who love animated movies, who then grow into young adults who can fully appreciate Wes Anderson’s signature wit. I rewatch it at least once a year, usually during the fall, and it is my absolute favorite movie to show my friends who have never seen it. Dartmouth can get so stressful during fall quarter and its accompanying pressure of new beginnings. Sometimes, it’s nice to just put on a lighthearted childhood movie and laugh along. 

5. Night of the Hunter (1955) — film by Charles Laughton 

To be honest, I have no idea what season this movie is set in. I just know that every October, it would play on Turner Classic Movies and my mom would call me down from my bedroom to watch it. I said I was limiting myself to one horror movie, and I am  — Google qualifies it as a noir/thriller, so I might be getting by on a technicality. That isn’t to say that “Night of the Hunter” isn’t completely bone-chilling…

Set during the Great Depression, the story follows two children stalked by Harry Powell, a reverend and serial killer who is in search of their father’s hidden fortune. Although it’s a simple story, it manages to produce one of the sharpest narratives on the battle between good and evil that I’ve ever seen. No matter what season, “Night of the Hunter” is haunting; it borrows techniques from old silent films, creating a subtle uneasiness throughout the movie. There’s a monologue on love and hate that has become one of the most famous speeches in film history. Whether you’re a film-lover or just someone who enjoys “horror for smart people,” as my mother would say, “Night of the Hunter” is your fall flick. 

This article was updated (Nov. 10, 4:52 p.m.).