Madeleine Koestner is a writer, filmmaker and performer. She plays a ukulele and sings songs about ghosts in small venues in New York City. She likes beer, synthesizers and movies about death games. Sometimes Madeleine does special FX makeup and gore for low-budget horror movies. You can follow her on twitter @DVDBoxSet, but do so at your own risk, as she’s really weird and inappropriate.
The Dreadful Ten: 10 Things You Can Do This Halloween!Books/Art/Culture,Fearful Features,News Madeleine Koestner
This is it: the final day before our favorite holiday, Halloween. I assume you’ve been celebrating, as have I, but there is an infinite number of horrifying Halloween activities in which to partake, and the month of October is a mere 31 days. One year ago I made a list of the top ten Monster Mashes for you to listen to. This year, I have compiled a list of my top suggestions of things to do for Devil’s Night and All Hallow’s Eve…
- Listen to Alice Cooper’s WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE
There’s plenty of excellent spooky music you can listen to for Halloween, but I implore you to listen to the sequel to Alice Cooper’s seminal WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE instead. I was first introduced to it while watching GRAVY (2015), a movie that has what is possibly the most bizarre soundtrack I have ever heard, which has caused me to fixate on it for a long, excruciating time. The song “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” is featured in a scene, and upon realizing it was actually a recent Alice Cooper track, I hunted down WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE and began listening to it obsessively. Talk about novelty rock, this album is absurd.
In terms of being a gimmick album it pretty much leaves everything else Cooper has done in the dust. WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is a few Alice Cooper sequel songs peppered in with a mix of silly horror and tracks that sound almost as if they were penned for a Alice Cooper kids band, with Cooper uncomfortably singing to “mommy” and “daddy”. Kesha even shows up to sing a verse as the devil in the song “What Baby Wants”. My personal favorite is “Ghouls Gone Wild” which I’m not going to say anything about, I’m just going to leave it here for you.
- Drink “20 Pounds of Pumpkin” Beer
When I was a young beer snob, I shunned fruit beer, not to be confused with root beer. You are tainting my beer with delicious ingredients? “Disgusting!,” I would exclaim. Now I’ve grown to appreciate it, because it tastes amazing. Pumpkin is the symbol of the Halloween season, and the two ideal ways to consume Halloween are via pie and booze.
Everyone I know is trying to watch 31 horror movies for the month of October, but I decided to be a real wild card and attempt to drink 31 pumpkin beers in one sitting. There’s so many varieties, depending on your taste: sweeter ales with lots of spices, bitter pumpkin beers, pumpkin stouts and porters. Flying Dog has a pumpkin IPA that can only be described fairly with one word: “bangarang”. Sam Adams’ “20 Pounds of Pumpkin Ale” is a tad on the sweet side and may not be my personal favorite pumpkin beer, but it does have the best name and is easy to find. It also is very drinkable, which I know to be true because I just drank six.
- Play BETRAYAL AT THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
I’m a big dumb nerd, and one of my favorite things to do is play nerd games with my nerd friends. There’s plenty of great, immersive horror tabletop games, and a good horror DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS campaign is always delightful. CALL OF CTHULHU is also a very atmospheric roleplaying game, with a big emphasis on story and an alarmingly sparse battle system — you will be solving scary mysteries and you will encounter monsters you cannot fight.
Avalon Hill Games’ BETRAYALA AT THE HOUSE ON THE HILL is half-roleplaying, half-strategy based board game. You get to play as a weird character, and you and your friends investigate a spooky house that bad things keep happening in. At some point, an event is triggered, and the real horror starts, prompting you to flip through a book to a random incident that will have consequences on each player. Some players become monsters, and those who don’t must defeat the monsters they once looked in the eyes and called friend.
The best part of BETRAYAL is overacting; if you’re playing it right, scream at your friends in character as they mutate into horrible beasts and gloat like a jackass as you murder each other. Each character has a goofy figurine and a biography. I usually play as Peter Akimoto, a child boy who likes bugs, which is what I’m made of. And if you’ve already got the game, Avalon Hill just released an expansion for the game, WIDOW’S WALK, which comes with new haunts and cards and a “never before explored new floor: The Roof!”
- Go to a Haunted House where they can (and must) touch you
A few years ago, I attended an extreme haunt for the first time, and it was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me. Pulled into a dark room, alone, pushed around, bound, and sent through scenes of mock torture and horror, I really learned a lot about myself that night. It was unlike anything else I had done before; an abstract horror movie that I was experiencing firsthand. I began to seek out these events. They are sometimes scary, always thrilling, creative, and extremely transportive.
Right now, if you’re in San Francisco, you can visit Blackout’s Hell In The Armory, an escape room collaboration they have with Kink.com, so expect this one to be tense and a tad sexual in nature. In Los Angeles, there’s something happening called The Tension Experience, and on the East Coast, friends of FANGORIA Fringe Immersive are constantly getting involved in new events. If you don’t live near any extreme or immersive haunts, you could try out Blackout 21, which is kind of like your ex-haunted house won’t stop calling and texting you in the middle of the night, screaming at you and possibly watching you through your window.
- Go to a Haunted House where they can’t touch you
It took a little too long for me to pick up on that, when I was mingling at Halloween parties and going straight from “Hi, I’m Madeleine,” to “I like to go to haunted houses where they tie me up and slap me around a bit,” I was upsetting, oh, I don’t know, everybody. Most people don’t want that, and in fact, some people will think you’re a real weirdo. Luckily, most haunted houses don’t provide that particular service.
It takes very little to delight me when it comes to haunted houses. Goofy ones, spooky ones, intensely gory ones; no matter what kind of haunt you prefer, most cities have them. Go on an off-night, not as many actors might be working, but the lines will be shorter. Go on Saturday, it’ll basically be a Halloween party that culminates in walking through a haunted house — people screaming all around you, laughing, tons of monsters and ghouls sneaking up on you, breathing on your neck. Hell, do a haunted hayride even! Embrace the silliness of it all and just laugh. Everyone in a haunted house is having fun, actors and guests alike. And this is the season for it! Do it up!
- Watch MURDER PARTY
Really, you can watch any Halloween-specific horror movie. The obvious picks are TRICK ‘R TREAT, HOCUS POCUS, and HALLOWEEN while NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a classic and IDLE HANDS isn’t a bad pick if you’re more inclined to watch stoner comedies. But I always pick MURDER PARTY because it’s my favorite. After BLUE RUIN and GREEN ROOM, director Jeremy Saulnier has established himself as a master of tension, but way back in the early naughts, he and his crew shot a low budget horror comedy on film called MURDER PARTY. It’s about a boring dude who finds a party invitation on Halloween, so he attends on a whim, despite the invitation explicitly detailing that this party is a murder party. When he arrives, he’s ambushed by a pack of Brooklyn art students in costume, hellbent on murdering him as the ultimate work of art. Anyhow, it’s out on DVD, available on Amazon, or you can even watch it on Shudder.
- Play UNTIL DAWN
Did you play UNTIL DAWN when it came out last year? Do it. Do it now. Now’s the time. Call your friend with the PS4 and tell them it’s time. Run over there as fast as you can. Uh oh, quick time event. Hold X to jump over the tree branch. Did you do it? Your choices affect what happens next.
For anyone who complains that video games aren’t as good a storytelling form as movies, or that movies just aren’t interactive enough, UNTIL DAWN is literally a playable horror movie written by genre Glass Eye Pix’s Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznik. It’s an awesome choose-your-own-adventure kids-in-a-cabin pick-em-off. It functions as both a fantastic story with interesting, complex characters and a really fun game. You get to control Rami Malek (MR. ROBOT) and Hayden Panettiere (HEROES). It’s a stellar cast with brilliant people on the production side. Seriously, if this was just a horror movie with no playable aspect, you’d watch it in a heartbeat — but you actually get to interact with it, and it works! And it’s spooky!
8. Read MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM
I watch horror movies constantly, play horror games, live a horror life. Yet the only medium within the genre that consistently scares me is literature. I have a suspicion that most horror fans have active imaginations, leaving their mind a place where axe-wielding murderers and old ghosts simply make sense. Words are a powerful tool in that they can influence your thoughts. A sentence can inspire horrors that cannot be built on a set, specific to the reader as they’re the ones who conjured it up in their heads. So, what I’m saying is, books scare the shit out of me.
Earlier this month I asked for suggestions for the scariest horror novels, aside from the ever-popular Stephen King and HP Lovecraft titles in hopes of digging deeper. The responses were amazing, and I just finished reading Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX from that list, which both frightened and moved me to tears. Grady Hendrix’s MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM kept coming up over and over, a completely logical thing to happen as the book is amazing. Set in an affluent town in the late ‘80s, the book is about high school girls, the bonds of friendship, and demonic possession. It’s clever, heartfelt, and get-under-your-skin unnerving without succumbing to any of the more predictable exorcism story tropes — things happen in this book that you will not expect. It will leave you sleepless because you won’t want to put it down, and you’ll be too scared to. Read it!
- Listen to Zacherley The Cool Ghoul sing “Dinner With Drac”
The news came in of Zacherley The Cool Ghoul’s passing just as I was finishing this article. John Zacherle was a legendary horror host, endlessly charming and witty. Listen to as many of his songs as you can find and get lost watching video after video of him of YouTube.
- Listen to This Song.
I don’t know who made this other than they go by the name Baditude and I cannot find their contact information. I hope they don’t mind I uploaded it to my account. If they do mind, I hope they contact me about it so I can thank them for recording this stupid song. It’s full of swears and candy.