Friday, October 18, 2019

New Music for Your 2019 Halloween Playlist

As the darkest day of the year draws nearer I'm listening to Halloween music round the clock. While I love the classics, it's always great to find some new terror tunes to add to the playlist. Here's a few recommendations and links to my personal Apple Music playlists.

Lovecraft "This is Halloween, Volume 1"
Dance music gets a wicked overlay in this fun, bouncy full-length album chock full of fun beats for your Halloween party. Standouts include Awooo, Take it to the Graveyard, First Blood, Skeleton Sam, and Voodoo. The mood shifts halfway through with a much more creepy vibe so everyone can likely find something lo love. It's also oddly available as an instrumentals only version.


Sharon Needles "Spoopy"
America's favorite horror drag superstar is back with a 6-song EP of classic Halloween covers. Dripping with nostalgia and an vintage sound, this collection will be a crowd-pleaser. Sharon's voice has never sounded better than it does on this collection and it shows on the "Monster Mash" and "Somebody's Watching Me."



Halloween at High Noon "Fear Candy"
Year after year the annual collection of electronic synth soundscapes from  High Noon Records never fails to capture the perfect tone of creepy and fun. Of the various artists featured, my favorites this year are The Mumps: "Chills & Fever" and The Mutants: "Our Glass Shattered". I listen to this on repeat as I delve into Halloween projects or to make housework tolerable.

BOJO "I Was a Teenage BoJo: Spooky Mix Tape 2019"
So NO ONE knows who (or what?) BoJo is but I look forward to his/her/its mix tape every year with its eclectic mix of pop songs, film scores, and atmospherics. You can hear it or download it here: bojospookymixtapes.bandcamp.com since its not available on any streaming service. You are welcome.

Harlo "You Might Be the Killer"
The 80s inspired throwback horror comedy You Might Be The Killer premiered on Shudder early this year and with it came the essential title track. The track is an instant classic with supremely sing-a-long lyrics.






Other movies have also yielded some solid terror tunes as well:
  • The ethereal chanteuse Lana del Ray covered Season of the Witch from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
  • Starcrawler covers the title track from Pet Sematary
  • Christina Aguilera once again oversings her way through the original song "Haunted Heart" from The Addams Family but it works. 

Señor Scary Terror Tunes for Halloween
Finally, here's a link to my personal playlists featuring over 13 hours of music. (I add to the Apple Music playlist much more frequently.)

Apple Music

Spotify




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Target Disappoints Fans Looking for Ghoulish Garden

Every year Target seems to screw over Halloween fans one way or another. They are the last retailer to put spooky goods on shelves and when stuff is finally available, it's rarely well-stocked. The shelves this year were Exceptionally (note the bold, capital "E") sparse, with many items displayed on their site as "not available online" turning out to be not available in stores either.

For example, the Ghoulish Garden was advertised well in advance by Target and they even listed release dates on items. Fans across the internet chatted about these wicked plants and waited patiently for the items – to never show up in stores. When I contacted customer service a couple weeks after launch, they said the entire line was sold out. The management at the store I usually go to was very apologetic, indicated many irate customers and that corporate remained rather mum on the whole affair. So, it was poor planning and buying decisions. I took one look at those plants and knew they would be top sellers, but of course, they don't consult us Halloween experts.

If you really want a Ghoulish Garden plant, they are all available on eBay but prepare yourself for the ultimate shock. Some savvy entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the supply-demand issues and have listed these items at a 300–500% markup. Yup, the plant shown here that retails for $35 is currently listed at $75–$99. YIKES. That is certainly ghoulish. 

I don't have a crystal ball (it was also sold out) but I'm certain these will make a second appearance next year. And if previous experience holds true, many other retailers will also jump on the bandwagon and offer their own wicked plants next year.  



Thursday, October 10, 2019

Mexican Chocolate "Pan de Muertos" Pudding

I've been looking for Mexican-inspired treats to make for a Dia de los Muertos party. Since Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead) is staple in Mexico this time of year, I thought a bread pudding might work. I tweaked this recipe into a dark, chocolatey, spicy treat that goes great with whipped cream or dulce de leche ice cream. I plan to make a batch and then spoon it into skull cups.


Mexican Chocolate Pan de Muertos Pudding


1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
3 ounces Guittard semisweet chocolate bar
1 tbsp Guittard Cocoa Rogue powder
1/2 tsp. King Arthur Viennese cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (16oz) loaf Thomas cinnamon-raisin bread
2 large eggs, room-temp
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter an 11-by-7-inch baking dish; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine milks, chocolate, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and butter; place over medium-low heat, whisking until chocolate has melted, about 3-5 minutes. Let cool slightly.

3. Slice bread into cubes and distribute evenly in prepared baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla until the sugar has dissolved. Add a small ladle of the warm warm milk mixture whisking until tempered. Slowly pour in the remaining warm milk while continuing to whisk. Pour evenly over bread. Press down on the bread to ensure everything is coated.

4. Bake until pudding has puffed and is firm, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.


Tips: Try to find ancho chili powder but DO NOT substitute regular chili powder. Ancho chili is a smoked poblano pepper that has very little heat, a smoky deep flavor, and is even slightly sweet and aromatic. When paired with chocolate it is absolutely fantastic. Everyday chili powder used for the chili stews is a completely different spice blend altogether!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Podcast of the Month: Scarred for Life

I'm so excited for the SCARRED FOR LIFE podcast and its fascinating concept – revisit older films that traumatized you and see how they hold up. It launched this week and available on podcast services everywhere.

Hosts Mary Beth and Terry sound relatable and down to Earth – the kind of friends you'd want to hang out with for a movie night. Mary Beth is an exceptionally seasoned writer with more bylines than gawd and a fantastic site Much Ado About Cinema, and Terry has built a large following as Gayly Dreadful on Twitter and his eponymous website. I'll always show up to support queer and women's voices in horror!

The first episode tackles the icky Arachnophobia and Terry's lifelong struggle with eight legged freaks, and Mary Beth takes on Poltergeist's gravity defying horror. The hosts really reveal a personal tidbits about how these films affected them and why. It is this personal approach that really sets the podcast apart as being something very special for the horror community. I imagine that eventually they'll feature films that really pierced my psyche and I am eager to delve into those memories. Is it therapy? Perhaps, but it never stops being entertaining.

The podcast is also a good, digestible length. So many of them run 2+ hours making it very challenging to fully commit week after week. I am subscribed, and looking forward to revisiting those fears from yesteryears through the critically cool analysis of adulthood.



Thursday, October 3, 2019

Apple Cider Sangria

Sangria is a Spanish cocktail made with red wine, fruit and some type of cordial. It's usually associated with summer, but Sangria translates as "bloody" making it perfect for Halloween! This is a variation on that classic drink that can be made well ahead of time in large batches – ideal cocktail for Halloween get-togethers!


Apple Cider Sangria

2 apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Envy or Jazz)
1 orange
1 lemon
2 cups fresh-pressed Barsotti apple cider
1/2 cup Jack Daniels Apple Whisky
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc white wine
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (12.7 oz) bottle Bundaberg ginger beer

1. Wash fruit well and core apples. Dice apples into small pieces and place in a large pitcher. Cut orange and lemon into thin slices removing seeds. Add to pitcher.

2. Add apple cider, apple whisky, wine, sugar into pitcher. Stir well crushing fruit with spoon. Add cinnamon sticks, stir again, cover and set in refrigerator overnight.

3. Add in ginger beer right before serving, stir well and serve immediately!


Tips: Use the best fresh apple cider you can find, usually in the refrigerated juice sections, and look for the unfiltered kind that looks cloudy and brownish. Remember apple cider is different from apple juice, and definitely not apple cider vinegar. Same with ginger beer. It's not the same as ginger ale! The type of white wine is also important as you don't want an oaky Chardonnay for example (an unoaked Chardonnay would be okay). Albarinos or Pinot Grigio would also be perfect. But sangria is usually very forgiving.

I would recommend a punch bowl (cauldron?) and ladle for serving since fresh apple juice tends to separate when it sits and you need to stir before serving. And, of course, you want to get some of the spirited fruit as well.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Winchester Mystery House Goes Fully Unhinged

Times have changed. When I moved to San Jose in 2005, I lived down the street from the Winchester Mystery House. I was instantly captivated by its Victorian charm and the rumored haunting. For many of those early docent-led tours nothing about the ghostly matters was ever acknowledged, even when asked directly. Then 14 years later, ghost busting shows are a staple on pay cable TV, and run-down mansions and hospitals with heinous histories everywhere are selling tickets for tours. The Winchester House finally got on board with several variations of candlelit tours, then a fantastic haunted maze created around the perimeter on the house!

That has all changed with their latest and greatest attraction, Winchester Mystery House Unhinged! Created by ThemeDream Productions, these wicked masterminds have created a haunted maze using the interior house's existing maze-like structure, added a few spooks, performance pieces, and some great special effects. The haunted docents tell us that this tour does not go through the beautifully appointed rooms of the regular tours. Instead we go through the basement, long unused corridors, and several dilapidated rooms that no one would pay to see in daylight. It's an absolutely brilliant concept!

In addition to the immersive and hour long maze, there are fortune tellers, ax-throwing games, a gingerbread replica of the house created by Christine McConnell, and a stunning light show created by PaintScaping that is comprised of 3D projections onto the house itself that showcase the spirits within and a fiery conclusion that knocks the house down. It's absolutely breathtaking and worth the reasonable price of admission. This is one classy haunt that should not be missed!