Her Hacks: The ‘Spookies’

Monday, Sept. 23 — which the calendar assures us is the first day of fall — has come and gone. It’s a magical day that we in the Her Hacks office look forward to every year.

First, we all show up for our brutal shifts in the Word Mines at 6 a.m., bedraggled and covered in yesterday’s text dust.

Then, suddenly, through the magic of the season, we all find ourselves wearing yoga pants, sweaters and infinity scarves as pumpkin spice-scented candles suddenly illumine the area. And the lattes, dear lord the lattes.

Even sans Harry Potter-esque transformations of venue, autumn and the Halloween season are a magical time of year.

And that’s why the team just can’t wait to hack it.

For the kiddos

There’s nothing quite like experiencing All Hallows’ Eve through the lens of youngsters. Nothing quite takes you back like seeing them race up and down sidewalks, plastered in face paint and swinging plastic pumpkins.

So, why not spice up this year’s festivities with a few hacks?

If there’s one thing that’s beloved during Halloween, it’s the snack food. Not only is it abundant, but you also can style it for the occasion.

Here are a few possibilities:

Put together chocolate with green food covering, slather it over some pretzel rods and add slivered almonds to the tip for a fingernail and you’ve got some snackable monster fingers.Even though the weather is getting cooler, a cool drink needs ice cubes. Make those ice cubes a little more festive by freezing some of those party store spiders in the cubes.If you’re hosting some kiddos for a get-together, party favors are a must. So, why not pick up a pack of translucent rubber gloves and fill them up with (wrapped) snacks? Extra points for filling out the fingers with appropriately long, skinny snacks.Speaking of party favors, one of the best candies for such purposes is M&Ms (or Reese’s Pieces if peanut butter is acceptable). But we can do better than just the little bag they come in. Grab some oranges, cut off the topmost part, clean out the innards and carve little faces into the side. Boom, little jack o’lantern candy holders.A punch bowl already has some good spooky vibes considering the crimson tones of said liquid, but why not go a little further? Grab one of those rubber gloves from before, fill it with water and put it in the freezer. The resulting severed hand of ice will be appropriately gruesome for the party.

For the adult-os

Another great appeal of the holiday for adults is indulging in the hallowed (pun intended) tradition of the scary story. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone has to sit at the front of the group, book in hand, and read for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”

Instead, let’s take a trip down horror movie lane. Here are a few recommendations — in three categories: classics, so bad, they’re good and underrated. All of them are great for an autumn get-together with friends, but pays special attention to the bad category if libations are going to be involved. There’s nothing quite like creating your own episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

The classics

John Carpenter’s name is synonymous with the horror genre for good reason — in fact, he’s going to be on this list more than once. And one of the first, best reasons for that is the original “Halloween” (1978). It created a star in Jamie Lee Curtis, a timeless monster in Michael Myers and phenomenal movie that’s worth rewatching at least once per year.

The 1980s have a lot of classic horror movies, but the one that we’re recommending (at least today) is the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). It’s a little uneven, and some of the acting isn’t the best, but it is effectively scary and you can see why it spawned a franchise of (at last count) nine movies.

Let’s take step back even further in time for one of the first horror movies to grace the silver screen: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). It’s a silent film, but don’t let that deter you because it’s a fantastic ride, especially if you watch a version that includes the original score. The film’s vision is as stark and mesmerizing as it was nearly 100 years ago.

Rounding out the list is a modern classic (of which there are many: tinyurl.com/y38d4z3k) by the name of “It Follows” (2014). Without showing so much as a drop of blood, writer-director David Robert Mitchell crafts a timeless (deliberately so when it comes to production design) tale that explores deep themes while being consistently spooky. And the score, by Disasterpeace, is worth the price of addition alone.

So bad, they’re good

There are bad movies, and then there’s “Spookies” (1986). Weird, stilted dialogue? Check. Cheap, yet oddly enticing special effects? Check. Nonsensical story? Check. Weird, cat-man hybrid with a hook for a hand wearing his finest Vegas stage magician getup while constantly making badly dubbed “meowing” sounds? Double check. Just as you should.

It’s arguable just how on-purpose the badness is for “Critters” (1986) and “Critters 2: The Main Course” (1988) considering they’re horror-comedy mashups. But, nevertheless, they are both rollicking good times — each in its way — and can make for good drinking games (knock one back every time someone says the word “Krite,” for instance).

When it comes to bad-good movies, the apotheosis of the genre is without a doubt “Trolls 2” (1990). How is it bad? Let us count the ways. It’s a movie that is in no way connected to “Troll” (1986), its titular prequel. There are no actual trolls in “Trolls 2,” only goblins. The villainous goblins for some reason are vegetarians bent on turning the human protagonists into plants so they can eat them. The list could go on, but suffice to say it all comes back around to being good when you’re in the midst of it.

The underrated

Saying a movie is underrated is, of course, very much in the eye of the beholder. That being said, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” (2015) is a seriously underrated, and under-seen, movie that will leave you pondering it days after first viewing.

Perhaps it’s a language barrier that keeps “The Wailing” (2016) from getting the attention it so clearly deserves (subtitles aren’t for everyone) and maybe it’s the film’s deft genre-bending. Whatever the case might be, this South Korean masterpiece should be on your watch list as of yesterday.

Whereas “The Exorcist” (1973) fits comfortably into our first category as a classic, and “The Exorcist 2” (1977) is so bad it’s just plain bad, “The Excorcist 3” (1990) is a seriously underrated film. Featuring George C. Scott, Brad Dourif and a returning-from-the-first movie Jason Miller reprising his role as Father Karras (in a way), the acting alone makes this worth watching.

Finally, if psychological horror mixed with Cthulhu-ian madness is your speed, John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness” (1994) is so underrated it’s nearly criminal. Featuring a post-”Jurassic Park” and pre-”Event Horizon” Sam Neill, not to mention at least three scenes with Charlton Heston, and you’ve got a movie that needs to be seen.

Anthony Frenzel writes for the Telegraph Herald. Send your hacks, tips, suggestions, DIY thoughts, inspirations and cobbled -together-machinations to tony.frenzel@thmedia.com or share your pins with me on Pinterest (Anthony Frenzel), and you might just be featured in an upcoming edition of her Hacks.

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