Staff Recs: Spooky Season

WSN’s Arts Desk highlights some Halloween favorites.

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(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

In the spirit of ghouls, WSN’s Arts Desk has decided to put together a list of spooky recommendations worth diving into this Halloween weekend. From Nick Cave to the latest nerve-wracking Netflix series, we’ve celebrated the spirit of the season by aggregating the most horrifying of amusements into a little (trick or) treat. Whether you want to read yourself into shrieks or listen your way into despair, we’ve got it all. You’ll be spooked or, at the very least, you’ll enjoy our carefully selected sprinkle of scary staff recs. 

“Shivers” by The Boys Next Door

Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor

If there ever was a singer’s voice that could be equated with the word spooky, it would have to be Nick Cave’s. In “Shivers,” an early single from his pre-Birthday Party, pre-Bad Seeds days, he spellbindingly croons about a girl’s name who sends permanent shivers down his “spine.” On the topic of horror itself, is there not anything scarier than heartbreak? Filtered through Nick Cave’s perfectly sad, groggy musical pipes, the topic is somehow even more bone-chilling than it’s usually made out to be in music. In this spiraling, echoing trail of sadness that Cave unleashes before the listener, there’s also an element of catharsis, embodied in the gentle guitar that follows the song’s chorus and soothes the viewer. For fans of Cave, heartbroken listeners, moody music-heads, or anybody looking for a chilling new soundtrack to their day, queue up “Shivers” and surrender to its deftly composed shower of sadness. 

“Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads 

Clara Scholl, Arts Editor

While Talking Heads’s “Psycho Killer” may not be directly related to Halloween, it certainly is spooky enough. The single, released by the Talking Heads in 1977, reflects the thoughts of a psychopath with numerous personalities, inspired by Norman Bates’ character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.

Byrne’s staccato verses are eerie and aggravated, bringing to life deeply disturbing lyrics. He sings “Je me lance vers la gloire” — which translates to “I throw myself towards glory” — to emphasize his change in personality from that of a regular person to that of a murderer. Switching between English and French, the psycho killer literally switches from one voice to another, and metaphorically from one person to another. 

At the end of the song, the guitar solo transitions quickly from one monotonous riff to odd chords, without much aural synchronicity. The bizarre melody ensures that, even without lyrics, the listener is left unsettled.

“Juju” by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Stephanie Wong, Film & TV Editor

To be honest, any album by Siouxsie and the Banshees would be perfect to listen to this Halloween weekend. The London band’s enigmatic frontwoman, Siouxsie Sioux, was hailed in the ’70s and ’80s for her husky and otherworldly vocals. She was also similarly renowned for her characteristically dark makeup and erotic aesthetic that heavily influenced post-punk and gothic culture. If you are at all interested in dipping your toes into the eerie depths of gothic rock music, “Juju” is the perfect album to start with. 

“Juju,” which has widely been acknowledged as the band’s most gothic album, is dominated by atmospheric basslines, drumming and psychedelic guitars. The gloomy lyricism that defines the album’s tracks appropriately revolves around plenty of horror-related subject matter: voodoo dolls, psychological terror and Halloween itself. From the hypnotic opening track “Spellbound” to the hauntingly cacophonic tune of “Arabian Knights,” it’d be a struggle to find a collection of songs more fitting for this holiday. If nothing else, give their track “Halloween” a celebratory listen.

Halloween Special: “A Sinister Halloween Scary Opposites Solar Special” 

Natalia Palacino, Books & Theater Editor

If you are a fan of animated shows with a side of existential questions, witty jokes and dark humor, then “Solar Opposites” co-created by Rick and Morty’s Justin Roiland is the show for you. This show, I fear, is Roiland’s superior adult animated comedy. With the third season having been released this summer and the fourth season coming in 2023, their latest Halloween special is the perfect way to be introduced to the world of the Solar Opposites. Hilariously zany, with a touch of the show’s self-aware humor, this special screams Halloween. Both campy and corny, this spooky special is overloaded with Halloween symbolism in every scene. If you are unfamiliar with the show but are a horror cult classic fan, then John Kassir’s cameo and reprisal of his role as the Crypt Keeper might entice you to watch the show. 

“Solar Opposites”’ focuses on a family of aliens who find a safe haven in Middle America after the destruction of their planet Shlorp. As comical as they are defiant, gay alien couple Korvo and Terry and their children find themselves adapting to their new life on Earth. This show is known for its witty commentary and sci-fi. Their new Halloween special is no different, with references and inspirations from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Tales from the Crypt,” where the Crypt Keeper character originated from. Korvo’s uptight nature, combined with his fear of all things spooky, makes his adventure to find the Crypt Keeper delightful. This episode, while truly chaotic, is a true comedic masterpiece and the perfect Halloween special for this spooky season.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor”

Yas Akdag, Music Editor

For fans of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” this Halloween, try out “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” Mike Flanagan is the mastermind behind both shows, which are spooky, gothic and feature many of the same actors. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is set in a mansion in the English countryside and follows a non-linear narrative. A young au pair named Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) arrives at the manor to take care of the Wingrave family’s children, Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). 

All seems well at first as Dani settles into the house, meeting the housekeeper Hannah (T’Nia Miller), the cook Owen (Rahul Kohli) and the gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve). But as time goes on, strange things begin to happen. Flora’s doll turns up in weird places and the children sometimes don’t seem themselves; once locking Dani in a closet and Dani occasionally sights apparitions. There’s also mysterious circumstances surrounding the manor — the former au pair died by suicide and Hannah continually complains of a headache. If you’re looking for a bingeable thriller-meets-romance drama this Halloween weekend, look no further than “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” which will pull on your heartstrings just as much as it psychs you out.

Contact the Arts Desk at [email protected]