Halloween Pop Culture Style

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays; I like scary stuff and I appreciate all the creativity that goes into creating a great costume. It’s the one night a year that you can be whoever you want to be and that you can wear a blue wig or paint your face without people thinking you are nuts.  Plus who doesn’t love a holiday that revolves around begging for candy?

To commemorate the holiday, here’s a mini-round up of pop culture stories with a Halloween focus.

  • If you are looking for a scary movie to stream tonight, check out this list of what is available.
  • Conan offers a solution to getting out of Halloween parties you don’t want to go to:

 

  • Watch the San Diego State University’s baseball team play their annual game in costume:

 

  • Conan does a horror game edition of Clueless Gamer:

 

  • A cover of “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas:

 

  • Watch Britney Spears do an awkward Halloween bit involving “Thriller” and props:

 

  • SNL imagined a slasher movie directed by Wes Anderson:

 

  • A new State Farm commercial uses some classic Scooby Doo animation:

 

  • A The Walking Dead “Monster Mash” sing-along:

 

  • The If It Were Stine tumblr reimagines horror movies as the covers of Goosebumps books.
  • And finally……Jigsaw from the Saw movies is a terrible roommate:

 

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – A.B.B. (After Breaking Bad) edition

I’m still adjusting to life in a world where Breaking Bad is over. I find that I’m having trouble getting into my Fall TV shows – I’ve already dropped Once Upon a Time, Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family from sheer lack of interest and I’m pretty meh on the new pilots (more on that later this week). Episodes of Sons of Anarchy are beginning to pile up as well and I haven’t bothered to watch the premieres of Revenge or Homeland yet, so their days with a season pass may be numbered. The good news is that this general apathy means that I have a lot more time to surf the web in search of pop culture goodness to share. So really, my loss is your gain. Kick back and enjoy the fruits of my labor in this week’s edition of my pop culture round up

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  • The cover for the upcoming Ron Burgundy memoir has been released.

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  • Peter Dinklage made a stop by Sesame Street:

 

  • Usher and Dinklage’s GoT co-star Lena Headey also recently made appearances.
  • I am not super impressed with Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, Volume 2. It just sounds like a lot of songs that were (rightfully) scrapped from the first album.
  • Who doesn’t love a Halloween themed programing? TV Tango has rounded up 360 of them airing this month. That seems a little excessive.

 

  • The opening credits for American Horror Story: Coven has been released and they are unsurprisingly terrifying.

 

  • Game shows are becoming sticklers for pronunciation – contestants on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune were both penalized recently.
  • A new film starring Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard and…..Taylor Swift? Be afraid, Skarsgard. Be very afraid.
  • It’s been far too long since we’ve had a new Britney Spears video. The wait is over:

 

  • Construction has resumed on the monstrosity of a home that was featured in the documentary Queen of Versailles. Excellent film if you haven’t seen it.
  • I was a big fan of ALF back in the day. Watch him sing “Berzerk” by Eminem:

 

  • The Avett Brothers played some Metal on Fallon:

 

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Breaking Bad in over *sob* but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have some links

  • Sadly, I did not win tickets to the Breaking Bad finale viewing party. These photos from the event make it look like I missed a hell of a time.
  • This one is for my friend Brigette:

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  • Aaron Paul lends his vocal talents – and his catchphrase – to the single “Dance Bitch”

 

  • I would totally read this book:

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  • My pals over at Grantland put together an In Memoriam video for BB’s fallen:

 

  • See how you do on the Breaking Bad superfan quiz (I got 43/50).
  • A Breaking Bad tribute set to Green Day’s “Good Riddance”

 

  • Glee’s Naya Rivera was a proud sister when her brother scored his first touchdown in the NFL:

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  • You can read an edited excerpt from Dave Eggers’ upcoming new novel, The Circle.
  • Watching Conan play Grand Theft Auto V had me literally laughing out loud.

 

  • The Atlanta Braves did a “Blurred Lines” parody:

I enjoyed it, but I’m still not rooting for you in the playoffs. #TeamDodgers

  • For those of you who don’t normally watch baseball but want to get into the playoffs, GQ compares playoff teams to pop culture to help. Ha – the Red Sox are the Lannisters!
  • I may have to buy this Friday Night Lights fanzine just for the Tim Riggins paper doll.
  • Kelly Clarkson lost her fight for the Jane Austen ring that she won at an auction.
  • Watch The Hound from Game of Thrones sing the Rolling Stones. Wait – what??

 

  • The new Sleigh Bells album is streaming over at Rolling Stone.
  • Characters from Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad got Simpsonized:

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Stop! Trailer Time!

  • HBO’s new comedy, Getting On:

 

  • A new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:

 

  • The latest from Chris Lilley, Ja’mie King: Private School Girl (I can’t wait!!):

 

  • Aziz Ansari has a special coming out soon on Netflix:

 

  • A Case of You with Justin Long, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage:

 

  • This guy at a Willie Nelson concert apparent subscribes to “dance like no one is watching”

 

  • Guillermo del Toro made the couch gag for this year’s The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.

As always, we wrap up with the mashups and supercuts

  • A mashup of MacGyver and Archer:

 

  • A mashup of Breaking Bad and Need for Speed:

 

  • Who can resist a Sesame Street mashup? Certainly not me.

 

  • “Get Lucky Wit It”

 

  • And finally – the cast of Breaking Bad sings the N’Sync classic, “Bye, Bye, Bye”

Night of the Living Dead

Last night I wanted to do something to commemorate that it was Halloween as I couldn’t do it the usual ways – I don’t get any trick or treaters where I live, I don’t have any kids to dress up (and after trying it one year, I’m not dressing up the pet) and my office doesn’t really get into the holiday spirit. It was shaping up to be just another Wednesday until I heard that our local art house cinema was having a special event – they would be showing the original Night of the Living Dead, fully restored, colorized and in 3-D.  So I rounded up some people and dodged holiday revelers (little ones and their parents trick or treating, drunk college kids and perhaps the most scary – packs of unchaperoned teenagers, sans costumes, looking for candy and trouble) to make it to the screening.

I generally like zombie movies; they aren’t my favorite sub-genre of horror movies and I’m not fixated on zombies like some other people, but have enjoyed the films that I have watched. I had never seen Night of the Living Dead before, but I had seen a lot of director George Romero’s later films and was curious to see where it all started as this was his first film. Since it was from the 1960s, I expected that it would be pretty dated and not all that scary; what was considered shocking and scandalous then would not have the same impact on a modern audience. But Night of the Living Dead is considered a horror classic and really kicked off the zombie craze, so for the sake of cinematic history it was worth checking out.

I was surprised by the crowd, or lack thereof, once we went into the theater. I thought that there would have been a lot more people; it may not have been the hottest ticket in town, but I assumed that would be a sizable crowd for a one night only movie event as it would be early enough for people to still go out afterward. Going to see a retro scary movie on Halloween seemed like a hipster-ish thing to do, but I either misinterpreted or the hipster population in Albany isn’t all that big. Most of the people in the audience were older and probably remembered when the movie originally came out in 1968.

The film in and of itself was pretty simply – a woman and her brother are in the cemetery when they are attacked by what we will later learn is a zombie (though the word zombie is never used in the film; they are referred to as ghouls). She escapes to a farmhouse where other people are hiding and they discover that what they experienced is not an isolated incident, but part of an epidemic. They must figure out how to survive until they are rescued.

The first thing you notice about this movie is that these are not modern day zombies; if you watch The Walking Dead, you’ll find the zombies in Night of the Living Dead kind of laughable. For the most part, they aren’t all that gruesome; the first zombie that the audience encounters just looks kind of gray and isn’t heavily made up. They are not as decayed and disgusting as the zombies that you would see in a zombie film in 2012. Of course an independent horror movie in 1968 wouldn’t have had the budget or the expertise to have very sophisticated zombie creations. It is also important to note that unlike today’s audiences, there wasn’t really any conception of zombies to compare Night of the Living Dead to. Romero’s conceptualization of zombies was completely new and innovative at the time; older films used the word zombie to refer to someone under a trance and controlled by someone else. The idea that zombie could mean a reanimated dead person with a taste for human flesh was completely groundbreaking at the time and would revolutionize horror movies. It was kind of cool to see where it all began.

What I like about Romero’s later zombie films is that while they are designed to be scary, he also uses them to make some sort of social commentary. It’s hard to get into the 1968 mentality, but I have to think that making the main hero Ben an African American man was probably intended to make some sort of statement or at the very least was somewhat controversial. There is also some irony in how Ben ultimately ends up. The racial commentary, if any is intended, is very subtle other than the decision of whom they cast as the lead; I waited for it to become more explicit, but it never did. There was some hostility between Ben and one of the other refugees in the farmhouse that may have had some elements of racism, but that may have been simply because I was looking for it. It may not have been a statement at all. There may also be some allegories to Vietnam, but those were even more obscure if they were there. It is quite possible that Romero was just getting his feet wet as a filmmaker and was not yet in a position to use his films to make the statements that he would in his later work. I may have been looking for a message that wasn’t there.

The colorization wasn’t a problem, but I do wish that they had not added the 3-D element to the movie. It added nothing to the film and wasn’t done very well; in fact it was more distracting than anything. Because the film was obviously shot using technology that was not anticipating a 3-D upgrade, there are several scenes where the depth is clearly off. Actors appear to be hovering over objects or are locking a door that they seem to be standing feet away from. It was pretty bad and in several instances I watched the film without the glasses – slightly blurry was better than messing with my depth perception. I’m not the world’s biggest 3-D fan anyway – I don’t feel that it is used very effectively and I hate how dark it makes the movie when you have to wear the glasses – but this was the first time I thought the 3-D actually took away from the final product.

Some other thoughts:

  • I’ve said many times I doubt I’d last long in a zombie apocalypse, but I finally found a character that would be even more useless than I would be: Barbara in Night of the Living Dead. She apparently only ran on two speeds – hysterical or catatonic. Not the most flattering portrayal for women. She contributed nothing. I would definitely be more valuable than she was.
  • George Romero makes an uncredited appearance in the film as a reporter.
  • It’s always laughable how dumb people are in movies like this. At one point they hatched a plan that involved having fire in close proximity to a gas pump and a truck. Gee, I wonder why that didn’t work.
  • Further proof of my OCD tendencies – in the scenes where the local news had area shelters appearing at the bottom of the screen, it was making me very angry that the cities weren’t being listed in alphabetical order.
  • These zombies were smarter than a lot of others that I’ve seen – they knew enough to throw rocks through windows and to smash the headlights out of cars. For the undead, they were pretty logical.
  • There is a prolonged scene that shows the zombies munching down on a victim that I am positive was scandalous at the time. I’m sure it terrified the 1960s audience, but to my trained eye it looked more like they were “eating” meat from a butcher shop. Special effects have come a long way.
  • For some reason, this really made me laugh – a zombie rampage has taken over the U.S. east of the Mississippi and a reporter interviewing the head of a local posse who is going out and killing zombies says something along the lines of “So, you think you’ll have this taken care of in the next 24 hours?”
  • This is only tangential to the movie, but I do not understand people who order movie popcorn without the butter. If you are going to go for it, go for it. This particular cinema uses real butter, which is even better (if not kind of greasy). I’ll eat plain popcorn at home, but if I’m at the theater, it’s go big or go home.

So while I thought parts of Night of the Living Dead were slow and there definitely weren’t any chills, I am glad that I went to see a piece of movie history. Zombies are such a common thing these days – you can even get zombie wedding cake toppers – that is was fun to see the movie that first introduced them. I was even home in time to watch American Horror Story, which was a bonus, and prevented my Halloween from being a boring affair. An overall win.