P. T. Mayes


Halloween, My Choices.

There's a cackle in the air and mum's cooking something that might have once been in a graveyard; dad looks like Dracula (he should get some sun) and kids start popping in fountains of red and green gloop from all the sweets and chocolates they've been forced to eat. Yes, it Halloween, the time of year when every adult in Britain moans about "Americans and their rotten customs coming over here, blah, blah, blah," and candy manufacturers and costumers rub their hands in glee, whatever glee might be. Is it something to do with nuclear waste?

Halloween isn't as big in the UK as it is in the States, nowhere near, but it's slowly gaining ground. Most kids dress up as ghosts and witches and not as fairies and superheroes, as they do in the States, which makes one wonder why it isn't just renamed "Fancy dress and candy" night. Still, the true spirit of Halloween remains in a few hardy souls, that morbid fascination with the macabre that sends a tingle down the spine. So how should we remember the night? No, maybe you shouldn't be out trying to raise the devil in a pentagram made of dribbled goat's blood, there are many more enjoyable (and less messy) ways than that. Books, films, short stories and (recently) computer games are there to give us the chills in the safety of our own homes.

Of course people look down on horror and ghost stories, and maybe that's all for the best, after all you don't read a horror story in broad daylight in a garden full of flowers, but under the bed covers by the light of a torch. If horror was completely accepted it would become bland and toothless, and that would not do. Horror should always be disreputable, and that's just the way I like it.

Here are some of my recommendations for Halloween entertainment.

Film - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

A jolly pirate romp with curses and ghosts and zombies and... Johnny Depp, more scary than the rest combined. A good choice for the nippers before they go candy-raiding, and fun for the oldsters too.

Film - A Nightmare at Christmas.

Another one for the nippers, but hold on, it's actually a Christmas film. No it's not, it's for Halloween. No, it's for Christmas. Nope, definitely for Halloween. I beg to differ...

Film - The Stone Tape.

Really more of a TV film, but what the hell. Nigel Kneale's masterful ghost story which is genuinely scary and full of ideas. If you like Really Loud Screams this is the film for you.

Film - Brain Dead.

Peter (The Hobbit) Jackson's film is a comedy filled with so much gore and laugh out loud moments that you'll be sick with laughter. Probably the only film to have you sympathising with someone's spilled guts that looks like a Disney character. Not for the sensitive.

Film - The Creeping Flesh.

A particular favourite of mine. In the style of Hammer, a serious remake of Carry on Screaming. It also served as inspiration for the first book (unpublished) I ever wrote. I wonder where that painting is now?

Book - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Not the book you expect it to be, but still a classic. One can only imagine what was in the manuscript he burnt. It's quite short and can be read in one sitting.

Book - The Books of Blood by Clive Barker.

Short, gruesome and imaginative tales of horror. Quite how he managed to come up with them all still amazes me. If you want to see what can still be done with short horror fiction, read these. The first collection is pretty gruesome in parts, but the second collection is more humorous.

Book - Carrie by Stephen King.

I've only just finished reading this book (only took me thirty years to get around to it) and it leaves the film(s?) standing. The tale of poor Carrie White really gets under your skin with the first part all build-up, and the second... BOOM!

Computer Games - Castlevania. Symphony of the Night.

The best in the Castlevania series sees pretty-boy Alucard hunting for all his gear, snatched away by Death (don't you just hate it when that happens), before he faces his pappy, Dracula. Yep, it's as old as the hills but still incredibly entertaining. A classic all round. The music is great too.

Music - Spirits by Ian Boddy.

If you like electronic music you'll like this. It really manages to catch the spirit (ha ha) of graveyards and downright creepiness.

Of course I could go on and on, but there are just too many to count.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!

Remember to check out my Halloween short story, "In the Night Clinic" here on my Blog:


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