November Staff Picks: Horror movies, Horror Podcasts, and Mortician Influencers!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
I’m mostly a true-crime podcast listener, but in the last few months, I’ve stumbled away from ghastly murders and the 50th coverage of Ted Bundy’s infamy to paranormal, cryptoid-centered podcasts. Mostly, I’ve spent those months devouring Astonishing Legends and revisiting my favorite episodes in the last few weeks. I first discovered this podcast while going down a Mothman rabbit hole (yes you read that correctly) and got hooked after finishing their Black-Eyed Kids series. Astonishing Legends is heavy on the research and sound quality, presenting first-hand experiences and expert research leaving listeners with the choice of what they do or don’t believe.
Another recent podcast discovery that I find myself itching to listen to even when it’s dark and I know better is, aptly named, Scared to Death. This true horror podcast features two scary true stories told by comedian, Dan Cummins, to his wife, Laura. Episodes are simultaneously horrifying and funny thanks to Laura’s well-timed commentary saying exactly what we’re all thinking, Get the F*** Out.
Another podcast of similar, true horror tellings minus the comedic relief, is Let’s Not Meet. The name speaks volumes to the unnerving tonality of the 30-minute episodes that feature submitted stories of happenstances that you wish wouldn’t be true. From a woman living in the walls to people being followed for miles by unknown cars to discovering someone standing outside your window staring at you in the dark, this podcast is not for the faint of heart and makes me triple check my locks before I sleep most nights. Give these bad boys a listen if you’re like me and wish to terrify yourself throughout October or have a weird obsession with cryptoids. (But really, why aren’t more people talking about the Mothman.)
Once I read The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen in less than two nights, I knew I was in for something special. Lauren Shippen has created a world of Atypicals, people who have supernatural abilities, and found a way to completely immerse the audience in their world. The Bright Sessions is the main podcast that follows Joan Bright a therapist for Atypicals and a few of her more frequent patients. The Infinite Noise and A Neon Darkness are Bright Sessions novels that follow some of the events in the podcast, but take a closer look at specific patients and their lives. A Neon Darkness, the most recent book explores an Atypical whose ability is not cut and dry. His ability is complicated, manipulative, and overall potentially dangerous. Shippen explores what it’s like to have a desire and how getting what you think you want is not always the solution. She explores the story of a complex character, one who you’re not sure you like or hate from one moment to the next. She also further pushes us into the world of Atypicals and what it’s like to find a family when you weren’t sure you had a place in the world to begin with.
I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube lately and one of my favorite channels, especially for spooky season, has been Caitlin Doughty‘s (also known as Ask A Mortician). Caitlin is a mortician that has authored three books for the morbidly curious: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, From Here to Eternity, and Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? All of her books look at death practices around the world as well as how we can advocate for ourselves and loved ones in a (surprisingly toxic) funeral industry. Her YouTube channel is perfect for the spooky season because she answers the dark and gross questions about death, decomposition, and tragedy that folks are dying to ask (pun totally intended). She even does historical documentary-esque breakdowns of mysterious murders or mass death events. One of my favorite series of hers is “Iconic Corpse,” where she looks at the life, death, and preservation of famous dead bodies (like Vladimir Lenin or Lady Dai). Definitely recommend for morbidly curious peeps like myself!
I spent October becoming one of those horror-movie guys. Before last month, I had a sparse knowledge of the genre. But now I’m a huge fan. I spent most of the summer slowly compiling a list of horror films I’d never seen. What I realized, is that my favorite movies were the 80s films with great practical effects that could balance the scares with the comedy. My three favorite discoveries were: The Blob (1988), The Return of the Living Dead, and An American Werewolf in London.
The Blob remake from 1988 was my favorite find, truly a lost gem. I now see the high point of 1980s horror remakes as a trinity: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), and Chuck Russel’s The Blob (1988). Russel is also the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Worries, my favorite Freddy movie, and another October 2020 discovery! The Blob is like The Thing if it was a teen movie. It’s a well-written script and the body-horror is mind-blowing. It’s just an incredibly entertaining movie that got a bad rap for having a cynical plot and injecting humor into a famed cult classic.
I learned about The Return of the Living Dead from my favorite YouTube channel, RedLetterMedia, in their Re:View of the movie. The movie is loosely connected to Night of the Living Dead—a producer from that film retained the rights to the name (hence George A. Romero’s subsequent film titles Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, ect.). It’s an incredible campy romp, where a group of punks has to survive a mob of zombies. The visual effects are spectacular, and one character is actually nude throughout the entire movie. It’s also where the brain-eating zombies trope originated. Watch out for the tar-man!
An American Werewolf in London is just an objectively good movie, genre aside. It’s the only good werewolf movie I know of. It has its comedic moments and top-notch practical effects. It received a ton of praise upon release and did well at the box office. I include it here because it seems a bit forgotten about.