It’s looking like for the first time in quite a while, we don’t have anything to do on Halloween.
While the pandemic hasn’t completely killed off the season’s events, not much of anything is happening on Oct. 31 itself. And there are even fewer events going on if you’re not looking for a family-oriented event such as the various trunk-or-treats or Dolores Library’s Haunted Garden.
Add in the fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year and, unless you throw your own (preferably low COVID-19 risk) gathering, you’ve got a whole empty day to fill with spookiness. No idea what to do with all that time? One option (at least the one we’re going with) is to mostly sit around consuming media all day — split between playing video games, watching movies, and reading.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best parties are ones with themes, so we’ve chosen an ironic one for our mostly indoor binge-fest: “The Spooky Outdoors.”
“Until Dawn”For the video game course of our spooky-media meal, we’ve chosen “Until Dawn,” a 2015 PlayStation 4 survival horror game. The plot follows that “young adults getting picked off one by one while trapped in a spooky place” genre. Specifically, eight friends gather at a mountain lodge on the anniversary of a similar gathering in which one of them lost both of his sisters in an accident resulting from a cruel prank. They’re then terrorized by a masked man, monsters, and the usual horror tropes. There’s a lot of running and hiding and creeping about in cabins, mines, and a snowy forest, so it very much fits our theme.
The gameplay has a nifty mechanic in which the story changes based on key decisions, and any member of the cast can die, dramatically altering the story. And the game auto-saves, so you can’t just reload the game from right before you got a character killed.
Supermassive Games, the people who made “Until Dawn,” got a bunch of somewhat-recognizable mostly-television actors to voice and provide the likenesses and motion capture for the characters. At the time, the most popular was probably Hayden Panettiere from “Heroes” and “Nashville,” and eternally creepy actor Peter Stormare (Gaear Grimsrud in “Fargo”) also shows up at times. Looking back at it from five years in the future, though, adds a spit-out-your-cereal-and-point-at-the-TV moment early on, when it turns out that one of the teens is played by now-Academy Award-winner Rami Malek. “It’s Freddy f-ing Mercury!” (from “Bohemian Rhapsody”) we might have recently exclaimed.
“The Ritual”For our movie of the evening, we’re going with “The Ritual,” a 2017 British horror film based on a 2011 novel by Adam Nevill. It follows four friends as they backpack through Sweden to honor a fifth friend who was killed in a robbery earlier in the year. During the hike, one of them injures their knee, prompting the group to seek a shortcut through a forest. A sudden rainstorm forces them to take refuge in a creepy cabin and weird stuff starts to happen alongside the appearance of something stalking them through the forest.
Without spoiling anything, the thing in the woods definitely isn’t one of the usual things you’d find stalking horror-movie characters in the wilderness. If you really want to have a leg up on the movie, study your Norse mythology — but it really doesn’t matter all that much. It’s mostly just a really creepy movie with great production design that creates a lasting feeling of doom.
The film is currently streaming on Netflix.
“The Hunger”Finally, if we have time left over, we’re probably going to curl up next to the fire with “The Hunger,” a 2018 novel by Alma Katsu. It presents a fictionalized account of the plight of the Donner Party, which famously resorted to cannibalism while trapped by deep snow in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47. What Katsu presupposes in this book, though, is that something supernatural led the group of 87 to disaster.
We’ll admit that we haven’t finished it yet, but some guy named Steven King says it’s, “Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark.” So naturally, we’re going to read it late at night.