Gut-wrenching screeches, maniacal cackles, death stares, bloody back-stabbings and orange-colored goblins. Yes, this election cycle has been the stuff of true nightmares.
Now more than ever, it seems, we need scares of the fictitious kind, and that's where we come in. If Halloween is eerily magical across the country, the holiday is surely amplified in Utah. Salt Lake City and its environs light up in October, when house parties abound, local costume shops thrive and a slew of haunted house attractions dawn anew.
Inside these blood-drenched pages (j/k, that's just some strawberry Fanta I was sipping on during deadline), you'll find a primer on undead SLC, a conversation with a local who earlier this year received the Haunted Attraction Association's lifetime achievement award and a locally sourced playlist that is sure to be a graveyard smash.
We also tip our pointed hat to the star of many a 1980s nightmare, Don Shanks, who gave new life to one of the classics of slasher cinema, Michael Myers. Speaking of movies, Camp Crystal Lake is open for business as we count down the Top 10 guaranteed to get you and your beau in the Netflix & Kill mood.
Need to take the edge off? Our list of spooky cocktails is sure to do the trick. So treat yourself to this special issue, avoid a creepy clown costume (unless you're feeling super daring) and remember the All Hallows' Eve golden rule: Only true monsters hand out candy corn.
I've seen some things—spooky things. I've walked 400 South and 400 West late at night. I've met the ghost of Joe Hill in the pale moonlight. Hell, I've even babysat 13 Mormon kids all at once. In a place like Utah, where things are pretty mundane even during the most riotous times, October stands out like Heavenly Father's illegitimate child. As the winds start to cool and the leaves begin to change, various haunted attractions ascend from the depths, promising adrenaline rushes and a drained wallet. I have nothing against the valley's various haunted house attractions, but this year I'm after a real, lingering fear.
I'm going out into the night, the woods; I'm looking for werewolves, witches, demons. Who's with me?
Behold this curated selection of mostly free (and barely legal) spook-spots—history lessons included, free of charge. Now, I'm not your mother, but be mindful of trespassing, curfews, and maybe bring some mace. Happy hauntings!
On the east side of the Salt Lake City Cemetery, you'll find two graves of considerable fame. The first, an obelisk of cement with an urn sealed inside, belongs to a Mr. Jacob E. Moritz (1849-1910) or Emo for short. The story, as urban legend handed it to me, is that Emo was a lonely child who stumbled upon a book of black magic and signed his soul to the devil—cool, right? Shortly thereafter he was destined to burn at the stake for his crimes. In reality, Moritz was a German immigrant who came to Utah and became a successful brewer, entrepreneur and politician, with no known dark ties. To meet his spirit, walk around his grave repeating "Emo," then look at the steel plate for a pleasant surprise.
The second grave belongs to Lilly E. Gray (June 6, 1881-Nov. 14, 1958). Her headstone lies flat on the ground and is fairly nondescript, aside from the inscription, "Victim of the Beast 666." Some say ol' Lilly was working in her house, minding her own business, when the Devil popped up out of the ground and dragged her straight to hell—I mean, it's probably not the worst way to go. Others, like historian Richelle Hawks, suggest that Lilly's husband, Elmer L. Gray, was something of an asshole, and might have put that message there as a prank. Either way, if you visit her grave, it's customary to leave a small trinket as a sign of solidarity for her pain in the here and hereafter.
Salt Lake City Cemetery, 200 N. E St., Salt Lake City, Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-dusk, free.
Vampire Lip Service
There are two kinds of vampires: energy vampires and blood vampires. Energy vampires can, simply by laying their hands on a willing vessel, drink energy or life-force, making themselves stronger and the vessel weaker. Much the same happens with blood vampires, except they actually drink the blood. (Blood-borne illnesses, anyone?) According to VampireWebsite.net (highly original name) there are vampires among us, here in Salt Lake City, and they prefer virgin blood. If you are feeling daring or are just sick of lugging around all those heavy platelets, head over to Area 51's Sanctuary room, where the goth ki—I mean, vampires, gather. Bella Swan, your Edward is calling.
Area 51, 451 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, Wednesday-Saturday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., 18+, $7, Area51SLC.com.
Hey, remember that time an infamous serial killer prowled the streets of Salt Lake City wantonly killing, hiking and—uh—fondling? No, me neither; the '70s were a long time ago. But isn't the internet a joy? With modern technology we can learn all there is to know about Ted Bundy's short stint in Utah. Accepted to the University of Utah's law program in 1974, Bundy left his home in Washington and relocated to SLC. Many believe that he lived in a small shack less than a mile up Emigration Canyon, and though the shack has since been demolished, the cellar remains—and some say that screams of his victims can be heard inside. The cellar story is romantic, for lack of a better word, but Bundy actually rented a room in the second story of an Avenues home—though, it's likely that a few decapitated heads lined his dresser top there. Bundy was arrested in West Valley in August of '75 for aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, but later released. He is known to have abducted and killed a girl from Viewmont High School, along with a girl from BYU. One of his victims was later found frozen in Provo Canyon.
Bundy's Cellar, 115 Burr's Lane, Emigration Canyon, private property, closed to the public.
Avenues home, 565 First Ave., Salt Lake City, private property, closed to the public.
Memory Grove Park is a weird place, right? There is a meditation temple that's never open, several war memorials scattered around, a wedding reception center, an altar to sacrifice the young and a crumbling cobblestone foundation commonly referred to as the Witches House or Witches Cabin. Before coming to the Witches House, one walks right by a stone altar sitting atop a set of grandiose stairs. There are no chairs or reasonably heighted benches surrounding the slab, so one can be sure it isn't used for picnics—and with blood-colored markings on the top, I certainly wonder. A plaque next to the altar provides little insight, reading, "In memory of Captain James B. Austin, killed in action in Argonne Forest, Oct. 9, 1918, in the World War." The Witches House, just a bit farther down the trail, isn't covered in blood—thank God! There is no record of a witch actually occupying the space, and if she had, no doubt someone would have gotten rid of her Mountain Meadows Massacre-style. Visitors often report seeing disembodied lights and hearing voices near the house. Some see shadow figures, like brothers Skye and Kaden Garcia, recent visitors to the Witches House. "It rose out of the darkness, from the foundation, a tall silhouetted figure," Kaden, a 16-year-old Roy resident, says. "I've never been so scared in my life," older brother Skye, 18, adds. "We ran all the way back to the car."
Memory Grove Park, 375 N. Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, Sunday-Saturday, sunrise-sunset, free.
A Little Lycanthropy Never Hurt Nobody
You'll be glad to know that Salt Lake City is the most werewolf-friendly city in the United States—and to all my werewolf friends, I'm sorry, you've been outed. According to Christina Lavingia, in her article titled "The Definitive List of Werewolf-Friendly Cities," SLC is the perfect place for werewolves to live for four reasons: First, it's dog-friendly, with plenty of dog parks and trails; second, there are a low number of gun retailers and manufacturers, with only 0.5 per 10,000 people; third, the low presence of silver and silver production (silver bullets, you understand); and fourth, with a population density of 1,691.7 people per square-mile, a werewolf could navigate the landscape in near anonymity. This might go to explain, by extension, some Ute and Navajo stories of "Skinwalkers," shape shifting creatures that are impervious to bullets, appearing as large wolves near Ballard, Utah. I see the bad moon arising.
Sherman Ranch (Skinwalker Ranch), southeast of Ballard, private property, closed to the public.
Michael Myers! I know you!," exclaims one of three little blond girls who'd wondered what the two strangers—packing masks, a machete and a flashlight—are doing taking pictures of their Avenues home. Don Shanks, the actor/stuntman who portrayed the glacial, stabby villain in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), is gracious, not bothering to correct the girl. She and her sisters know a movie was filmed here, but they've never seen it. Their mother, despite having been an extra in the film, won't allow it (yet). When the girls scamper away, Shanks and I adjourn to his pickup truck, parked at the home's western curb.
Around 16 years ago, as a cub reporter, I interviewed Shanks in the parking lot of a mortgage company. As a childhood fan of the Grizzly Adams films and television series, I was elated to meet the man who played Adams' Crow friend, Nakoma. It was even cooler to hear Shanks, of Cherokee and Illini descent, talk about his adventures with wild animals on Grizzly. He told me the secret to catching rattlesnakes with your bare hands, and how to catch and put an alligator to sleep. I haven't tried these things (yet), but I feel confident that Shanks' tips are on the money (maybe that's how I'll die).
- Randy Harward
Again, the stories flow; like the time, while working on Grizzly Adams, he was asked to help on another production. The scene involved being attacked by a cougar, then falling, with the cougar, into a lake. "When I surfaced, the cougar wanted to fight," he recalls. Thrice he retreated underwater, trying to elude the big cat. Finally, gasping for air, Shanks decided to give him a fight. But "the cougar threw its arms around me and started purring; he just wanted someone to help him." Things didn't go as smoothly when Shanks, for the first Adams film, had to wrestle a bear—despite having no experience. Winging it, and thinking it was going well, he heard the bear's trainer yell something: "You stupid sonofabitch, get out of there! It's trying to kill you!"
Stunts—performing and coordinating—have been Shanks' bread-and-butter gig for 44 years, even since he studied theater at Weber State University. "Denny Arnold, the stunt coordinator on Grizzly Adams, told me, 'You'll make more money doing stunts than acting.'" So Shanks—who has experience with stage combat, including real weapons, and dance training from working with Ballet West—gave it a go.
He grew up on a farm, so animal wrangling came naturally. "I used to take down steers," he reminisces. In fact, while filming the made-for-TV movie Last of the Mohicans (1977), director James L. Conway told him that his method of distracting the serpent with one hand, dodging a strike, then snatching it with the other, "looked fake." Conway asked him to pin its head with a stick. "That's not good for the snake," Shanks responded, but he carefully did as he was told.
When Halloween 5 came along, he was hired as a stuntman. When he arrived on set, however, stunt coordinator Don Pike asked if Shanks would be OK meeting with the director, Dominique Othenin-Girard. Curious, Shanks asked what was up. "He said, 'Well, we're thinking of having you play Michael Myers.'" As an impromptu audition, Girard asked Shanks to "walk as though you are wood moving through water." He did his best, and got the job.
Since Myers takes so many falls and hits, it "was considered a stunt role," Shanks says. Besides, the character—and the mask—offered little opportunity to convey emotion. So he relied on his combat and dance training, and the wood/water instruction, to make Michael a believable evil. It was difficult at times, he says, because of how the shots were blocked and framed. "Sometimes it was like trying to kill someone in a telephone booth."
The Halloween series now encompasses eight films and Rob Zombie's two remakes. "I like his work," Shanks says, mentioning The Devil's Rejects in particular, "but I don't care for his Halloween films. He tries to explain too much."
Shanks enjoys being part of an exclusive club of actors and stuntmen who've portrayed Michael, and although he's forbidden to wear it in public, he got to keep the original mask from the film, along with the prototypes. He often attends fan conventions like Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience and the Flashback Weekend Chicago, where he shares stories about the film and chats with fans. He also talks shop with his fellow Michaels: "We give each other tips on performing stunts." Does he bring up the snakes, cougars and bears? "Yeah, but they don't believe me."
Someone is creeping up on the truck. Shanks looks over his shoulder, and the creeper gasps. "It is Michael Myers!" It's the girls' mother—the erstwhile Halloween 5 extra.
Shanks greets her warmly and she attempts to politely excuse herself and leave us to our business. I offer to take a photo of her with Shanks, so we do. Behind them, one of the girls asks, "Can I have your autograph?"
"Do you have something for me to sign?" Shanks asks.
The girl shakes her head and runs back inside, returning several minutes later with a paper plate. I wonder if he'll write the same thing he wrote for me all those years ago: "To Randy, Trick or treat ... or die!" He leaves that part out—on this as well as the notebooks and scraps of paper her sisters bring out afterward. Gotta keep it age-appropriate, you know?
Originally, he was "kind of apprehensive" about signing autographs for youngsters. "Kids really shouldn't be watching," he says of the Halloween films. "But Michael's the kind of character everybody knows, and they're waiting until they're old enough to see it. So it's flattering."
In the early 2000s, I was a huge fan of Salt Lake City's haunted house scene, but there was something undeniably classy about Rocky Point that set it apart from the rest. It was a sophisticated tapestry of small details—every tombstone seemed to have been crafted and painted with meticulous care, and every maniac that leapt out of the attraction's collection of dark corners told some kind of tragically beautiful story. I knew that if I really wanted to impress a date during the Halloween season, I'd take her here. It was a strategy that totally paid off, by the way; Rocky Point was where my wife and I went on our first date.
It's an ironic choice of words, considering the fact that the award-winning attraction originated from a fire that gutted an Ogden restaurant Neil's father owned back in 1968. It was her brother who first had the idea of creating a haunted attraction, and, in 1979, he converted the building's remains into a fledgling spook alley. In 1986, when she returned home after living in Arizona, she was shocked to see that the restaurant was now a haunted house being run by a local acting group called The Maniacs. Initially, she wasn't happy with the turn of events. Her career as a model and fashion designer attracted her to the beautiful things of the world, and she had never expressed interest in anything that could be construed as horror.
"I didn't really want to do a haunted house," Neil says with an exasperated chuckle, "but I fully engaged in the mission until it was clearly, painfully complete."
Over time, she came to see the experience it as a blessing in disguise, citing it as a positive experience that brought a lot of good into the world. "There was a spirit about it because it had a purpose," she says.
For the next 20 years, Neil shaped Rocky Point into a much-lauded attraction that made waves on a national level. At the height of its popularity, people came from all over the country to be terrified and thrilled by the horrific landscapes and characters that populated the site.
"We really pioneered this creative, purpose-driven business," she says. "Not only was it this amazing place to go and see, but there was this heart to it."
In addition to becoming one of the most innovative haunted houses in the state, Rocky Point also established itself as philanthropic resource. Throughout its years of operation, Neil partnered up with charities like the Utah Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Club.
The decision to finally close the business didn't come easily. Neil had attracted and inspired a loyal and hardworking crew that found a much-needed sanctuary within the walls of Rocky Point. "I wasn't training kids to work in a haunted house," she says. "I was training them to live their lives, fulfill their dreams and to create something that could give back, and so many of them have done that."
Over the past 10 years, Neil's path has continued to intersect with the world of haunted attractions. After completing some work with a Hong Kong-based amusement park called Ocean Park, Disneyland Hong Kong contacted Neil to design and build a Haunted Main Street attraction for them. "I was the only woman outside of Disney Imagineering to design and build an attraction for Disneyland," she says proudly. Upon finishing her work with Disney, she received national recognition from the Haunted Attraction Association (HAA), which presented her with a lifetime achievement award in March of this year.
Away from the ghouls and goblins (at least temporarily), her current focus is a memoir titled No More Fear that chronicles her tenure as Rocky Point's owner and operator, as well as a follow-up documentary to 2005's 25 Years of Fear.
Despite the fond memories that Rocky Point evokes, Neil looks back on her days in the haunted house industry with mixed feelings.
"The industry did what I expected it to do; it's gotten massive all over the world," she says. "I'm very happy not to be involved with the industry; it's gotten quite gory, and it wasn't something I wanted to spend my life doing."
Ever the trailblazer, Neil's efforts also addressed a scary issue felt across industries year-round: gender bias. "We were doing theme park numbers before the industry got started," she points out, "and the group of boys didn't want to see some woman be more successful than they were."
Still, the legacy lives on for those who were fortunate enough to count themselves as patrons. The haunted-house industry is huge in Utah; and many, if not all, of our local attractions owe a debt of gratitude to the unique, escapist realm that Rocky Point created.
"If I do nothing else with my life—I really expect that I will—I will always feel honored and grateful," Neil says. "I will miss it."
That makes two of us. Or 2 million. It's tough to keep track.
Had the Puritans been bigger whiskey drinkers, the Salem Witch Trials might have never happened. Yeah, it's a historical stretch of the imagination, but check it out: Behavioral psychologist Linnda Caporael linked the bizarre hallucinations, convulsions and skin-crawling sensations the accusers (most of whom were young women) experienced to ergotism—poisoning through the consumption of rye affected by a kind of fungus (Claviceps purpurea, aka ergot) that grows on grain in damp conditions—exactly the environment present during the rye harvest preceding the village hysteria of 1692. In modern times, ergot is used in useful things like ergotomine (a migraine medication) and is a component of lysergic acid, the drug also known as LSD.
"If they'd distilled that rye to make whiskey, they would have been alright," Sugar House Distillery owner James Fowler says. "The distillation process and resulting high alcohol levels remove all contaminants like fungi and bacteria." Plus, who are we kidding? We'd rather drink rye whiskey than eat funked-up bread any day.
Embracing the Halloween holiday spirit (get it?), here are some spooky sippers to try out on the town or stir up right at home with your own stash of (hopefully unadulterated) rye. After all, there's something about Halloween that encourages even the tamest of tipplers to break out their freak flag and wave it high and proud. With Halloween on a Monday this year, that just means an extended weekend of costumes and cocktails galore.
- Darby Doyle
"Black Sabbath" Manhattan
Mahogany-hued Manhattans made with bittersweet amari instead of the typical vermouth are called "black Manhattans" by barkeeps. They're a snap to make with just a few ingredients, giving you more time to dial in the costume and makeup sitch before shenanigans commence in earnest.
To a mixing glass with cracked ice add:
1.5 ounces rye whiskey (Keep it local with Sugar House Distillery or High West).
0.75 ounces Averna (or other amaro).
2 generous dashes Bitters Lab Charred Cedar & Currant bitters.
Stir with a barspoon for 50 revolutions, strain into a Morticia Addams-worthy goblet and garnish with a whiskey-soaked black cherry as dark as your soul.
- Darby Doyle
O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main, Park City, OPRockwell.com
Thursday nights at O.P. Rockwell mean tiki drinks, reggae music and one of the best local's nights in PC. This year on the Thursday preceding Halloween, Panarelli and crew host an epic tiki-themed costume party, complete with dry-ice burbling Headless Horsemen-style pumpkin heads to up the fab factor. Made with Bacardi eight-year rum, rye whiskey and a truly delish housemade Wasatch pumpkin beer syrup, "The Rumkin" is as delectable as it is diverting.
- Darby Doyle
The Rest/Bodega, 331 S. Main, Bodega331.com
Ask anyone who's ever worked in the spooky speakeasy-like space if they think the joint's haunted, and nine out of 10 times you'll get a wide-eyed, bobble-headed nod in reply. Keeping with this spot's seriously clandestine vibe, owner Sara Lund shuts down the restaurant one night around Halloween to host her own private shindig, and it's one of the hottest invites of the season. Lund's theme this year is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for which barman Adam Albro has mixed up this sweet-tart of a treat to echo the absinthe-soaked world of Victorian-era England. With London dry gin, absinthe, housemade burnt sugar syrup and their own cherry-chocolate bitters blend, it's a very grown-up steampunk cocktail that tastes like a boozy Good & Plenty—in the best possible way.
- Tracy Gomez/ELTH
East Liberty Tap House, 850 E. 900 South, EastLibertyTapHouse.com
There's nothing "fluffy" about this seriously boozy cocktail. Well, except for the locally made "lollipuff" coconut cotton candy gracing the top of ELTH's spirituous concoction mixed up by bar manager Tracy Gomez with a wink and a devilish smile. Shaken up with local rum, lime, simple syrup, coconut milk and topped with Thai basil soda, it's well worth the stroll to funky 9th & 9th to check it out. Instead of doling out sugar to the short set from home, why not turn down the lights, leave a big bowl of candy on the front porch to be stolen by the neighborhood asshole kids, and sit by the tavern's wide windows to watch the trick-or-treaters run by with their exhausted parents—while you order another cocktail. Win-win.
- Darby Doyle
Bar X, 155 E. 200 South, BeerBarSLC.com
On Halloween night (yes, Monday), Under Current Bar, Copper Common and Bar X/Beer Bar are hosting a neighborhood "Blocktail" costume bar crawl. How's it going to work? Go to the bars any time between open/close that night and tag yourself on Instagram for a chance to win prizes. Then the real fun starts; each bar picks winners in the following categories: best costume, best couple's costume and best overall. And there's live music er'rywhere, to boot. At Bar X, check out the eerie and elegant "Hangman's Tree"—a powerful potion concocted by barman Michael Eccleston to resemble a spooky graveyard. It's made with over-proof Wray and Nephews Jamaican rum, velvet falernum for a nice sweet note, a touch of tart lime and Batavia Arrack to add some grassy notes to the party. Eccleston stirs it up to order and flames a sprig of toasted rosemary, giving it a singularly smoky appeal.
Now, get to work on your costume, update your Uber app and stay safe out there, party people.
It's the time of year for apple-picking, flannel, mulled cider and getting your pants scared off by the things that go bump in the night. And, if you're a character in any of the following 10 films, you'll be turned to mincemeat by that thing that went bump.
You'll find some of the old favorites—your pal Jason Voorhees and his mother, for example—and some classics, and maybe a few pictures that you missed or have been lost to time. In any event, gather some friends, a big screen TV and turn off all the lights. There are scares afoot!
You're Next (2014)
What happens when you take a horror subgenre (the home-invasion story) and turn it on its head? You get You're Next, a movie in which the invaders unknowingly storm a home that's inhabited by someone who's tougher than they are. It's gory and smart, and filmmaker Joe Swanberg gets stabbed multiple times on camera. Who doesn't want to see that?
I hesitated to put this weirdo Italian giallo entry on the list because I assumed everyone and their mother (not mine, of course) had seen it, but some informal polling around the office proved otherwise. That's great, because for shear scares, there aren't many movies that'll make you crap yourself more often than this one does.
The story involves Suzy (Jessica Harper) traveling to Germany to study ballet. The only problem is that the school is also a witch's coven. Was zur Hölle? Director Dario Argento has made many creepy movies that make no sense, and Suspira is the creepiest and makes the least sense. Still, there's an unsettling sense of dread from its opening moments that ramps up to sheer terror by the conclusion. And watch out for that razor wire!
The Changeling (1980)
This isn't the movie with Angelina Jolie being told she's going nuts because her child was kidnapped and replaced with another. This is the movie with a composer (George C. Scott) moving into a creepy old house after his wife and daughter are killed in an accident. The house is haunted, naturally, but director Peter Medak slowly increases the tension over the movie's 107 minutes. Scott is great, and if you have the patience, The Changeling is scary as hell.
The Evil Dead (1981)
A lot of people out there call Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead a comedy. They must be confusing it with Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn or Ash vs. Evil Dead. The original has its darkly humorous moments, but Raimi and company saved the larfs for the sequels. In this movie, there's just amateurish acting, special effects so gory they demand a strong stomach and a terrifically unsettling tree molestation (it's actually in poor taste—you've been warned). But it's also groundbreaking in its use of space, camera work and bare-bones chills. Watch it with a friend or six.
Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Michael Dougherty's anthology Halloween horror film went virtually unnoticed during its original release but has been the highlight of midnight festivals in years since. Little wonder: It stars Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Leslie Bibb, Dylan Baker and the kid from Bad Santa. The four stories that make up this 82-minute shriekfest come together well, the acting is way above average for a movie of this type and it has a lot of stabbings. It also kills multiple children, so if that isn't your thing, steer clear.
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
Three astronauts fly to Saturn, but before they get there, radiation kills two of them and turns the third into the ghoul of the title. How does he get from Saturn back to Earth? I don't know, and neither do the filmmakers, but that doesn't stop this movie from being a long, slow collection of scenes in which the incredible melting man melts and some guy named Dr. Ted Nelson searches for him, screaming his own name over and over (seriously). The Incredible Melting Man works better as unintentional comedy, but it features Rick Baker's stupendously nasty special effects and some of the most bizarre acting and pacing choices of 1970s horror.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
The gore in this movie is so convincing director Ruggero Deodato was accused of making a snuff film. If you're watching on DVD, you can see the making-of documentary that shows all the actors are quite alive, but that doesn't stop Cannibal Holocaust from being the second-most disturbing movie on this list. (There are also scenes of real animal cruelty; I recommend you choose the version on the DVD that excises these scenes for you.)
Plot-wise, it's fairly simple: A group of dumb American filmmakers ventures into the Amazon to make a dumb documentary about cannibals and ends up the main course. There's some tacked-on baloney at the end about whether the filmmakers are actually barbarians themselves, but really, that's just Deodato taking a metaphorical shower after showering his audience with some of the most sickening footage ever assembled for a motion picture. Of note: Cannibal Holocaust is partly a found-footage movie, released two decades before The Blair Witch Project and its many imitators.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
After her family dies in an entirely preventable boat accident, Angela (Felissa Rose) is sent to live with her cousin and whackadoo aunt. Years later, Angela and cousin attend the aforementioned sleepaway camp, and a killer starts hacking the campers, counselors and owners to death. Is it Angela? Does a bear shit in the woods? The only surprises in this movie are the depths of its vulgarity. A camp cook labels prepubescents as "baldies" and the ending could probably be called transphobic if it were smarter and weren't simply used as a shock twist. The fun comes when you realize this movie really takes itself seriously and that most of the deaths are, like the boat accident at the beginning, avoidable.
A Serbian Film (2010)
Do NOT watch this movie. I mean, WATCH IT. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do? Just be prepared—though nothing can prepare you for the absolute moral depravity at this film's cold-blooded center. A Serbian Film is another movie you shouldn't watch if you a) Have children, b) Like children, c) Were once a child yourself. I can't even describe what goes on in this movie without breaking several decency laws. My God, there's rape and necrophilia, and that's literally not even close to the worst images on screen, and it all happens, horrifyingly, on screen. There is NO cutting away. Ugh, seriously, don't watch this movie. In fact, my editors should delete it from this article.
- Paramount Pictures
All the Friday the 13th films released by Paramount Pictures
The year 1980 was a simpler time: There was no internet, no one had a cell phone and filmmakers were less likely to be called out for ripping off other, better films, as director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller did when they conned (a guess) respectable studio Paramount into producing a cheapo Halloween clone. The first Friday the 13th has none of Halloween's skill or charm, but it does have a similar low budget and an admittedly bravura finale, in which Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) comes forward to claim she killed Kevin Bacon et al. because he reminded her of someone who let her son, Jason, drown. And then Alice (Adrienne King) cuts her head off in slow motion.
None of the plot-points of Friday the 13th matter, mostly because each subsequent film ignores or retcons what came before it. Looking for a movie mindfuck? Why is Jason an adult in Part II? And see if you can piece together the timeline of the events that take place over parts IV (The Final Chapter), V (A New Beginning), and VI (Jason Lives)—also notable because some of the characters seem to know they're in a horror movie—and then wonder why Part VII (The New Blood) ignores most of Part VI. Lastly, the final film in this original grouping (Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan) feels like it was made on a completely different planet (a bad idea explored years later in the nearly unrelated Jason X), and also takes place for 80 of its 100 minutes on a boat.
The Friday the 13th movies are dumb, but they deliver the kills slasher fans want and, for better or worse, no one makes them like this anymore.
Honorable Mentions: The Burning (1981), in which a young Jason Alexander and actor pals are hacked to bits by a disfigured man with garden shears, and My Bloody Valentine (1981)—a movie so gory it was shorn of its gore, most of which has been restored on Blu-ray. Plus, the accents are Canadian. Happy Halloween, eh!
Horror is fun because the monster is trapped in celluloid or pixels, and can't jump out of the screen to gnaw on our bellies. That distance lets us enjoy the illusion of safety, as though there aren't monsters in our own backyard. Utah has seen its share: Ted Bundy, Mark Hacking, David Archuleta, Arthur Gary Bishop (freaky factoid: I used to deliver neighborhood grocery-store ads to that guy's house, and I happened to be his type—a young boy). Some of our local musicians have written rather disturbing stuff, and it makes you wonder if some of 'em aren't undercover Cenobites or serial killers. Eh, they're probably just harmless, out-'n'-proud horror fans. But we'll let you decide for yourselves.
"Megatheme" (feat. Red Sky Phenomenon) from Megatherium (DJShanty.Bandcamp.com)
It surely wasn't Shanty's intention for this track to sound ominous, but it does. Hitting somewhere between Goblin's Argento and Romero soundtracks and the '80s sci-fi film scores (which are now a genre, thanks to guys like Shanty and bands like Conquer Monster, Lazerhawk, Powerglove and Kavinsky), it sets a fitting tone for a mix like this.
The Pagan Dead
"Gates of Hell" from Mors Ianva Vitae et Vita Ian (PaganDead.com)
I was about 14 when I first saw Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead, aka The Gates of Hell. Italian horror, or spaghetti-splatter, was new to me—and you will always remember your first foray into the genre. They're like movies from another dimension, where everything about them keeps you off-balance: The cinematography, literally visceral violence, weirdly squishy scores and the odd acting, dialogue and awful English dub tracks, can be highly disconcerting. That is, until you get acclimated and they become a source of laughs and scares. SLC's premier black-metal/psychobilly mash-up artists The Pagan Dead pay tribute to Gates in this tornado of squelchy riffs, beastly double-bass and drums that sound like a skeletal march at breakneck speed. And it contains a verse about the only scene to ever cause me to almost toss my cookies. I won't spoil it for you, but here's a hint: I learned a new word from this tune. "Offal" works on two levels.
"Mummy" from VOUR (Rest30Records.Bandcamp.com)
Until it was updated/redefined by a Brendan Fraser film a real fake wrassler, I never understood why a mummy was remotely terrifying. To me, it just looked tragically cute, like an extreme case of toilet paper sticking to your shoe. Cartoons, horror comedies and breakfast cereals sort of reinforced that belief: They very slowly chased stoners and their dogs. They were brittle—handle with care. And, on Saturday mornings, they were delicious. When I was studying mortuary sciences (for a whole semester), I learned a little bit of the inside-baseball of mummification. Like how they preserved the body in rags, seasoned it with spices and oils and beeswax and booze, and let him keep all of his loot and toys. So I still don't get it. But I dig this groovy, jazz tune from David Payne and Dolan Lucero, released on Christmas 2011.
"We Come" from Zombies Love Punk Rock (Zombiecock.Bandcamp.com)
Do you really need a song? Isn't the idea of a decaying, maggot-ridden, oozing knob knocking on your front, back (or side—diff'rent strokes, folks!) door terrifying enough? Well, this catchy li'l horrorpunk nugget seems appropriate. Even though it can't last four minutes (winky face, mic drop!). Catchy tune, though.
The Plan (MGM, 1973)
Mormon rock. 'Nuff said? What if I told you it's a concept album built on the Latter-Day Saints' Plan of Salvation? Proselytizing in music is
only for the choir and impressionable Gentiles, and when the religious pander to the latter using the Hip Sounds of the Time, it's comical. When you juxtapose the brilliant, immaculately white smiles of very happy young men from Utah County with L. Ron-esque lyrics, it's creepy AF. (That's some internet shorthand I picked up from my daughter—it stands for "as fuck.") Here are some lyrics for ya: "Ever since we came to be/ with The Plan we learned to see/ we control infinity/ what more?"
"Live @ Metro Bar" (YouTube)
It used to be that a simple pentagram, inverted cross or invocation of Satan's name was enough to put your bowels at Defcon 1 for fear of contracting a spiritually transmitted disease (possess-orrhea, look it up). In this full set from last March at the Metro Bar (now Metro Music Hall), devilish doom trio Dark Lord float-strolls onstage in black robes, lighting candles among the aforementioned knick-knacks while a spooky intro track plays. Then comes the rock and, not long into the set, a topless, cloven-hooved, black-furred beast with a swingin' you-know-what. Grotesque. And oddly titillating.
"Turn Me on Dead Man" from Dirty CD-R from the Ground (Rest30Records.Bandcamp.com)
Remember when everyone was all freaked out that Paul—you know, the guy from the Beatles—was dead because of backward messages
on songs like "Revolution No. 9"? And now he's the only living Beatle. Gotcha. That's the scary part—for Beatles fans only. Otherwise, it's just a Stooge-y anthem about necrophilia. Or something else entirely. Courtesy of local punk rock liability Dustin Yearby (Dead Bod).
"Birth Boner" from Incompoop (BabyGurl.Bandcamp.com)
You've seen Rosemary's Baby, right? That debbilbaby was messed up. So was the incorporeal voice (GEEHHHT OUUUUUT!) in The Amityville Horror. Now imagine this: The baby pops out, wild-eyed and sporting a turgid purple, uh, bass guitar string, which it plucks maniacally while looking you dead in the eye and saying, "Tsoputatuu says you gotta get out!/ ... / get out!/ gehhhht ooouuuuut!" The rest of the lyrics introduce other demonic-sounding entities like "Yusaysya," "Eeraneyah" and "Idagaba," and they'd all like you to vacate the premises. Baby Gurl's Jordan Fairbanks says the lyrics to this song change with every performance, leading to the inevitable conclusion that Tsoputatuu and friends are legion.