Spooky Video Games I Love for Halloween

I’m not much of a gamer, but I do have certain games that I love and come back to time and time again! Today I wanted to share some of my favorite games to play in October. I’ve picked out just four, but it’s a pretty diverse set, so it should be easy to find one you might like!

1. Hollow Knight

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For a game with a dark, moody aesthetic that isn’t actually scary, I love Hollow Knight. You’re a bug-like creature exploring the ruins of what was once a thriving bug civilization. The enemies you fight are mindless zombies, once citizens overtaken by disaster. It’s a game that takes a lot of patience and skill, but the world is huge and gorgeous, so it feels worth it when you finally defeat a boss or maneuver through a tricky piece of platforming.

2. Undertale

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If you’ve played a video game in the past three years, it would be hard to have missed the massive hype around Undertale. This is another Halloweenish game that isn’t too scary… unless you make it that way. You are a human child who has fallen into an underground world of monsters and must find your way back to the surface. It’s easy to play with a cheerful retro aesthetic, so it’s great for beginners, but be careful–your choices matter. If you haven’t played it yet, do it! It’s incredibly refreshing and creative.

3. Detention

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This is one of the only real horror games I’ve played, and it’s terrifying. You’re a student stuck alone inside a school in 1960s Taiwan that’s haunted by spirits and the undead. There are political, cultural, and religious elements that give the story a unique flair, but it can be hard to appreciate that when you’re scared out of your wits. I can only take this game in small doses.

4. Doki Doki Literature Club!

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It may look cute, but Doki Doki Literature Club! is a psychological horror game. Personally, I didn’t find it that scary, but that’s because it doesn’t tick the boxes of things that freak me out–others have said it’s one of the scariest games they’ve ever played. I think it’s a very clever deconstruction of the visual novel genre (even if Hatoful Boyfriend did it better). Do pay attention to the content warnings, though.

Have you played any of these? What are your favorite games to play in October? (Seriously… I’m on the lookout for more horror games.) Let me know in the comments!

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Quick October Book Recommendations

I’m a busy bee this weekend, but I still wanted to put up a post today! Here’s a quick rundown of books I think are great to read in October. It’s a good mix of creepy and fun, so I think there’s something for everyone here!

1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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If you love psychological horror and aren’t averse to gore, The Vegetarian will be a gourmet meal for you (ha!). Yeong-hye, an ordinary woman, starts to have intense, bloody nightmares involving meat, and to make them stop, she decides to become a vegetarian. Her traditional family don’t understand the changes in her behavior, and as Yeong-hye’s mental state deteriorates, she faces hostility rather than support from the people around her.

2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith

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Fan of the classics? Put a spooky spin on it with this fun and campy take on the text of Pride and Prejudice. It sounds like a gimmick, and it is, but it’s also extremely high quality. Confession: I read this version before actual Pride and Prejudice, and it helped me follow the story and the somewhat archaic writing style when I did read the original. It’s not a total rewrite, but rather a rework with interpolations.

3. Charlie Bone/Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo

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These were some of the first “big” books I read as an elementary schooler, back when I thought 400 pages was an absolutely colossal book. Charlie Bone is a kid who discovers an unusual ability to see into the past through photographs, and he’s packed off to school with a group of children, the Endowed, who each boast their own specific magical talents. It’s Harry Potter-esque without being a carbon copy, and I think it’s an underrated pick for kids who want “something like Harry Potter!”

4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Here’s the pitch: a buddy comedy about an angel and a demon during the Apocalypse. If that idea strikes you as overly blasphemous, I wouldn’t bother picking it up, but if you have more of a sense of humor about such things, you’ll probably enjoy it. It taps into ideas both Biblical and cultural about what the Apocalypse will be like and pokes gentle fun at them. I actually learned a thing or two from it!

5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

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You’ve already read it, right? If not, now’s the perfect time! If you have, what’s stopping you from rereading them for the third or fourth or eleventy-second time? Nothing, that’s what. Aside from being a tale of magic, Harry Potter has the best Halloween-oriented plot points in the game.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorite Halloween reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Scare-Free Movies for Halloween

I’m in the same camp as a lot of people, I think, in that I love Halloween, but I’m not as big a fan of being scared. Sometimes I want all the treats without the tricks. In the interest of discovering the best and worst Halloween movies, I’ve watched a whole bunch of non-scary movies and rated them by both Halloween spirit and quality. In no particular order, here they are!

1. Kiki’s Delivery Service

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Kiki is one of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic characters, and this sweet coming-of-age story is perfect for the whole family. She’s a young witch looking to make it on her own, but her only magical skill is flying on a broom, and poorly, at that. Nonetheless, with support from the people around her, she’s able to start a burgeoning delivery service.

Halloween Spirit: 2/5 black cats.

Star Quality: 4/5 big red bows!

2. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

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Mary is a young girl who manifests magic powers and is enrolled in a magic school. It all seems perfect, but there’s something off about the whole situation… This movie was made by former Studio Ghibli employees who started their own company, Studio Ponoc. It clearly owes a lot to Kiki’s Delivery Service as well as Harry Potter, and it comes together as a cute, but not entirely original film.

Halloween Spirit: 2/5 redheaded witches.

Star Quality: 3/5 magic flowers.

3. Room on the Broom

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Continuing with the witchy theme, here’s a short film based on a picture book about a friendly witch and her found family. It’s charming in its way, but I would only recommend it to folks with very young children. For older viewers, there’s not a lot to chew on.

Halloween Spirit: 4/5 broomsticks.

Star Quality: 3/5 unexpected guests.

4. The Gruffalo

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A mouse in the forest scares off predators with tall tales of a horrible monster, only to find out that the Gruffalo is real. From the same creators as Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo is another picture book-turned-short film, but it’s more suited to its adaptation than the former. Even though this story is geared toward younger children, it’s narrated so well and keeps such great tension through its pacing that older viewers will enjoy it, too.

Halloween Spirit: 2/5 Gruffalos.

Star Quality: 4/5 scrambled snakes!

5. Ghostbusters

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It’s campy, corny Halloween fun. It’s got a killer theme song and inspires oodles of nostalgia. If you’re reading this, you probably already have your own opinion of it. Here’s mine: I can see why people like it, but it’s overrated and sexist. Venkman is one of the most boring and unlikable protagonists I’ve ever seen. I’ll stick to bumping the song, thanks!

Halloween Spirit: 5/5 ghosts.

Star Quality: 2/5 tired stereotypes.

6. Dear Dracula

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This is a wholesome family film about a young bullied boy who makes friends with Dracula, who helps him to build up his self-confidence. Aside from a couple of gratingly stereotypical side characters, it’s a warm and funny movie for kids and adults to enjoy.

Halloween Spirit: 5/5 vampire bats.

Star Quality: 3/5 Dracula action figures.

7. Mickey’s House of Villains

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A collection of Halloween shorts tied together by a loose overarching plot, the best that can be said about this movie is that it contains characters your kids will recognize. The shorts themselves are mostly pretty boring, and I was much more intrigued by Jafar’s promised evil plan to upend the night, but that was disappointing as well.

Halloween Spirit: 4/5 Disney villains.

Star Quality: 1/5 spooky shorts.

8. Ichabod Crane (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

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This part two of two in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the first part of which is The Wind in the Willows. If you’re a fan of old-school Disney animation, this is a pleasant throwback set in the newly minted USA in the late 1700s. Most of it has more of a Beauty and the Beast feel than Halloween, but toward the end it gets nice and spooky!

Halloween Spirit: 3/5 headless horsemen.

Star Quality: 3/5 feckless dandies.

9. Trick or Treaters

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Originally in German, this movie based on a picture book comes up with a unique origin story for the tradition of trick-or-treating. It’s snarky, dark, and full of plucky orphans, kind of like a Lemony Snicket novel. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary for Halloween or are a connoisseur of animated film, I recommend giving this one a try!

Halloween Spirit: 4/5 plucky orphans.

Star Quality: 4/5 wicked aunties.

10. My Neighbor Totoro

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It might not strike you as particularly Halloween-ish, but My Neighbor Totoro starts out with a family moving into what they believe is a haunted house! Sure, the spirits they meet all turn out to be friendly, but there is a bit of haunting going on. Take a break and watch this timeless family classic. Yes, this is lowkey just me inventing a new excuse to watch My Neighbor Totoro.

Halloween Spirit: 1/5 soot sprites.

Star Quality: 5/5 acorns!

11. The Nightmare Before Christmas

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I might be a bit biased, but I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is the ultimate Halloween movie. The concept is creative, the aesthetic is perfect, and, of course, it gave us the anthem “This Is Halloween.” As a kid, I would wait for it to be shown on TV every year, and that’s how you know it’s timeless.

Halloween Spirit: 5/5 skeletons.

Star Quality: 4/5 Jack-o’-lanterns.

What are your favorite Halloween movie picks? Let me know in the comments!

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On Another Note: A K-pop Playlist for Halloween

K-pop may seem bright and cheery, more suited for summer fun than Halloween. In actuality, the aesthetic-based, high concept nature of the genre makes it perfect for spooky songs and videos. Some are genuinely dark, while others attach supernatural visuals to an otherwise bubblegum kind of song. However you like your music, there’s a Halloween K-pop song for you. In this post I highlight ten songs, but the full playlist I’ve created is much longer, available on Spotify or YouTube.

1. Dreamcatcher — Chase Me

Dreamcatcher is a fierce girl group with a hard rock vibe and killer dance moves. To match, their music video concepts have thus far involved horror, with “Chase Me” channeling The Shining. They’ve dedicated themselves to a ghostly storyline with gusto, and it’s paid off, attracting to them a dedicated cult following (not literally… we hope). Driving guitars combined with poppy vocals give their music a J-rock sensibility that wouldn’t be out of place on an anime soundtrack. Although they’re more rock than metal, they’ll appeal to fans of the Japanese sensation Babymetal.

2. VIXX — Voodoo Doll

WARNING: Contains body horror.

VIXX is famous for going full-out with their aesthetic concepts, and Voodoo Doll is no exception, crossing the line from dark to frightening and gory. Forget NSYNC’s mannequin look, this video shows the members as literal victims of voodoo dolls, gushing blood and stuck through with needles as their eyes glaze over into Xs. A dark, pulsing electronic beat supports dramatic vocals and rapping, and the choreography uses a needle prop. Both the music video and the choreography were rated adult in Korea for violence.

Note: Actual voodoo religions do not use dolls in the stereotypically depicted way. Please keep in mind the difference between myth and fact when enjoying horror!

3. Red Velvet — Peek-A-Boo

Red Velvet divides their discography into two main categories: their Red side is cute and quirky pop, while their Velvet side is smooth and sensual R&B. In “Peek-A-Boo,” they strike a balance between the two. Sonically, there’s nothing particularly ominous about this song, which dips into tropical house and has a Red-style chipper chorus. However, the music video shows the members living in a murder mansion where they lure delivery boys to their deaths. Red Velvet’s cuter songs tend to have unsettling vibes to them (see “Russian Roulette,”) but this femme fatale style was a step in a new direction for them, one that they leaned into with their following single, “Bad Boy.”

4. TRCNG — Wolf Baby

Several boy bands have used a werewolf concept to showcase a tough and mysterious vibe. TRCNG takes a different angle. They play up the campiness of the song and manage to make a dark, creepy monster into something actually cute. With sampled howls, exaggerated dance moves, and ketchup instead of blood, they add a pinch of humor to the slightly eerie refrain and the glimmering contact lenses. This is just the right catchy-cute bop to get you in the Halloween spirit if you’re not into the scary stuff.

5. Grace — Trick or Treat

More into hip-hop than pop? Grace is a Korean-American rapper who brings a grungy, rhythmic vibe to this song. The harsh, staccato consonants of “trick or treat” become their own kind of drumbeat, and the sung pre-chorus gives this track a nice pop sensibility. Don’t let the low-budget music video put you off. For a song that makes you feel like no one can mess with you, “Trick or Treat” is perfect.

6. HISTORY — Psycho

The song is, of course, inspired by the movie of the same name. I’m a sucker for eighties-style pop, and this delivers in a deliciously spooky way. The opening lines actually remind me of the Ghostbusters theme, which makes it sound like it might be a bit campy, but it’s actually got just the right amount of velvety darkness as it progresses to the pre-chorus. If you’re looking for something scary but sensual, this is your song.

7. SunnyHill — Midnight Circus

SunnyHill combines distinctly Korean-style dance-pop with demented circus music for a perfect upbeat Halloween bop. Small touches like male member Janghyun’s layered vocals and Kota’s oddly menacing refrain of “replay, replay” add extra flair to an already creepy instrumental. I love the styling in this video, too, which is reminiscent of scene kids in the aughts with their stripes, tiny top hats, and ripped leggings.

8. BOYFRIEND — WITCH

This music video turns Red Riding Hood into a horror concept with Red as a witch and the members of the band as werewolves. They make creative use of red banners representing her cloak in their choreography, too. The visuals here really elevate a somewhat typical song about a bewitching bad girl into a story of its own that comes across as more Halloween than fairy tale.

9. 4Minute — Volume Up

4Minute is better known for their later hip-hop bangers like “Crazy” and “Hate,” but the poppier “Volume Up” isn’t any less fiery. This jubilant break-up song features some truly intense soaring vocals building into a danceable chorus. In the video, the members sport gorgeous vampire chic outfits and pose with a snake for added dangerous flair. It’s just subtle enough that you wonder if they’re really supposed to be vampires or not… until they vanish into clouds of black smoke at the end.

10. BIGBANG — Monster

What I love about this song is that its story is as apparent through its melancholy, pleading melody as through its lyrics. The members of BIGBANG channel the kind of angsty, secretly sensitive bad boy that populates supernatural romance novels, and they play their roles to a T. The emotional highs of the song are in English, and they express the song’s meaning in just a few words: “I love you. Baby, I’m not a monster” in the chorus, and the heart-wrenching outro, “I think I’m sick.”

Enjoy these? I’ve created a full playlist on YouTube and on Spotify. Note that they’re not quite identical — the YouTube version includes some songs that aren’t available on Spotify, while the Spotify version includes a few deep cuts that don’t have music videos.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/valerie-an/playlist/0yvJ7wQ2oLinQHhMl8ctIY

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All of my Halloween Costumes, Ranked

It’s October, and I am gearing up for a spooky month!! I need to decide on a Halloween costume, but first, I thought it would be fun to review the costumes I’ve worn in the past from worst to best. I’ve had costumes both store-bought and homemade, both strokes of genius and remarkably ill-advised. Where possible, I’ve included pictures. Let’s dive in!

10. Gypsy

When I was in fifth grade, my two best friends and I agreed to trick-or-treat as gypsies together. One of their moms was hugely into witchy stuff, so she had a lot of fancy cloths, crystal jewelry, and things like tarot cards. At the time, it seemed like a good idea and we were all proud of our costumes, but in retrospect, I cringe. “Gypsy” is a slur toward Romani people, and it’s never okay to make someone else’s culture into a costume. Plus, I wore a bandanna as a top, and while it looked cool, I was freezing and uncomfortable the entire time.

9. Monster

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This was a cop-out costume I wore my freshman year of college when I realized I didn’t have a real costume. I put on a hat with a monster face on it, then coordinated the rest of my outfit with the hat. I looked more like a quirky scene kid than a monster.

8. Waldo

I’m actually really fond of this costume. I wore it my freshman year of high school. Halloween was on a Saturday that year, so everyone wore their costumes to school on Friday, then again to trick-or-treat the next day. Unfortunately, through all of Friday, over a hundred people (I counted!) obnoxiously yelled “I FOUND YOU!”, which is why this costume is so low on the list.

However, it did redeem itself slightly. That Friday after school, I went to get a haircut. On a whim, I cut off all my hair to donate to charity. When I went trick-or-treating, the hat covered my newly shorn head. I trick-or-treated at my friend’s house and chatted with her for a solid ten minutes, and she never suspected a thing. When I came in to school on Monday, I gleefully told her that my hair had been short the whole weekend already!

7. Ariel

This one is an elementary school staple. A simple store-bought costume handed down from my sister, it never failed to make me feel like a princess. It did get worn down a bit over the years, but it was a trusty friend.

6. Flapper

My grandma wore the dress for Halloween one year, then lent it to me for a project on the 1920s. I never ended up giving it back, and I used it a couple times over the years when I needed a costume. It was cute and recognizable, if a bit generic. It was a good last minute option and easily spruced up by a solid makeup job.

5. Peter Pan

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I ordered this costume online and it looked great! I love wearing costumes that complement my appearance, and at the time, my hair was still pretty short, so I really did look like I could be one of those female actors playing Peter Pan onstage. The one drawback is that the tights that came with it were cheap and too small, and I was also pretty cold in it.

4. Dead Person

In eighth grade, my best friend and I thought it would be fun to go as dead twins. Then my other best friend didn’t want to be left out. Suddenly, my entire friend group, at least six of us, had decided to be dead people together. We spray-dyed our hair black, painted our faces white, gave ourselves raccoon eyes, and even wore black lipstick. Our uniform? Pure black. We bought spiderweb patterned socks and mix-and-matched them. We probably looked more fake goth than dead. In fact, that’s how most people saw us. Older women would chuckle as we walked by. “I looked like that all through college!” “Just don’t dress like that every day!” When people asked us if we were goths, we solemnly told them we were dead people. It was an unintentional hit.

3. Draco Malfoy

This was me in peak pixie cut era. I asked my dad to get me a black robe, but he got one that didn’t open in the front, so I had to cut it the way I wanted. Everyone seemed really offended that I chose to be a Slytherin, but honestly, that’s my Hogwarts house IRL. I’m not trying to be edgy. It’s not a phase. It’s who I am! Anyway, I was proud of the way I put everything together.

2. Calvin & Hobbes

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Even though my hair was short at the time, I bought a wig to get that spiky texture. It was really cute and easy to put together at home. I carried around a stuffed tiger with me, although it would have been even better if I could have gotten one that looked more like Hobbes. Still, it was so satisfying whenever someone recognized my costume. A good portion of people didn’t know who I was supposed to be!

1. Fairy Princess

This is the first Halloween costume I ever remember wearing, and it’s definitely the most magical. I went to the craft store with my mom and she helped me create a genuinely gorgeous wand out of Styrofoam and rhinestones. The dress was extremely poofy. I was blown away by the idea that I could be a fairy AND a princess at the same time. I felt invincible!

What should I be for Halloween this year? What are you planning on being? Tell me in the comments!

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Check out my masterlist for the rest of my posts and reviews!