My Top 15 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Segments (5-1)

Happy Halloweeeeeeen!  Yes that’s right, it’s time for the last part of the Treehouse of Horror countdown.  If you haven’t caught the posts on 15 to 11 and 10 to 6, do so first and then join us back here for some Simpsons fun.

5. Starship Poopers (Treehouse of Horror IX)

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Maggie starts teething, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, her legs fall off to reveal tentacles.  After Dr Hibbert proves to be no help, they take her home where she starts transmitting telepathically to her real father, Kang, back on the mothership.  Turns out that Marge was abducted and impregnated by the aliens as part of a cross-breeding programme in the setting of her choice (she opts for ‘the alley behind a porno theatre’).  Homer is reluctant to let the aliens take Maggie back as they had planned, so Bart suggest they go on Jerry Springer’s show to sort things out, and even though that particular part of the episode only lasts for about 90 seconds, it’s a brilliant parody of the chat show and the kind of guests and audience members that used to be on it.  And we only get to see Kodos and Kang during the Treehouse of Horror episodes (and that ‘Gump Roast’ one), so I felt like including them in the top 5.

Highlights: 

– “Is there anything you can prescribe doctor?” 

   “Fire, and lots of it!

   “Oh, that’s your cure for everything”

– “Holy flurking schnit!”

– “Oh great, mormons!” 

   “Actually, we’re quantum presbytarians”

– “If you’re that baby’s daddy, where you been at?” 

– The very ending just before the credits, where Maggie says “I need blood”

– – ‘Look Marge, Maggie lost her baby legs!”

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4. It’s The Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse (Treehouse of Horror XIX)

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I bet you didn’t expect an episode from season 20 to make it into the top 5, right?  But this is SO good.  It’s done in the style of the classic Peanuts cartoons and is a parody of the story as well as the animation.  Milhouse believes in the Grand Pumpkin, who appears every Halloween to hand out candy to children who truly believe in him (even though Bart admits that he made this up), but no-one else does, so after Lisa leaves him he sits alone in the pumpkin patch waiting for him while all the other children go to the party.  Sad that the Grand Pumpkin hasn’t arrived, he starts to cry; but as his tears fall, they bring one of the pumpkins to life and Milhouse excitedly offers the Grand Pumpkin some pumpkin bread. The Grand Pumpkin is flattered until Milhouse clarifies that the bread is made FROM pumpkins, not FOR pumpkins.  He travels around Springfield witnessing all the ‘pumpkin atrocities’, and eating people as revenge.  Milhouse runs to warn everyone at the party, and when the Grand Pumpkin arrives and starts wreaking havoc, Lisa comes up with the idea of getting Milhouse to believe in ‘Tom Turkey’, a giant turkey who can stop the Grand Pumpkin.  He comes to their rescue and blows up the Grand Pumpkin’s head, whose dying words are “Pumpkin segregation forever!”.  It’s just so funny from start to finish; Hank Azaria voices both the Grand Pumpkin and Tom Turkey with these hilarious, dramatically pompous voices, and the whole ‘pumpkin racism’ thing is such a weird, dark touch, I love it.

Highlights: 

– Marge practising the trombone (so that in the cartoon she initially sounds like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons)

– Using the Linus and Lucy music, love love love

–  All the lovely animated bits that pay homage to Charlie Brown.

– The Grand Pumpkin vomiting and then yelling ‘Revenge!”

– The dancing at the Halloween party

– “You roast the unborn?”

– “Touch me and I’ll cut your friend?

What do I care? That’s a yellow pumpkin!

“You’re a racist!”

“All pumpkins are racist! The difference is *I* admit it’

– Every time the Grand Pumpkin yells ”REVEEEENGE!” or “NOOOOOO!”

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3. The Shinning (Treehouse of Horror V)

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This is probably the most famous segment from the Treehouse of Horror episodes, and rightly so; this take on The Shining manages to fit in a whole load of the themes and imagery from the film. Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 01.49.12 The Simpsons become the caretakers at Mr Burns’ mansion, and when they arrive Bart finds out that he is able to read minds when he hears Groundskeeper Willie’s thoughts, and Homer soon starts to lose his grip when the power and beer supplies are cut off. He quickly goes mad, scrawling ‘No beer and no TV make Homer go crazy’ over all the walls (although his typed message says “Feelin’ fine”), and proceeds to chase Marge around the room before getting knocked out by her and thrown in the fridge.

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Moe and some of the ‘ghouls’ influence Homer to kill his family, and he chases them outside where Lisa suddenly sees a portable television which placates Homer, and the family freeze outside watching it.

I love how quickly Homer starts to spiral out of control, basically as soon as he realises the television and beer are out. Also, I think it’s genius that The Simpsons has enough staple characters for them to be able to fit them into this story without having to tweak them – the millionaire, the bartender, the groundskeeper, it’s brilliant.

Highlights:

– “But don’t be reading my mind between 4 and 5.  That’s WILLIE’s time!”

– “Mom, is dad gonna kill us? We’re just gonna have to wait and see”

– Homer shouting ‘Hello!’ abruptly as he kicks the door open

– “Let us all bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow”

– “Urge to kill… rising…”

–  “That’s odd, usually the blood gets off at the second floor”

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2 Hell Toupee (Treehouse of Horror IX)

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When Snake is sent to the electric chair for his third strike – holding up the Kwik-E-Mart – he vows to kill everyone who witnessed his crime, and Chief Wiggum helpfully points out that Bart has been hiding in the Kwik-E-Mart too, which puts him on the list.  After his execution, Homer gets a phone call – I can’t believe how funny this is, that Homer is on a transplant list for someone’s entire head of hair.

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With the transplant complete, Homer starts to experience some side effects, namely that Snake’s hair takes control of his brain and sends him out to take revenge on the witnesses. Homer promises to keep Bart safe, but once he’s barricaded them both inside the room, he points out that while no murderers can get in, it means they also can’t get out. The police arrive and shoot the hair as it tries to escape, finishing with Chief Wiggum’s pun “Now that’s what I call a bad hair day!” This episode is from season 10, which is when people reckon that The Simpsons started to lose some of its quality, but this has got to be one of my favourite ever stories from the Halloween series.

Highlights:

– “First you torched that orphanage, then you blew up that bus full of nuns”

“That was self defence!”

– “How come they only do crucifixions during sweeps?”

– “Wow if your fly weren’t open you’d look just like Roger Moore!”

– Marge cutting Lisa off for being a smart-arse

– Homer struggling to choose between his hair and his son

– The hairpiece getting shot as it tries to escape

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1. Treehouse of Horror VI

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At number one, we’re going for another whole episode – pure brilliance from start to finish, Treehouse of Horror VI is my favourite Halloween episode ever.  All three segments in this one are just gold, and even now when I watch them there’s something I’ve missed previously or just still find funny after the hundredth time.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 02.16.02Firstly, Homer steals the Lard Lad doughnut sign to get back at the proprietor for their ‘Colossal Donut’ being misleading in ‘Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores” . As he drives away, lightning strikes and brings all the huge advertising statues to life – they head into Springfield and make a mess of thing, killing people and smashing the place up.  Homer returns the doughnut in the hope that it will end all the horror, but it just gives the Lard Lad statue something else to destroy the town with.  Lisa heads to the advertising agency, where she gets the advice to get everyone to ignore the adverts and they’ll just go away, which just about works (once they get Homer to go along with it).  I love that Marge is such a mum in this, with ‘those kids should have jackets on”.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 02.27.08Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace is next, and Groundskeeper Willie plays the role of the Freddie Kreuger character in this Nightmare on Elm Street parody; the children of Springfield are being haunted in their sleep and waking up with injuries inflicted in their dreams. Martin dies in class when he takes a nap after finishing a test early, and when Bart and Lisa mention it to their parents at home Marge decides to tell the story of how Groundskeeper Willie died.  A series of great visual and slapstick gags follow, as they parents shoot down all the expenses for things that would have saved Groundskeeper Willie, who runs into the classroom on fire due to a faulty boiler (caused by Homer turning up the thermostat).  He dies when told to wait his turn, and vows to haunt their children in their dreams. Bart plans to lure Groundskeeper Willie into a final showdown, and thinks he’s got him with sinking sand – but when Bart tries to get on with his usual dreams, Willie turns into a big bagpipes-spider creature and is about to kill him and Lisa when Maggie shows up to save the day with her trusty pacifier.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 02.37.36Finally, Homer3 is the one where Homer struggles to find a hiding place when Patty and Selma come around to visit. He finds a weird portal behind a bookcase, and enters a 3D world full of shapes, flying lights and equations.  It’s filled with loads of mathematical easter eggs in this bit, and also some really nice music that is very different from the usual Simpsons music.  Homer gets hit in the rear end by a cone, which he picks up and throws away, causing a hole to appear which causes the the dimension to collapse in on itself.  While the family and townspeople in Springfield try to come up with a solution, Homer runs for his life toward the edge of this new world, and despite Bart’s efforts to save him, he falls through the middle and ends up, well, here.  It’s a wonderful change to the zombies and vampires schtick, and ends on the bizarre note of Homer visiting an erotic cake shop.

Highlights:

Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores

– Kent Brockman getting eaten by a statue of himself

– Wiggum shooting the captain of the high schol basketball team

– “Dn’t you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?”

“…Sometimes”

– The initial incarnation of the monsters jingle “Don’t watch the mons… don’t watch the.. Mooonsttttteeeeers”

– The ACTUAL version of the monsters jingle

– “Don’t make us poke your eyes out, dad”

– “Fellas, where you going at this hour? HEY! Don’t scratch up them heads!”

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Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace

– ‘Moris – YOU die’

– “Not into the kindergarten!”

– “Don’t dream about me no more, kid”

– “I left my gun on the seat!”

– “Lousy Smarch weather”

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– “It’s like something out of the twilighty show… about that zone”

– *internally* “Oh glory of glories, oh heavenly testament to the eternal majesty of God’s creation”

*out loud* “HOLY MOLY!”

– “It should be obvious to even the most dimwitted individual – who holds a degree in hyperbolic topology – that Homer Simpson has stumbled into the third dimension”

– “Enough of your borax, poindexter! A man’s life is at stake – we need action!”

– Grandpa Simpson getting suited up to save Homer, so cute

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Well, there you have it.  My top 15 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror stories.  Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments….

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He Could Get It Horror Series… The Gentlemen

Ignore the grammatical issues from that title – I’m not going to mess with our standard titles.

The Gentlemen

WHY? Firstly, their name. The Gentlemen. Who doesn’t bemoan the lack of chivalry? Well these guys are named after men of courteous conduct. Secondly, they’re always smiling. Cheerfulness can be underrated. Plus, white teeth are overrated. These guys have got silver. Silver trumps white. Thirdly, their silent. No awkward conversation. You can rest happy in silence.

Also, look how polite they are too each other, let alone a girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other.

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He Could Get It Horror Series… Leatherface

Known to carry big things if you know what I mean – and by ‘big things’ I mean a chainsaw; check this power tool-wielding son of a bitch out, seen here with his big-ass mallet.

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Let’s face it, ladies, everyone likes a complicated guy. We think we can change them, so if you’re looking for a project, LF is your man.  Tall, dark, and unusual looking, he’s a family oriented man who had had the benefit of a southern upbringing – we’re talking traditional family values, okay?  But while he’s a traditional guy, he’s also kind of kinky – never seen without one of his masks, I think we can all agree that this guy is a role-playing fiend.

He’s quiet and shy, and protective of his possessions – but ladies, that could mean you.  He’s the kind of guy who’ll defend your honour if he sees someone else encroaching on his property; don’t be surprised if he chases away competitors with a chainsaw.  Haha, oh Facey, you so jealous.

DTSFT Men’s Column #18 – Trick or Treat

I’ve been trapped down a well for several weeks and have been unable to respond to your Men’s Column queries.  But never fear! I managed to climb out and fight a bear on my way home, so it’s time to dive in to the many, many letters and emails that you have been sending in.  This week’s lucky chap is Llewellyn from Cardiff, who asks:

Dear DTSFT

My crush has asked me to come to this awesome Halloween party, but my little sister wants me to take her trick-or-treating. What should I do? I don’t want to blow my chances with this girl, but I don’t want to let my little sister down. I mean, if things go well with this new lady, I’m hoping for a little trick-or-treat action myself, if you catch my drift.

Oooh, that’s a toughie, Llew.  Firstly, stop saying ‘my crush’ – you’re not a 13 year old girl and this isn’t Sugar magazine god dammit, have some self respect.  Secondly, yes I ‘catch your drift’ and ewww, ewwwww to yewwwww, Llewwwwww.  Thirdly, you have to think about the long term repercussions of your actions; if you don’t take you sister trick-or-treating, for example, will she end up going alone?  Is that safe for her to do?  You don’t want to put her in harm’s way, I mean this isn’t a hotel in Portugal, you can’t just leave young children on their own.

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How about this party, then?  How do you know that this ‘crush’ of yours isn’t setting you up for a fall?  Girls are terrible, Llewellyn. I’d bet money that your crush has invited you along just to make you jealous, or worse still give you the Carrie treatment.  But let’s not be too harsh, let’s not jump to conclusions here – it could be completely innocent, and she might really like you, bro.  So here’s what you do: take your little sister to do some trick-or-treating, then drop her off home and head to the party – I mean, how late can you stay out with a kid trick-or-treating, right?  Just drop her home and hit up PartyTown.  Better still, invite this chick out with you and your sister!  Ladies love a family man, Llewellyn, she’ll be good to go, man.  And most importantly, you MUST enter an abandoned/haunted house.  Open any and all old leather-bound books, and recite out loud any texts in latin.  It’s important to empty smoking potions into one another and then drink them, and if you see a black cat then it’s almost definitely a cursed boy from the 17th Century.  This could be the adventure of a lifetime, Llewellyn, and you’re going to pass this opportunity up just to get some sweeties and treaties? Uh-uh.  Naughty boy.

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He Could Get It Horror Series…Dracula

You can keep your Twilight and your Vampire Diaries.  Here at DTSFT, there’s only one fanged finey we want sucking on our necks…

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You see that popped collar and that baller pose? Your man ain’t got shit on Dracula, son.  You could spend your life wishing you were as dope as this suave motherfucker, but you’d never come close.  His pet hates are religious zealots and French food, and his idea of the perfect night out ends in him getting some quality time with your jugular – and ladies, he doesn’t glitter in the sunlight. No man has ever looked this good in a cape, and with his slicked back hair and intense, frightening stare, I think you’ll find it hard to resist his charms.

What’s The Score: Halloween Special – Insidious

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Insidious is one of my favourite films from the last few years – for me, it ticks all the boxes that I want in a scary film; lots of jumps with classic set-ups, sustained tension and perhaps more importantly for me… NO GORE! And one of the cool things about Insidious was the soundscape and the music, which we’re going to look at in this post.  Again, I will be referring to the film for cues as well as the actual names for each track given on the soundtrack collection.

Joseph Bishara’s soundtrack is made up of many cues, ranging from just under 30 seconds to as long as 3 minutes, but you’ll notice right from the very start of this film – I’m talking about when the production company logos are twirling about – that this isn’t your normal kind of film score.  Clattering, heavily reverbed noises clash without any rhythm as the logo comes on to the screen, followed by a ringing that lingers over the image of the light shade with director James Wan’s name.  I like how the ringing effect combines with the rotation of the image to already give a slightly woozy effect, like something is off-kilter.

As the camera travels across the bedroom and round to what looks like a bathroom, we see a silhouette of someone in the window (this is at 1.01 in the video above).  This is when I thought maybe I should leave the cinema, because this is where it gets messed up – those signature strings are first introduced in this moment.  Strings hit screeching high notes and then tumble rapidly down only to start again, layered over one another and building up; these strings sound like screams or wails, and as the shot travels to the creepy old woman down the hall with the candle in her face and the light fades entirely, you think that’s it, the film is going to start.  But then the glowing red title fills the screen with more strings, louder this time, clashing and battling against one another.  I can distinctly hear the motif from the cyclone scene in The Wizard of Oz somewhere in this mess of strings.

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Then we’re down to classic horror film territory with sustained, quiet strings – there’s an eery addition to this though; as the ‘shadows’ of the letters in the credits rise and evaporate, some background strings slide up, again like a distant wailing effect.  The film hasn’t even started and we already know many rooms of the house as well as the fact that there’s something very creepy about it.

Musically nothing much happens until the scene where Dalton wakes up from his fall,  but the use of sound is interesting here too – the creaking of the stairs is something we associate with old houses and it gives it that extra creepy edge.  There’s also the crying baby, the children’s computer games and a whistling kettle for Renee to compete with in the hectic morning kitchen.

Quite honestly I’d rather they left out this next part, but it exists – Renai’s song, “Lookin’ West”

Everything about it is awful.  Thankfully, the baby interrupts her song by crying, presumably because she can hear it. We get some weird house noises, drawing Renai up into the attic where the creaking sounds are a throwback to the noises we heard at the start. When Dalton falls and wakes up, we get an atmospheric, hollow sound along with the snapping, cracking noice associated with the demon later on in the film.  When Renai and Josh realise something is wrong, a few piano hits are heard, punctuating the scene.  These add a little to the drama, but in a more unconventional way because normally on these occasions in scary films, these hits are done by strings, and there’s some discernible chord (normally an augmented 4th) in there, whereas generally the scary moments in this film feature some wicked atonal music.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 00.44.40The mushy bit between Josh and Renai, where he tells her things will get better in the house and to just ‘give it time’ has a musical cue, and it is fairly conventional.  Gently piano notes, sombre, slow-moving strings and proper harmonies.  I think the conventional music over this scene is a signifier, like dramatic irony or something; in a soundtrack where the music ignores most conventions, this moment of ‘normal’ film music is the exception, and we shouldn’t hope to hear much more like it in the film until everything really is okay.

When Dalton doesn’t wake up, there’s a return of those reverberating strings, lower this time both in pitch and volume, with a cue entitled ‘unawakened mvmt 1’.  Strings rock back and forth before the scene ends and shows that 3 months have passed since Dalton first fell into his ‘coma’.  A second musical cue starts basically straight after, called ‘unawakened mvmt 2’.  This has a more middling, repetitive piano ostinato and a mournful cello, with no particular melody or chord structure to it, atmospheric music to just add to the sombre situation.  Honestly, it seems like it was written by dragging and dropping notes into manuscript software – we’ve all been there, music students, am I right? I’m right.

A high sustained string opens our next music cue, ‘voices in the static’, where Renai hears, well, voices in the static of the baby monitor (the video above is in German, but the music doesn’t change of course). She walks into the hall as we hear the high sustained violin, which is followed by the violins sliding up and down in opposite directions which combines beautifully with the rotating camera work (again rotating around a circular light, like the opening credits) for a dizzying, wailing effect.  There’s something chilling and unnerving about this cue,  and 30 seconds into it as the voices get louder and climax with the terrifying ‘NOW!”, the music changes to the clattering, reverberating sounds we heard before.  This effect is made by using a ‘prepared piano’, which basically means taking a piano and placing crap on the strings and doing other stuff to it, then seeing what happens when you press the keys.  Bishara stated in an interview that he found an old ‘rusted piano shell’ and used it for the score, which sounds to me like he used a prepared piano.

Kind of a poor quality video, but this is the next musical moment in the film, when the baby monitor draws Renai into the baby’s room where she sees the creepy ghost behind the crib.  There’s no build to the musical hit, and that’s one of the reasons why this film works so well, the scares are not set up by obvious musical cues that audiences have become used to.

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We get some general incidental music reappearances from old themes and cues in the next few scenes; a slightly altered version of ‘unawakened (mvmt2)’plays briefly and quietly while Renai talks to the home nurse about Dalton, ending with an atmospheric build up as she notices the red hand print on the bedsheets.

Next, it’s window guy!

Another classic high sustained violin over low tremolos to build up to when he suddenly appears inside the room, followed by another of his prepared piano clangs and a screeching noise which I assume is meant to be him screaming.  As an audience, we’re thinking ‘how the hell did he – how did – what the?!’ and the music isn’t helping; it’s clattering, disconnected and erratic, meant to jangle our nerves like the scene just did.

There’s some forgettable filler music when we see the moving vans, and a repeated solo ‘wail’ from a string instrument when Lorraine looks at the picture of Josh – it’s so fleeting, but it’s enough to make us think at this point that there might be something significant about it.  The next scene features two pieces of pre-existing music, one of which features heavily and practically makes it one of the most memorable scenes in the films.

Starting with a slice of Einaudi, the musical equivalent of ready salted crisps, Renai walks through the house clearing up rubbish while listening to the gentle piano music on vinyl, but as she steps outside the record starts to scratch and skip, and  suddenly we hear the bizarre Tiptoe Through the Tulips by Tiny Tim.  When she looks through the window, a creepy-ass kid is dancing away without a care in the world. He disappears when she moves to another window, and there are only one or two bits of music in this scene, such as a held note as Renai looks through the bedroom door before the rocking horse starts to move on its own, and then very quiet high, sustained, dissonant static strings which gradually crescendo as she approaches the cupboard with a hockey stick.  There’s a stab with the strings as she pushes the curtain aside to find nothing, and then to catch us off guard he jumps out of the top with a bang and the quiet yet screeching strings return once more.

While Lorraine talks about when she first encountered the creature in Dalton’s room, ‘it said it was a visitor’ starts during the story; another high sustained string, with a brief whirl of strings and then some low tremolo strings build the tension, before a break in the music then another hit as that terrifying red-faced demon appears behind Josh. Another hit when they find Dalton’s room has been wrecked, with a sombre cello line leading to the end of the scene.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 21.24.38It’s worth mentioning again how the sounds in horror films can build suspense in the same way music can.  Footsteps, creaking doors and floorboards, and in this case even the rhythmic clicks and whirrs of the ‘ghost-hunting’ equipment.  Just prior to the start of ‘hallway twins’, Tucker clicks the filters on his device before he can see the two creepy girls by the door, and when they appear it’s a high string stab followed by some high tremolos and a build up of chattering, winding strings.

When Elise describes what she can see so that Specs can draw it, the ‘hooves for feet’ cue builds gently and steadily underneath.  Again, mid to low tremolo strings rising at the end of the phrase, followed by wittering high strings and then the spiralling, dizzy layered strings.  The fan on the light is spinning, and the shot alternates between looking up at the fan and looking down at Elise, adding to the dizzy, unsteady effect.  Elise’s explanation of ‘the Further’ has a cue of the same name, which is the longest cue on the soundtrack, and actually seems longer because it is more or less seamlessly connected to the piece that follows it.  ‘The Further’ features the clattering effects in the background, scuttling along as the trembling string motifs sway in and out while Elise describes how Dalton has been doing astral projection for many years. As she starts to explain to Renai the sinister aspects of ‘the further’, a fast, steady electronic bass pulse starts while two violin motifs drift around, before moving back into the rising, wailing strings.

An interesting thing to note is that much of the score was written before filming began, so Bishara’s music isn’t written to specific visual cues; instead, the music was recorded and James Wan editing the tracks into the final cut of the film. The soundtrack is scary enough in itself, but it also explains some of the more bland offerings such as the previous mushy bits and the part that follows here, where Josh sends Elise, Specs and Tucker home.  Josh realises the significance of Dalton’s paintings over the musical cue ‘broken open’, of which only the first half is used – more of the same generic slow-moving cellos and viola with gentle piano notes picked out.

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There’s yet more high sustained strings in this next part, where Elise is using a gas mask and somehow communicating with the spirits.  Amidst the noise that ensues in this scene,  there are three musical cues intertwined – ‘gas mask vision’, ‘muted whisperings’ and ‘leave this vessel’. Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 23.39.33

Bits and pieces of each are used accordingly; the pulsing electronic bass and guttural synths from gas mask vision’ lead into the whinnying, chilling dissonant strings from ‘muted whispers’ and then the harsh, shrill chords on the violin along with the rumbling from the prepared piano in ‘leave this vessel’ combine with the sound effects from the on-screen action to round off this claustrophobic, panicky scene.  Dizzy strings again (think zoom in/pan out but for music not video) when Specs and Tucker look at the photo of the demon behind Dalton; clearly Wan and Bishara meant for this to be the demon’s leitmotif.

Lorraine tells the story of Josh’s night terrors and the old lady from the photos, which is scored with ‘night terror’ – quiet screeching strings in the background, whirling around and building up with vibrato, and – yet again – a sustained string. We get a condensed version of the music from the opening credits when the title first appeared, albeit very quietly but it’s still a recognisable callback to those laughing strings.  When the ‘night terror’ cue finishes, another one starts immediately, entitled ‘bring him back’; this is a short piece for cello and piano which has a fleeting resemblance to a lullaby at one point, and there is a sense of yearning and hope in this music.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 22.54.10

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 23.47.44‘Into the further’ is a much deeper piece than we’ve been used to in this soundtrack, which has been full of high pitched strings.  A rumbling, deep synth sound blares as Josh realises he is astral-projecting, and the music takes on an eerie, sci-fi quality with electronic synths and what I think sounds like samples of a man wailing or moaning mixed into it.  As Josh walks through the house, there is the occasional hit to punctuate a jumpy bit, and at one stage there is a improvised whistling to accompany him which is diegetic (remembeeeeeeer?), coming from the male ghost sitting on the couch.  The buzzing electronic synths return when Josh fights the long-haired spirit by the red door, and then we get to where Josh enters the lair of the demon, with a cue entitled, er, ‘into the lair’.  Another sustained high note in the strings is scratched out, with a rhythmic percussive accompaniment as the shot moves through the red corridors.  Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 00.03.50When Josh finally sees Dalton, the strings begin layering harmonies for the emotional reunion, with some dissonance as they aren’t in the clear yet – Dalton points out the demon to his father, and we hear ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ again. The next cue, ‘he’s looking at us’ corresponds to that line in the film, and the strings fall back into the old habits of the frantic, angry tumbling motion, building faster and faster and with the addition of some notes on the prepared piano to add more chaos to the already frightening scene as Josh and Dalton try to escape.

Back in the house, the spirits are starting to enter the house from ‘The Further’ and the numerous clangs and scratches add to the tension; more clatters from the prepared piano and the whirling strings make this even more unsettling, and the occasional rapid stabbing motion from the violins just makes this scene even more energetic.  All the music and noise keep building in texture and volume, creating a very overwhelming and claustrophobic sensation, and there isn’t really a climactic moment in this piece; instead, music just sort of peters out and leads into a cue called ‘the child awake’, with more schmaltzy strings and piano in another ‘drag and drop’ sounding piece.  Apparently there are two separate piece of music here but they are so similar and both so insipid, it’s hard to notice – the second is ‘a new world’, and it’s exactly like ‘the child awake’.

As Elise realises that everything is not quite right,  she takes a photograph of Josh just to be sure.  ‘Dark boundaries crossed’ reintroduces the whinnying strings and frantic, noisy nature from the previous moments in the film, as the tension and volume are quickly built up again around Josh and Elise’s struggle.  There’s a slow, deliberate string motif repeated over and over as Renai looks at the camera and we get a flashback to show us what Elise saw before she died.  The click of the camera breaks through the music, and after a moment of silence, we end with the clattering prepared piano, a short bit of dialogue and then one last burst of the screeching strings for good measure.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one, I love the film and the soundtrack and hope this has been an interesting read.

Saturday Special: Halloween

Thinking of throwing a Halloween party but not sure what to serve your guests? Or do you just want to curl up in front of the TV and watch a couple of good scary films but have no idea what to stuff yourself with? Well don’t worry, DTSFT have got you covered, because this week we’ve found some Halloween themed recipes that you can share with your friends, your family, or that strange man with the axe who keeps groaning and knocking on the window…wait a minute….

PARTY FOOD

Orange Pumpkin Face Cookies

pumpkin biscuits

These sweet little things are perfect for feeding to the masses.

Ingredients:

140g butter, softened

175g plain flour

50g icing sugar

the zest of 1 medium orange, finely grated

For the filling

100g mascarpone cheese

1 tsp icing sugar

25g melted plain chocolate

For the glaze

50g icing sugar

1 tbsp orange juice

1. Preheat the oven to fan 160C/ conventional 180C/gas 4. Put the butter in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the flour, icing sugar and orange zest and beat together to make a softish dough. Knead into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut 24 circles with a 7.5 cm round plain cutter. Put them on a couple of baking sheets.

3. Using a small sharp knife, cut out Hallowe’en faces on 12 of the circles. Gather up the spare biscuit dough and press into pumpkin stem shapes, trimming with a sharp knife. Press to the top of each  biscuit with a knife to join. Make lines on the face biscuits with the back of a roundbladed knife, to look like the markings on a pumpkin. Bake all the biscuits for about 15 minutes until pale golden. Leave to set for a while, then cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Mix the glaze ingredients to make a smooth, runny icing, adding a bit more juice if needed, then set aside. For the filling, beat the mascarpone with the icing sugar, then stir in the cooled melted chocolate.

5. Spread the filling over the cooled plain biscuits, then press the ‘face’ ones on top– do this just before you want to eat them, otherwise they go soft. Brush with the glaze, using a clean paint brush or pastry brush. Eat the same day.

(from the BBC Good Food website)

Spider Web Chocolate Fudge Muffins

spiderweb muffins

Wonderfully soft and gooey, these sweet treats will go down a storm at your shindig – if you manage not to eat them all beforehand!

Ingredients:

50g dark chocolate

85g butter

1 tbsp of milk, water or coffee

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

85g light muscovado sugar

50g golden caster sugar

1 egg

142ml of soured cream

For the topping

100g dark chocolate

100g white chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to fan 170C/ conventional 190C/gas 5 and line a muffin tin with 10 paper muffin cases. Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl, add the butter and liquid. Melt in the microwave on Medium for 30-45 seconds (or set the bowl over a  pan of gently simmering water). Stir and leave the mixture to cool.

2. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and both sugars in a bowl. Beat the egg in another bowl and stir in the soured cream, then pour this on the flour mixture and add the cooled chocolate. Stir just to combine –don’t overmix or it will get tough.

3. Spoon the mixture into the cases to about three quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes until well risen. Loosen the edges with a round-bladed knife, let them sit in the tins for a few minutes, then lift out and cool on a wire rack.

4. For the topping, make two piping bags out of greaseproof paper (or cut the ends off two clean plastic bags). Break the dark and white chocolate into separate bowls and melt in the microwave on Medium for 2 minutes (or over a pan as in step 1). Put 2 spoonfuls of dark chocolate in one bag and the same of white chocolate in the other.

5. Working with one muffin at a time, spread with dark chocolate from the bowl, letting it run down a bit, then pipe four concentric circles of white chocolate on top. Using a small skewer, drag through the circles at regular intervals, from the centre to the edge, to create a cobweb effect. Repeat with four more muffins. On the remaining five, spread over the white chocolate and decorate with the dark. Best eaten the day they’re made – even better while the chocolate’s soft.

(from the BBC Good Food website)

Potato Skin Ghosts

potato skin ghosts

A creamy and savoury snack that’s just (boo!)tiful! (sorry)

Ingredients:

washed, unpeeled potatoes

olive oil

seasoned salt

onion powder

garlic salt

sour cream

scallions (or spring onions to my fellow UK residents)

1. Cut each potato lengthwise into 1/2-inch slabs. Cut the rounded tip off one end of each slab to create a ghost shape.

2. Grease a baking sheet and lay the potato slabs on it (pieces with skin go skin-side down). Brush the top of each slab with olive oil and season with seasoned salt, onion powder, and garlic salt. (Suggestion: combine 1 teaspoon of each spice in a bowl, then sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of the mixture over each slab.)

3. Bake at 400º for 30 minutes or until a fork pierces the potatoes easily.

4. Remove the potatoes from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, then “ice” them with sour cream to create a tasty white ghost. Add slices of scallion/spring onions for eyes and a mouth.

(From spoonful.com)

COMFORT FOOD

It’s a wonderfully dark and windy evening and you have no plans for Halloween weekend, so why not stick on a scary film and indulge in some of these hot and hearty dishes!

Witches’ Brew (Bacon & Pea Chowder)

witches brew

Chowder warms the body and soul all year round, but this wicked green colour makes this perfect for All Hallows’ Eve.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

650g frozen peas

750ml vegetable stock

6 rashers of streaky bacon

1 tbsp of butter (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion  and gently cook over a medium heat for 5-6  mins until softened but not coloured. Add the  garlic and cook for a further min. Stir in  three-quarters of the petit pois, then pour in the  stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-12  mins. Meanwhile, grill the bacon until crisp.

2. Allow to cool for a few mins, then carefully  transfer to a food processor and whizz until  smooth. You might need to do this in two  batches, depending on the size of your processor.

3. Return the soup to the pan and add the  remaining petit pois. Bring to the boil and  simmer for 2 mins or until the whole peas  are tender. Season to taste, then stir in the  butter, if using. Break the bacon into pieces  and scatter over bowls or mugs of soup.

(From the BBC Good Food website)

Garlicky Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin risotto

A fairly complex dinner-party style recipe that is just as comforting. It also helps to keep the vampires away!

For the pesto

Large bunch of basil, leaves and stalks torn

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

olive oil

50g parmesan, finely grated

For the risotto

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1.4l chicken stock

85g unsalted butter

400g/14oz piece pumpkin (unpeeled weight), peeled, seeded and cut into 1cm cubes

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

400g arborio rice

100g pecorino, finely grated

50g parmesan, finely grated

For the crispy shallots

50g shallots, finely chopped

100g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

vegetable oil, for shallow frying

1. Make the pesto. Pulse the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor to a coarse paste, adding enough olive oil to produce a loose-textured purée. Pour into a bowl and fold in the parmesan.

2. Blanch remaining garlic in boiling water for 3 mins, until slightly softened. Drain, return to the pan with 200ml/7fl oz of the chicken stock and half the butter. Simmer for about 15 mins until the garlic is soft and coated in the syrupy stock. Remove from the heat. You can do this up to 4 hrs in advance.

3. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Toss the pumpkin cubes with the olive oil in a roasting tin, and roast for 10-15 mins until the flesh is just tender.

4. Make the crispy shallots. Dust them in the flour and shake off excess. Heat 2cm oil in a large pan and fry until light golden brown. Drain and keep warm.

5. Sweat the onion in the remaining butter in a large shallow pan until soft, about 5 mins. Tip in the rice, raise the heat and toast until translucent. Lower the heat and add the remaining stock a ladleful at a time, stirring well until the stock is completely absorbed before you add the next ladleful.

6. Once the rice is al dente, fold in the 2 cheeses, garlic cloves and pumpkin and cook for 2 mins. Serve with a drizzle of pesto and the shallots on top.

(From the BBC Good Food website)

DRINKS

Alcoholic or not, give your evening a good start or finish with a glass (or two!) of these.

Transylvania Punch

Quicky and easy, this fizzy drink is perfect for children’s parties as well as adults. Just add cherry gelatin to a fizzy lemon and lime drink (e.g. Sprite) and you’re done!

transylvania punch

(from bhg.com)

Boozy Blood Bath

blood bath 2

A dark and sexy cocktail the colour of blood, your guests will be sucking this up.

The recipe is American but using red grapes and red grape juice should work just as well and the measurements can be easily adjusted.

Ingredients:

2 concord/red grapes (optional)

ice

1/4 concord grape/red grape juice

1/4 cup whiskey

1 tbsp lemon juice

for the Maple Simple Syrup (recipe is below)

1/2 up maple syrup

1/2 cup water

1. If desired, thread grapes on a decorative toothpick or short skewer; set aside. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. In cocktail shaker combine grape juice, whiskey, Maple Simple Syrup, and lemon juice. Cover and shake about 10 seconds or until cold.

2. Strain into a highball glass and garnish with concord grapes.

Maple Simple Syrup

In a small saucepan simmer maple syrup and water for 10 to 15 minutes or until syrupy. Cool completely. Makes enough for four drinks.

(from bhg.com)

Tangled Web Shakes

tangled web shakes

These very pretty Halloween milkshakes are great for both children and adults, and the salted caramel web decoration is a lovely touch. Again, the recipe is American but the measurements can be adjusted.

Ingredients:

Caramel ice-cream sauce

Dark chocolate ice-cream sauce

1/3 cup sugar

coarse sea salt

6 cups vanilla ice-cream

3/4 cup milk

3 tbsp caramel ice-cream sauce

3 tbsp dark chocolate ice-cream sauce

1. Drizzle caramel topping in a zigzag design inside each of eight 5- to 6-ounce glasses. Drizzle chocolate ice cream topping into each glass. Arrange glasses on a tray; freeze until needed.

2. Butter a large piece of foil; set aside. In a large heavy skillet spread sugar in an even layer. Heat over medium-high heat until sugar begins to melt, shaking the skillet occasionally; do not stir. When the sugar begins to melt, reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 5 minutes more or until all of the sugar melts and is golden, gradually stirring the melted sugar into the unmelted sugar with a wooden spoon. With a spoon, immediately drizzle the melted sugar in eight circles (each about 3 inches in diameter) onto prepared foil, drizzling zigzags inside the circles to resemble webs. Quickly sprinkle each with salt.* Set aside until needed.

3. Just before serving, in a blender combine half of the ice cream, half of the milk, half of the 3 tablespoons caramel topping, and half of the 3 tablespoons chocolate ice cream topping. Cover and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down side as needed. Pour ice cream mixture into four of the prepared glasses. Repeat with the remaining ice cream, milk, caramel topping, and chocolate ice cream topping. Top each with one of the salted-caramel webs.

(from bhg.com)

Dark Chocolate Martini

dark chocolate martini

Bitter and sweet, this is the perfect drink for the Morticias!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp sugar

dark chocolate

chocolate liqueur

vodka

espresso, chilled

1/2 tsp fresh orange juice

a strip of orange zest

ice

orange wedge, to garnish

1. Mix 2 tablespoons each raw sugar and finely chopped dark chocolate on a plate.

2. Combine 2 ounces each chocolate liqueur and vodka, 1 ounce chilled espresso, 1/2 teaspoon fresh orange juice and a strip of orange zest in a cocktail shaker with ice; stir well.

3. Moisten the rim of a chilled martini glass and dip it in the sugar-chocolate mixture. Strain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

(from foodnetwork.com)

Whatever you’re doing this Halloween, enjoy, and don’t eat too many sweets otherwise you’ll have nightmares!

Hannah