Friday, October 2, 2009

Halloween's coming!

It's October!

The air is crisp, the sky is blue, and there are even some trees beginning to change color. Halloween has been sighted on the horizon, and we're ready for it; both display tables at the Library have been stuffed full of books about scary things (a few vampires, some werewolves, a couple of witches, and a movie monster or two, to say nothing of Stephen King and Anne Rice) and scary movies (slashers, zombies, aliens ... the list goes on). We anticipate the scary movies will go quickly, but since they're only allowed out for three days and horror movies make up a significant portion of our popular DVD collection, there's plenty to go around! Come by and check it out sometime -- unlike most of the characters on the display tables, we don't bite.

For this month, we'll be doing some asking around the Library for our librarians' favorite Halloween books, movies, and activities, mostly because I love Halloween and I don't mind using this blog to evangelize the joys of rubber masks and cheap polyvinyl costumes. Since we'll be doing some book reviews as a matter of course, I plan to take a break from the whole "What did I read this week" thing.

Let's start with my favorite Halloween movies:

Hocus Pocus
When 17-year-old Max's family moves from sunny L.A. to frumpy Salem, Massachusetts, he figures he's in for an eternity of stultifying boredom. Little does he know that Salem is home to the notorious Sanderson sisters, three witches who were hanged in the 17th Century for various horrifying crimes. With the help of his school crush and his younger sister, he accidentally brings them back from the dead and must thwart their plan to consume the souls of all the kids in Salem. And it's funny. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play the Sanderson sisters and it's way too much fun watching them bicker and butt heads with the 20th Century.

Halloween and Halloween II
THE classic Halloween horror flicks! A twisted guy in a hockey mask terrorizes teenage girls, but unlike most slasher movies, it's actually a foray into some seriously messed-up psychological territory. Halloween is also the film that jump-started Jamie Lee Curtis's career and was instrumental in setting the standard for slasher films today, along with movies like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

Evil Dead and Army of Darkness
Both movies are part of Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead trilogy about Ash, a store clerk with some pals who head up to a cabin in the woods and experience some disturbing occurrences tied to a particularly evil-looking book they happen across in the house. The first movie culminates in some seriously weird-looking scenes at night in the woods and feature a demonic possession that still freaks me out every time I see it. The second movie involves some time-traveling and a massive battle against the Deadite Empire. It's both incredibly cheesy and unbelievably funny. Bruce Campbell is known for his skill at combining horror with hilarity, and both movies represent terrific examples of this.

Shaun of the Dead
A brilliant movie about an apathetic slacker who realizes he's in the middle of a zombie epidemic about three days after the first news reports start warning people to sever the head from the spine. He ends up leading his roommate, girlfriend, girlfriend's best friend, girlfriend's best friend's boyfriend who's actually in love with his girlfriend's best friend, mother, and distant stepfather to shelter in the local pub. A lot of people get torn apart and eaten along the way, but it ends on a heartwarming note when the world finds out that zombies aren't so bad after all. It's one of the funniest movies you'll watch all month.

Boy Eats Girl
Yet another walking-dead movie, but this one is unique: it's Irish! I know, Ireland isn't exactly very well-known for its film industry, but this movie is pretty unusual. For one thing, the main character is the first person to die. This might sound like a pretty short movie, if not for the fact that our main character doesn't stay dead. He doesn't even realize that he's not alive at first, in fact -- he just wakes up the morning after he dies and has no idea what happened and goes off to school, with predictable results. People get bitten and turn into zombies, or they get eaten and turn into something resembling hamburger. Either way, it's a really entertaining movie.

Psycho and Vertigo
No zombies in either one, unless you want to count Norman Bates's mother. Psycho is the story of a young fellow who runs a motel off the beaten path and has a few odd habits, most of which involve his problematic relationships with the opposite sex. One of the indisputable horror-movie classics, bar none. Vertigo, on the other hand, is much more of a psychological thriller and is, more frankly, just plain weird. A detective with acrophobia gets hired by a husband concerned about his wife's behavior; the wife appears to be possessed by her ancestor. After a suicide attempt or two, things start to really get strange, and the end of the film is more or less fitting. Sorry to be so vague, but it's hard to explain the plot without giving away a few surprises.

What with my actually being a librarian and all, I'm sure you're expecting me to recite a few hundred pages' worth of scary-book titles. The truth is, it's been a long time since I was scared by a book; I caught on to Stephen King's shtick fairly early on (although his Bag of Bones is still a pretty well-done creepfest), and Anne Rice is a little too flowery for my taste. Edgar Allan Poe can't be matched for sheer weirdness and horror -- "The Cask of Amontillado" still makes me shudder -- but he can be a little dense for some light reading; the same goes for Dracula. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is more tragic than scary. Instead, I'm going to suggest the only recent book that's managed to send chills up my spine: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

It's the story of a family that moves into a new house. The new house has something severely, severely wrong with it: It has an extra door. Normally, that'd just be an architectural quirk, except the door actually leads somewhere. This "somewhere" is hard to describe because most of this particular storyline after this point takes place in utter darkness. There are several different narratives in the book, all having something to do with the family's experiences, and the text itself gets experimental sometimes. There are plenty of fake footnotes citing documents that don't exist, whole pages blank except for a single word, other pages where the words spiral around the page, and other devices that can get kind of annoying after a while. I'm not fond of that part of the book, but when the story gets into the family's exploration of what's behind the door, it just gets creepier and creepier. You get to the point where you hope that blank walls stay blank, which sounds silly but makes sense after you read it. It's a fairly thick paperback book, so is a wee bit of a commitment, but one that pays off very, very progressively.

That covers my Halloween recommendations. Stay tuned for more from your local librarians!

Question of the Week
I was working on one of the computers on the first floor, and one of the librarians asked for my ID. That's never happened before. What's up with that?
First, don't take it too personally. We've been noticing an increase in the number of people unaffiliated with Gallaudet using our computers for reasons other than deaf-related research. We don't allow it, but it happens pretty often anyway; sometimes a student will have a friend visiting from out of town who needs to use the computer and will give that friend their username and password in order to use one of our computers. Other times, someone will be working on a public computer and see that someone else needs to get on but doesn't have a Gallaudet-assigned username and password, so will log on for them.

This is pretty bad for a couple of reasons: First, giving out personal information like that is a lousy idea; that username and password gives access to quite a number of other things besides an on-campus computer. Second, it ties up a computer that should be used by a Gallaudet student who actually needs to do some work.

So we've started to be more assiduous about adhering to our policy on computer use. If we find anyone who can't produce a valid Gallaudet ID card, is logged on under a different name, or otherwise does not belong here, they will be asked to leave immediately. From this point on, it will be necessary for you to have your ID on you at all times when using the Library.

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