Horror cult classics: my top 3 Halloween tips

In case the ongoing pandemic and a host of other global disasters haven’t been enough to spook you, here are a couple of suggestions as to how you might spend your evenings this Halloween season – or, if you’re anything like me, most evenings during the entire year!

PODCAST: Classic Ghost Stories

At the moment of writing, this weekly podcast series has over a hundred episodes, each featuring a ghost story written by a master of the genre. The stories are read out by the author Tony Walker, who also adds a bit of his own commentary. Episodes last anywhere between 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the length of the story. It’s an excellent selection of classic horror stories and a very useful guide through the history of this literary genre.

An additional reason why I recommend it to English learners in particular (CEFR levels C1/C2), is that most of the stories can be easily found online, so you can follow the text while listening, or go back to it for a closer read afterwards.

You can subscribe to Classic Ghost Stories using any podcast app, or access the episodes on Tony Walker’s website.

FILM: The Innocents

Deborah Kerr in The Innocents

If you have access to Netflix, you might have had a chance to watch The Haunting of Bly Manor – a horror miniseries based on the celebrated 1898 novella Turn of the Screw by Henry James (downloadable here, in several digital formats). Being incorrigibly retrophile, I thought it came nowhere near the superior cinematic quality of the 1961 adaptation – The Innocents. Starring Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Meg Jenkins, et al., it was directed by Jack Clayton, while the screenplay was adapted by Truman Capote and William Archibald. They all contributed to this excellent interpretation of James’ novella.

You can access the film on YouTube following this link; make sure you also watch the 30-minute commentary by the cultural historian Christopher Frayling, containing lots and lots of interesting information on the making of this remarkable film.

TV SERIES: Dark Shadows

No, I don’t mean the ridiculous 2012 comedy starring Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer. The original Dark Shadows series is a television classic and something that is guaranteed to keep you entertained for many spooky nights – and by many, I mean 1.225, to be exact! Running on the ABC television network from 1966 to 1971, it’s typically described as a ‘gothic soap opera’ – and if there ever was a perfect TV genre, that one has to be it!

Dark Shadows, cast shot, 1967. L-R David Henesy, Sharon Smythe (young girl), Katherine Leigh Scott, George Robert Gerringer, Nancy Barrett (blonde), Dennis Partrick, Alexandra Moltke, John Karlen, Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Clarice Blackburn (sitting), Dana Elcar, Louis Edmonds, Joan Bennett (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

Episodes are c. 25 minutes each, and the storylines rich and diverse, combining romance, intrigue and small-town gossip with the uncanny and the supernatural. This groundbreaking, genre-bending series has gained a cult status, and you’ll find loads of Dark Shadows-related resources online. Here’s episode 1 on YouTube; you can take it from there.

I’d love to know what are some of your classic horror favourites. Do write about them in the comments section below!

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