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flick or treat host a halloween movie night
by Yee-Fan Sun
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TAll your favorite thrift stores are boasting kitschy fun costumes in their display windows; the telephone poles are awash in flyers advertising debauched Halloween carousing at one club of another. In years past, you’ve done the crazy costume party thing yourself, checked out the annual parade, endured the bar crawl. This year, though, no real plans have yet materialized. You’re too broke to spend a night out on the town; you’re too stressed to labor over a creative costume; you’ve recently moved to a new pad, and the place just isn’t fit to host a great big crowd of rowdy masqueraded revelers.

Still, with less than two weeks left till Halloween, you’re feeling a little bummed that you have no plans for celebrating one of the best holidays of the year. But wait -- no need to resign yourself to a boring night at home just yet. With only a modicum of advance prep, you can pull together a Halloween movie night for you and your fellow party-deprived pals that’s low on money and effort, but still buckets o’ fun. Here’s the lowdown on how to host a fabulous movie spook-a-thon…

Pick a theme
One of the great things about hosting a Halloween movie night is that you can tailor it to suit just about any crowd simply by adjusting the movie theme. Halloween movies come in all sorts of styles and genres, from bloody gore-fests and creepy psychological thrillers to classic kiddie animations and lighthearted comedies. You can choose mainstream blockbusters or indie arthouse gems; go for thrills and scares, or aim for laughs and nostalgia. So the first thing to figure out, once you’ve set your mind to hosting your film fest, is what movies you’re going to show. Choose two or three flicks that relate to one another, and that are likely to go over well with your particular group of pals. A few themed ideas to get you started …

Zombies! | Any of George Romero’s Dead films (Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead), Evil Dead 2, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil
I vant to suck your blood (classic vamps) | Nosferatu, Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula
I vant to suck your blood (hipster vamps) | From Dusk till Dawn, Blade, Underworld
Straight outta hell | Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen
Psycho killer (qu’est-ce que c’est) | Halloween, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th
Boo! (funny ghosts) | Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice
Boo! (scary/creepy ghosts) | The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, Poltergeist
Halloweenies (non-scary, family-friendly fun) | The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Sinful sweets and savory treats
With feature films decided upon, it’s time to start thinking food. Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without indulging in some sugary-sweet treats. As kids, we had to schlep door-to-door begging for our candy; all grown up now, getting to that sugar high-inducing goodness is a whole lot easier … just mosey on over to the store, and load up the shopping basket. For your fright night movie-fest, then, you’ll want to make sure to stock up on everyone’s favorite Halloween sweets. Fun-sized Halloween candy bars are, of course, a must; you can also set out bowls of candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, and gummy worms. Meanwhile, if you’re planning any homemade sweet yummies, make sure to go with grab-and-go foods that can be easily consumed while schlumped on the sofa or floor watching a movie. Now is not the time for fancy cakes and pastries that require a fork and knife and steadily balanced plate; think sturdy cookies and cupcakes, foods you can eat with your hands.

Because we’re all about the balanced meal, a few salty nibbles should also be provided. Movie night pretty much demands popcorn; offer both a plain buttered-and-salted version and a hellishly hot Fires From Hell Halloween-inspired version as well. Toasted, salted pumpkin seeds also make a tasty and seasonally appropriate savory snack.

Meanwhile, if you’re starting the movie marathon relatively early and a substantial meal is in order, I have one word for you: pizza. Whether you go with the take-out version or get all Martha Stewart and make your own, there’s no better food for getting folks through a long, lazy night in front of the television.

Fires of Hell Popcorn
Pop up a big batch of unflavored popcorn, whether your preferred method is microwave or stovetop doesn’t matter. For every 10 cups or so of popcorn, mix the following seasoning combo: 2 Tbsp. melted butter, 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder. Toss with the popcorn. Taste, adding salt and more seasoning as needed to suit your tastebuds.

The Great Pumpkin Cupcakes
The perfect accompaniment to that childhood Charlie Brown classic, or whenever you want a sweet-n-spiced Halloween treat.

1/2 cup (packed) of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled for 10 min.
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup of pumpkin puree

1 Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cupcake pan with paper liners.
2 Mix the sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla in a big bowl and whisk well. Stir in the pumpkin. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and stir well. Now pour about 1/3 of the dry ingredients at a time into the wet ingredients, stirring until just about combined, then adding more and repeating until the ingredients are all mixed. Don’t be overly zealous in your mixing.
3 Fill the lined cupcake cups. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed and a toothpick/skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost. Top with a mellowcreme pumpkin, or decorate however you like.

Cream cheese frosting
4 oz. cream cheese (generous 1/2 cup), room temp
4 Tbsp. butter, room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a mixer bowl, and blend just until fluffy.

spooky sippers
Now, naturally, you’ll need something to wash down all that candy and popcorn. So what’s the perfect beverage to accompany ghouls and goblins, spine-tingling terror and devilish delights? Red wine is the no-fuss choice, as its ruby hue goes perfectly with a night of gore, but you can also serve up cocktails in keeping with the theme of the movies at hand. Mix up a big pitcher of zombies for your walking-dead-fests or a crimson-hued vampire for a movie marathon featuring the blood-loving undead; shake up a few black devils for your night of movie e-vil or make some black cats for a witchy-themed shindig. For the non-drinkers in your group, offer red beverages like cranberry juice, pomegranate juice and fruit punch, or go with a big jug or two of fresh apple cider.

To costume or not to costume? Tell folks to show up in an old costume if they like, but reinforce that no big efforts are necessary, and that showing up in regular old street clothes is fine too. Meanwhile, dig out any remnants from Halloween costumes past, whether it’s wigs, masks, funny hats, or feather boas. Have them out and about for anyone who might be in need of some masquerading.

a little ambience
Ambience, as any decent horror movie director knows, is what primes the audience for those big scary screams. Dim light, a murky fog, a suggestive silhouette, a dissonant tune playing softly in the background: it’s the little details that can make all the difference in the world. So as you’re making the final preparations for your movie night, spare a moment or two to ready your surrounds.

As one of the prime draws of a Halloween movie night is that it’s a low-key alternative to full-blown costume parties, there’s no need to go too nuts with decking out your digs. Instead, concentrate your efforts on spooking out the key areas: namely the TV, and the food table. This can be as simple as draping dining/coffee table and TV cart in black sheets or fabric, adding some orange or purple string lights, and maybe accenting the whole shebang with a carved jack-o-lantern. If you’re dying to pull out your collection of kitschy Halloween décor, though, by all means go all out with plastic spiders and fake skeletons.

Of course, on the more logistical side of decking out your pad in preparation for your party, you’ll want to make sure that there’s plenty of seating around the television. Rearrange sofas and armchairs as necessary, pull in as many pillows and blankets as you can dig up in case some folks need to get comfy on the floor.

With just these few small touches to ensure the proper fright night mood and seating comfort, you’ll be ready to settle in for a nice long evening of Halloween movie fun. Turn the lights down low, fire up the DVD player, and enjoy.

run screaming this way!


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