’Twas the (Arts)week before Halloween, and all through Isla Vista, not a student was surfing, not even a Cajé barista.

As students flock out of Isla Vista or hunker down for Halloween, here are the Artsweek staff’s top spooky media picks for your drive out of town or weekend in bed.


“The Blair Witch Project” (1999) 

Created by University of Central Florida film students in 1999, one of the most successful independent films ever, “The Blair Witch Project,” is the first horror film I ever watched and the reason why my dad and I sat down once a week to watch a new one. Filmed like a documentary combined with an improvised script, it follows the story of three college students who embark into the Oregon woods to find the Blair Witch. As most horror movies go, the quest for the witch turns down a dangerously supernatural road. The three disappear and the movie is essentially the “found footage” of the college students. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 1999, and to make it as real as possible, the creators decided to put up missing person posters for the three actors following the film’s premiere. 

– Stella Mullin, Artsweek Editor 

“Coraline” (2009) 

No Halloween is complete without a viewing of Laika studio’s first feature film, “Coraline” (2009), directed by Henry Selick, the visionary behind “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993). The movie is based on a novella of the same name by Neil Gaiman about a spunky Coraline Jones, who finds herself in the dangerous “Other World.” “Coraline” is done entirely in claymation, utilizing a dark visual style making it impossible to look away from. This beautifully twisted fantasy-horror has a wide appeal for it is just creepy enough without the jump scares or horror tropes that would keep you up at night. It utilizes phenomenal world-building and a witty, rootable protagonist which thrusts the viewer into the story. And even after watching, there are a plethora of fan theories to read up on. It is perfect in both a visual and narrative sense, making “Coraline” a must-watch. 

– Sally Shapiro, Staff Writer

“Skinamarink” (2022) 

Don’t be fooled by this seemingly innocent nursery rhyme title. In Kyle Edward Ball’s directorial debut, “Skinamarink” (2022) is a film that will transport you to the screen, making you feel as helpless as the characters. The movie follows two siblings after they realize their father has mysteriously disappeared. As the night progresses, objects in the house begin to rearrange and vanish. With barely audible dialogue that requires subtitles and shots often focused on the floor and walls, this unique approach to horror leaves you holding your breath. After gaining viral traction, the film was the subject of multiple fan theories, adding another layer to this tense thriller. Need a good scare? “Skinamarink” will take you back to when your worst fear was the dark.

– Lea Vasquez, Reporter


“Haunted House” (Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 4)

Ryan Murphy’s iconic 2015 comedy “Scream Queens” is home to one of the funniest Halloween episodes in television history. The episode opens with a montage of Kappa Kappa Tau sorority president Chanel Oberlin, played by Emma Roberts, delivering Halloween gifts to her fans in what she calls “Chanel-O-Ween.” The rest of the episode follows the main plotline of the season: a sorority house targeted by the Red Devil killer and the chaos that ensues as they try to stop the murders. But if horror’s not your thing, “Haunted House” is worth watching just for the opening montage. Rumored to be a spoof of singer Taylor Swift’s “Swiftmas,” Chanel’s dedicated fans scream in excitement over bloody hands and razor apples. The montage acts as hilarious satire and pays homage to the countless YouTube vlogs from its time. It’s hilariously horrifying.

– Lauren Chiou, Artsweek Editor

“Halloween” (New Girl, Season 2 Episode 6)

In this witty Halloween episode of “New Girl,” the spookiest thing you’re going to encounter is a clingy ex-girlfriend and a situationship that “doesn’t have time for a girlfriend right now.” As a lively Jess Day is working at a haunted house as a “sexy, undead Driver’s Ed teacher,” she invites her roommates, as well her current ‘friend-with-benefits,’ Sam Sweeney.  As she tries hopelessly to not catch feelings for him, Nick Miller grapples with an ex-girlfriend, who is even spookier than the characters in the haunted house. The group’s costumes range from Ninja Turtles to Abraham Lincoln, and this episode is full of more laughs than frights. Anyone looking for the perfect Halloween vibes without actual scary content is looking in the perfect place with this entertaining sitcom. 

– Avery Stanley, Staff Writer


“Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads

With lyrics imitating the thoughts of a serial killer, Talking Heads’ first hit, the wave/funk rock song “Psycho Killer” released on their debut album “Talking Heads: 77” is the perfect creepy Halloween addition to a fall playlist. “Coincidentally” released around the same time as the Son of Sam killings, the song is notoriously related to them, making it even creepier and more intune with the serial killer lyrics. Tina Weymouth’s catchy bass at the beginning (which then leads the rest of the song) immediately draws you into it, and the bridge with David Byrne’s strange, deep vocals and Chris Frantz’s drumming makes it evident why the song is their most popular. It stands at 430 million streams on Spotify and is definitely worth a listen (if you haven’t had the pleasure already). 

– Stella Mullin, Artsweek Editor

“Season of the Witch” covered by Lana Del Rey, originally by Donovan

“Season of the Witch” is Lana Del Rey at her finest, which happens to be her spookiest as well. The track serves as a cover of the original song of the same name by Donovan and was created for the 2019 film “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” The backing instrumental of this cover has a more sultry twang to it, incorporating a novel warbly sound that perfectly fits the haunting tone. Perhaps the most impressive part of the song is the bridge and outro. Lana perfectly utilizes her iconic breathy vocals as she repeats “Must be the season of the witch,” layering and building off her own voice to curate a dark and mysterious vibe. It’s the perfect song to get yourself in the Halloween spirit.

– Lauren Chiou, Artsweek Editor

“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” by David Bowie

“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” by the iconic David Bowie is everything and more you could ask for to help channel the Halloween mood. As the title song off of Bowie’s 14th studio album “Scary Monsters” has an intense beat, strong guitar line and some amazing percussive elements.  Bowie even uses vocal modulation at times to create an intense, chilling feeling.  The main line from the chorus that is repeated over and over is “Scary monsters, super creeps / Keep me running, keep me scared.” This song is upbeat, full of energy and perfect for anyone trying to encapsulate the feeling of heading into the cold of night on Halloween.  

– Avery Stanley, Staff Writer

“Mx. Sinister” by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me

When discussing the perfect soundtrack for Halloween, indie-pop project I Don’t Know How But They Found Me provides some of the best songs, with “Mx. Sinister” being a prime example. The song features a psychotic lover who is so obsessed with their love interest that they stalk and beg them to reciprocate their love. The song utilizes distinct instrumentals which are highlighted in the bass line, creating a spooky and distinct sound. Similarly, lead singer Dallon Weekes uses a deep and mysterious sounding vocal tone to add an unsettling layer to the song. Weekes repeats, “And I’ll get you yet (I’ll get you yet) / I’ve got to make you mine” to portray this psychotic main character and their never ending determination to make this person love them. TSimilarly, the lyric “Oh, you never seem to notice that my heart beats for you / So I’ll open you up, and make yours beat for me too” paints a particularly graphic image of this person going to unnerving lengths to make their lover reciprocate their feelings. 

– Diana Mateescu, Staff Writer


“Misery” by Stephen King 

Few books are more suspenseful than the highly awarded and revered horror novel, “Misery” by famed author Stephen King. Following a writer who is held captive by his biggest fan, King creates a tense, nail-biting narrative. Every chapter leaves the audience on the edge of their seat with fear but still wanting more. Not only is it spooky, but it features a clever narrative full of symbolism and descriptive imagery that transports the reader. It is debatably one of, if not the best, Stephen King novel to date, referenced constantly in pop culture and even being turned into a critically acclaimed film adaptation in 1990 (winning Kathy Bates the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role). It’s the perfect book for hiding under the covers with a flashlight this Halloween. 

– Sally Shapiro, Staff Writer

“If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio 

Nostalgic, mysterious and full of shocking twists and complex characters, “If We Were Villains” is the ultimate dark academia novel, making it perfect for both fall and the start of the school year. Taking place at a vividly painted conservatory and centering around seven Shakespearean actors who all have secrets of their own, the novel is divided into acts and scenes among two timelines, making it a unique and engaging reading experience. With an emotional twist ending, “If We Were Villains” is a novel that has stuck with me for years and always comes to mind each time I feel an autumn chill or see the leaves change color. 

– Kyra Schimpf, Staff Writer