We’ve already had our share of real-life horrors this year, but the most boo-tiful scares are still to come with Halloween—a time for spooky movies, bone-chilling books and haunted houses.
We asked Edmonton author Marty Chan, author of young adult novel Haunted Hospital, to recommend some of his favourite scary films and books for your family’s hair-raising needs.
DAWN OF THE DEAD
Zombies take over the U.S. in this 1978 classic by George A. Romero. “I’m a big zombie movie fan,” Chan says. “I think I’ve watched Dawn of the Dead 30 to 40 times—I like the slow realization that the life you embraced is now irrevocably changed. To me, thematically and politically, Dawn of the Dead has a great storyline. Yeah, the zombies are the monsters, but the true villians in any zombie movie are the other humans—because they turn on each other.”
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
Three student filmmakers go missing while investigating the legend of a local witch, leaving behind some shaky, grainy footage as the only clues to their fate. This groundbreaking 1999 movie was made for less than a million dollars and went on to gross nearly $250 million worldwide. “The video was originally passed around Hollywood as if it were really ‘found footage’—there were no credits or anything—and people would hand off bootleg copies of the video to each other,” Chan says. “I thought it was great the way they created this whole pseudo-reality. Of course, everyone and their dog has now used this technique, including a Canadian film called Grave Encounters.”
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HOUSE OF LEAVES
This 2000 novel, written by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a mix of horror, romance and metaphysics—with a dash of inspiration from Britain’s beloved sci-fi TV series, Doctor Who. “This family moves to a house and they discover that the dimensions of the house inside are larger than they are outside—so it’s kind of like the Tardis, the time machine from Doctor Who,” Chan says. “House of Leaves was just unsettling to read and I remember it stuck with me for the longest time.”
A mysterious man shows up in a small Saskatchewan town around the same time as children start to vanish in Robert Slade’s award-winning 2001 novel for young adults. Think of it as the Pied Piper on the prairies. “The man visits towns and promises to bring rain,” Chan says. “It’s dark and intense. I read it when I first started writing kids’ books. I thought: ‘Ooh, this is what young adult fiction can be? I can do this!’”
In Chan’s 16th novel, a group of pre-teens search for ghosts in an abandoned hospital. Inspiration for the book came from students as well as Edmonton’s long-abandoned Charles Camsell Hospital. “Every time I go into schools and talk to kids about scary stories, 99 percent of the time one of them mentions a haunted hospital,” Chan says. “So, I thought: ‘There’s gotta be something there!’ And I thought the Camsell would be the perfect setting.” Also check out Chan’s Keepers of the Vault series, a trilogy about a haunted school and a mysterious vault.
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