The Witching Hour is Nigh!

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Some of you may be getting dressed up around about now, some of you might be stuffing your face pre-emptively with sweets and some of you are getting cosy and planning to watch Hocus Pocus (I know I am 😉). Wherever you are, I think we can all agree that we need some spooctacular book recommendations! And what better topic than talking about *witches*? Yup- I’m giving you a list of some of my favourite witchy books! (NB I had to resist the urge to not just tell you to reread Harry Potter, cos obviously that’s an option… but I guess I kinda just did that… ah well 😉) Without further ado, pick up your broomsticks and let’s get this kicked off!

wicked deep

Wicked Deep– one of my favourite spooky reads last year, this spellbinding, atmospheric read with a historical edge definitely cast its spell over me!

winter of the witch

Winter of the Witch– such a captivating series set in medieval Rus! Though I could’ve picked any of the books in this series, but this is where Vasya has fully come into her powers, journeys through Midnight and shines in her greatest glory. This is how to tell a witchy tale!

witch's daughter

The Witch’s Daughter– this fantastical take on historical fiction was fun and brimming with entertainment!

crucible

The Crucible– if you’re on the hunt for something about the Salem witch trials, then look no further! Well, I say that, but this isn’t really about that at all 😉 It’s very intense and will transport you in time though!

circe

Circe– there’s something utterly bewitching about this book- it’s the perfect retelling of Odysseus, the characters shine and the writing is exquisite. Most importantly for this list, it has one of the most unique takes on witches I have ever seen.

northern lights

Northern Lights– speaking of unique takes, everything about Lyra’s Oxford (and extended world) is different and interesting. So, it’s no surprise that his take on witches is *brilliant*.

doomspell

Doomspell– I always vividly remember this book as well for its *stand out* witches. Although, be prepared for things to get a little creepier… And on that note…

thewitches

The Witches– yes, this list wouldn’t be complete without Dahl’s Witches. Terrifying to adults and children alike, these are the kinds of witches to keep you up at night!

chronicles of narnia

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe– another absolute *classic* book starring a witch! In this case, the White Witch is the epitome of evil, enticing you in with Turkish Delight… only to try and turn you to stone if she gets the chance!

good omens book

Good Omens– of course, however, if you (like me) prefer your spooky reads not-so-spooky, then look no further. This quirky and hilarious book has everything spooky from witches to the devil to the four horseman of the apocalypse… and yet miraculously manages to be a good time!

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Equal Rites– sticking with the fun vibes, this was one of the first Discworld books I ever read and it completely charmed me! The humour and the characters were top notch- and this is definitely a great starting point for people looking for some girl power! And just so you know, the series gets better and better! (Maskerade is probably my favourite!) Pratchett always draws brilliantly on classics as well, which brings me to…

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Macbethhubble bubble toil and trouble… this is the quintessential play with witches! Whether you’ve seen it/read it/heard about it vaguely- you can’t go wrong with this ambitious drama!

worst witch

The Worst Witch– and finally, I thought the best way to end out this list would be to talk about a fun family friendly witch… who happens to not be very good at it. Though she may not fail in the Shakespearean sense, it’s rather comforting (and hella entertaining) to read about a heroine who struggles to *shine* and whose finest quality is her big heart.

And that’s all I’ve got for tonight! Have you read any of these? Do you have any other witchy reads to add? Let me know in the comments! And Happy Halloween!

Classic Spooky Reads that *Gave Me the Shivers*

spooktacular reads

Hello all! Just a quick post today to celebrate spooktober! In the last year (and beyond), I’ve been reading quite a few classic spooky read and some of them really hit the spot (and by hit the spot, I mean made my blood run cold, freaked me out and made me duck under my duvet for cover!) Here’s some books you may have heard of that really live up to the hype:

we have always lived in a castle

We Have Always Lived in a Castle– oh man, Shirley Jackson reallllly nailed the creepy vibes with this one. The mystery builds and builds and you don’t get total closure… which is exactly how it should be in the best scary stories! Speaking of which…

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Turn of the Screw– this is one of the *best* gothic tales I’ve ever read and there are multiple ways to read it. Ambiguous, brilliantly written and so terrifying I had to turn on my big lights so I could finish it!

the woman in black

The Woman in Black– ooh this one was freaky! This ghost story will definitely keep you up at night. An unsettling mist descends from the moment I turned the first page and doesn’t let up until long after you’ve turned the last. I’m just hoping she never makes an appearance in my life…

rebecca

Rebecca– on the note of enigmatic women, the titular character is too dead to make an appearance in this book, yet that doesn’t stop her making her presence felt 😉 This book has a hint of the gothic and is a wonderfully atmospheric read!

haunting of hill house

Haunting of Hill House– this was another solid book from Shirley Jackson and perfect if you’re too chicken to check out the Netflix version (like me 😉)

wieland

Wieland– this is a weird book… and yet isn’t that perfect for this time of year? A strangely captivating gothic tale, I was taken aback the first time I read it and it still haunts me to this day.

confessions

Confessions of a Justified Sinner– this mad little Scottish classic is a hidden gothic gem and guaranteed to take you to a dark place… which of course meant I had to include it 😉

frankenstein

Frankenstein– in many ways, this isn’t as scary as the other stories on this list. While it does venture into the subject of monsters, it’s more about humanity and hubris and the terrible things we’re capable of… so in many ways it’s the scariest book on this list by far.

jekyll and hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– coming back to London, this classic tale is pure entertainment and a sign that sometimes the darkest creatures can be closer to home than we think…

And on that note, I’ll be bringing this list to an end… *MWHAHAHAHA*! Don’t know if that’s the most appropriate place for a “MWHAHAHAHA”… Moving swiftly on! Have you read any of these? Do you love any classic scary stories? Let me know in the comments!

Halloween Creatures Book Tag!

Yes, that’s right! Halloween is upon us and it’s time for some spooky fun!! Even though it’s been ages since I’ve done a tag, I can never resist doing a creepy, themed one for All Hallows Eve! So buckle up, cos it’s gonna get freaky 😉 (or, you know, not, cos I don’t really do scary 😉 )

Thank you so much to the lovely Dany @Perspective of a Writer, the wonderful Mel @Meltotheany, the fantastic Raven @Dreamy Addictions and the great Samantha @Modern Witch’s Bookshelf for tagging me! You guys are the greatest! (and seriously- check out their blogs, cos they’re all amazing!!)

Rules

  • Answer all prompts.
    • Answer honestly.
    • Tag 1-13 people.
    • Link back to this post.
    • Remember to credit the creator. (Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward)
    • Have fun!

Witch: A magical character or book

Gonna start off with something fun here and go with Witches Abroad! In my totally biased opinion, the Discworld is one of the most magical and unique universes out there!

Werewolf: The perfect book to read at night

Bear and the Nightingale– cos I like to be cosy (and not spooked out!) I also think fairy tales and retellings are such a great thing to read before bed! (yes I am aware I’m sounding like an absolute kid right now!)

Frankenstein: A book that truly shocked you

Titus Andronicus– Even though I knew a huge amount of what happens going in, it still managed to knock me for six!

The Devil: A dark or evil character

Jacob Black- yeah, I’m going there- however much I dislike Sparkles the Creepy Vampire Stalker, it’s always crazy to me that there was ever a Team Jacob. The guy *literally* sexually assaults a girl that rejected him and refuses to take no for an answer. And if that wasn’t enough, he then develops a paedophilic obsession with her daughter. Yeahhh Jacob’s going straight to bookish hell.

Grim Reaper: A character that never should have died

You know who I mean. It just felt like such a waste- a heart-wrenching, devastating waste.

Zombie: A book that made you hungry for more

WHERE IS WINDS OF WINTER?!?! (and my dragons)

Gargoyle: A character that you would protect at all cost

Always gonna be Baz 😉 (not that he needs my help!) Only, this book makes me go gaga for him!

Vampire: A book that sucked the life out of you

It was sooooo dull. I could barely gather the energy to pick it up, so I eventually DNF’d it. But it still managed to throw me into the longest slump I’ve ever had- which is the bookworm equivalent of being undead.

Ghost: A book that still haunts you

THIS BOOK BROKE ME!

Demon: A book that really scared you

I know I scare easily, but this book FREAKED ME OUT!

Skeleton: A character you have a bone to pick with

I only finished this recently and really none of the characters made much sense to me- but I was especially flummoxed by *all* the main character’s decisions. I have so many questions for her that go something like: whyyywhatwho were you doing this all for?!

Mummy: A book you would preserve throughout time

I’d love to go store this somewhere, I dunno, like a cemetery of forgotten books- it seems appropriate somehow 😉

Creepy Doll: A cover too scary to look at

Gotta be one of the Miss Peregrine books- but to be super original I’m gonna go with the Hollow City one- kinda makes me want to *run away*!!

The Monster Mash- It’s fun to be with friends on Halloween! Tag your friends!

Kat, Way Too Fantasy, Zezee, Raistlin, J. W. Martin, Kelly and Lit Lemon Books

That was fun! What do you think? And which book has haunted you the longest? Let me know in the comments!

Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts (literally 4 months guys!) so some of you might have forgotten what they’re about or maybe they’re completely new to you. Basically, I love to chat about different writing styles and encourage people to view alternative styles as something that may appeal to different tastes (instead of seeing them as inherently “good” or “bad”). If you’d like to see more of my posts in this series, feel free to check these out:

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4

Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5

All that said, today’s post is going to be a little different. Because, given how prominent this technique is in certain genres, I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to get in some good recs for Halloween. So for a change, this post is going to (mostly) focus on creepy characters and unsettling reads. Tis the season for some spookiness, after all 😉

Unreliable Narrators Defined

the-odysseyUnreliable narrators are those that can’t (or won’t) tell story objectively. The term is a relatively new one, as it was coined by Booth in 1961, however the use of such a character actually extends back to the dawn of Western literature. The lord of lies himself, Odysseus, is a great example of a character whose overinflated ego causes him to exaggerate and expand upon his exploits. Little character flaws can be used to manipulate the narrative and distance the reader from the truth of the tale.

gone-girl-PBSince the evolution of the term, much work has been done in the literary criticism world to explore this technique. This is why unreliable narration works so well. Types of unreliable narrators have been classified by the likes of William Riggan ie in his work: Pícaros, madmen, naïfs, and clowns (Picaros = boasters, naifs = immature narratures). One way I like to divide it up is into the fault of the narrator and the narrator merely being a victim of circumstance. If we look at a book like Gone Girl, we have two unreliable narrators creating a toxic environment for themselves and consequently causing the drama in their lives (which becomes the plot). On the other end of the spectrum, there are narrators like Pi in The Life of Pi, who, through no fault of their own, experience a severely traumatic event and slant the narrative through that perspective.

stolenNow, for the most part, this centres on first person narration- though there are rare occasions when it could be used for second or third person. The best example of a second person narration where the story is told through an unreliable lens is Stolen, where the narrator addresses her kidnapper and it’s increasingly clear has some form of Stockholm syndrome. Otherwise, unreliable narrators can incorporate some second person to break the fourth wall, such as in Notes from the Underground. Unreliable third person narration is a little trickier to pull off- because the author really has to pull a fast one on their readership. a_monster_callsThis would be something like a twist akin to a Sixth Sense where spoiler alert Bruce Willis’ character is a ghost all along. I rarely see this sort of thing in books, but one example I’ve seen lately was in Safe Haven where, again spoiler alert, her friend was a ghost all along. This part of the book didn’t actually work so well for me, because frankly it felt like too much of a curveball. Yet arguably books like A Monster Calls, though more ambiguous in whether they’re unreliable or not, could be a more positive example of how third person unreliable narration in action.

Like I said, there’s been a lot of research into this area, so there’s more I could say on this definitions-wise, yet I think some of those subject fit more into the…

Pros:

(and what you’re here for- the examples! No spoilers except to say that there are unreliable narrators present)

EnglebyMost obviously, unreliable narration is perfect for creating bold plot twists. There’s a reason why it’s very popular in thrillers, for example. A favourite of mine will always be Engleby (a book that’s seriously underrated nowadays) where the clever characterisation of the main character drives the story forward.

 

name of the windOf course, one of the best things about unreliable narration is its power to create amazing characters. And not just the psychos of storyville, like Humbert Humbert. As previously mentioned, boasters also make up a huge number of unreliable narrators. Perfect for this time of year, I’d suggest the very atmospheric Name of the Wind. Kvothe, in my opinion, seems to warp some of the narrative to appear larger than life. Strong characterisation, in turn, is a powerful way to create voice.

woman in the windowIt can also be used to create another dimension to the story. This is exemplified in Woman in the Window, where it’s evident from the start that the main character has secrets and is slowly revealed through her backstory. We then come to see how parts of the narration were unreliable.

 

rebeccaStructurally, this also creates other sides to the story. Books with unreliable narration can often incorporate flashbacks for instance. Or unreliable clues might be given through suspicious characters in the story- such as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca. This can create a fantastic Russian Doll effect of hiding clues within the story. Which leads me onto my main pro…

confessionsIt turns the reader into a detective. It can be brilliant fun trying to figure out where the truth lies and piecing together that oh, hang on a minute, this narrator has been taking me for a ride. Dodgy actions (it dawning on the reader that a character that commits murder isn’t to be trusted), unclear accounts (what’s not included can be a massive hint that something’s up) and the reactions of other characters can all help us figure this out (critic Nunning also explores the signs of unreliable narration in more depth). We can also find ourselves to be victims of a savagely dishonest narrator- which lends to a scary feel- such as in Confessions of a Justified Sinner or even Yellow Wallpaper. Yet, what’s great about both of those, is that we can’t be sure that in either of those everything we’ve been told was untrue. Which brings me to the fact that…

turn of the screw 2Unreliable narrators can create a sense of ambiguity. A lot of the time, we may be left wondering if they were reliable at all, and if they were, how unreliable were they? This can lead to a great deal of uncertainty- which lends to an uncanny feel and can be an excellent way to create mood. The Turn of the Screw is one of the best examples of this technique in action- we never get an answer to whether the book is supernatural or not. Being on uneven ground can be one of the most potent devices for scary stories. Nonetheless, there are some drawbacks to this.

Cons:

Atonement_(novel)On the flipside, placing the reader on unsure footing can put some readers off. Some people might want clear answers and be dissatisfied if the story is left open-ended. And while it can make some standout characters, it can also make for some truly detestable mcs, like Briony in Atonement. Naturally, unreliable narrators don’t belong in every story or genre- readers might dislike being taken advantage of by a peculiar twist. In fact, if it does feel out of place, it can feel cheap.

Accounting for Different Tastes

As you might be able to tell, I struggled with the cons section. Obviously, this technique isn’t great if misused and I know some people aren’t keen on some specific books that use this technique- but I find it hard to see why anyone would be wholly against it. Personally, I see it as a way of showing how complex people are. It doesn’t help that I’m often overly suspicious and *always* suspect first person narrators of something- after all, didn’t House teach us:

everybody lies house

That’s why I can be dissatisfied with books where I expect there to be an unreliable narrator and they aren’t (which may or may not be a teaser for my next review 😉 ). So while I understand that people don’t necessarily like reading from the perspective of shitty people or might be scared off the genres they’re in, I’m curious to hear why some people might not like this at all and would love to hear some reasons why people hate it.

So I’ll pass the question off to you- do you like or dislike unreliable narrators? And if you’re a fan, who are some of your favourite unreliable narrators? Let me know in the comments!

My House

In the spirit of this spooktacular season, I’ve decided to do something daring today by sharing a short story I wrote recently- enjoy!

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They were in my house. Setting the floorboards creaking, going where they pleased. I could hear them, carelessly clattering about down there, redirecting the furniture, chattering about this or that. The sound penetrated the cosseted safety of my abode; their presence plucked on my nerves and sent them a-tingling.

It wasn’t right. The place was historic- Georgian I recalled- possibly listed. They should have known better- still that didn’t seem to stop folk moving whatever wasn’t nailed down. That didn’t stop them desecrating the decades-old dust with their footprints.

I could hear them laughing now. Marvelling at some feature or another, their delight gliding round the ballroom like a child at play. Oh I was well and truly woken from my slumber. Nothing could keep me abed.

Had they no respect? I wondered, taking two steps at a time, thundering on the stairs loud enough to wake the dead. Soon I was upon them.

They didn’t see me at first- they never do. But they heard the door slam and startled like little birds. I almost wanted to reassure them- almost. Instead I looked them up and down- trying to calculate their worth from their peculiarly tight clothes and sharp angled haircuts- assessing their tells with my weary gaze. I crooked my neck, trying to get a better view, my eyes half failing me: a man and a woman. One of them holding a bright rectangle of light in their hand like a torch. That was a new one, I mused. Beyond that they were murky smudges.

“Who are you?”

The male was the one to speak. His voice was shaky, a rust to the command, clearly from disuse.

I sighed. I could have asked them the same question. Indeed there was a time when I might have. Was it a realtor or a blustery wind that had brought them to my door? Did they think they were going to stay? There was a time when I thought I cared for such details- but that time was gone.

“Who are you?” the brave soul repeated.

That was a good question. I pondered how I might answer. I wondered how I appeared to them, in the white nightgown I never changed out of- not since that night…

A rush of feelings came over me, as it always did when I thought about it. Red hot and white cold all at once. Like being dunked in ice cold water and held under three seconds too long, as your legs kicked and lungs burned for breath. Like seeing someone you trust, naked with someone else. Like getting a glimpse of the traitorous blade that would end your life just before it did and knowing, knowing you could have prevented all this.

I funnelled that rage into my scream:

“What-are-you-doing-in-my-house-!”

It wasn’t a question and they knew it. Trembling before me like leaves in autumn, clinging to the tree of life, right before winter ripped them off and cast them to decay. They knew there was no escaping the storm I summoned. They had unwittingly stepped into the tornado’s path and heavens knew there was no place to shelter. I shook the very foundations of the house. The bright object fell from the man’s grasp, and smashed to the ground. We all fell into darkness. All that could be heard was a scream muffled through sweaty hands.

I heard that all too human sound and would have stopped- had it not been so long since I had made that sound myself. But my hatred had a will of its own. It tore the remaining paintings from the wall, it shook the chandeliers one screw looser, it flung the broken mirrors in the air. Shattered glass collided with flesh and my thoughts turned to redecorating as a crimson stain splattered onto the wall.

Damnation, I cursed, my calm returning as I witnessed the carnage around me. I would have to wait for the bodies to turn a little before attempting to move them- hopefully no one would come looking for them a while yet… It would so destroy my rather tranquil mood if they brought people sniffing out their rotting corpses- theirs or the others. Let’s hope no one took a peek down the dumbwaiter.

But I supposed this would be a problem for another day. I span on my heels and went back to bed.

*****

Somewhere in the distance the clock chimed again. No, not a clock chiming- a bell. Someone was ringing the bell. I tensed, drawing my linen closer, not knowing their next move, too scared to trail my bare feet out the sheets- until I knew for sure. Until the dull thud of that tricky front door opening gave them away. They were in my house…

Okay so short stories are not my usual forte- but I hope that was at least a little entertaining!

Hocus Pocus Tag

hocus pocus tag

So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I *love* Hocus Pocus- so much so that I watch it annually #sorrynotsorry. That’s why I was ridiculously excited to be tagged by the lovely Never Not Reading (and the creator of this awesome tag!)- thank you so much!! Her blog is really brilliant and covers a huge array of topics, tags and reviews- so I highly recommend checking her out!

Rules:

There are no rules. It’s YOUR blog. But if would be nice if you linked back to me, and maybe the person who tagged you too. Share the love folks.

The Sanderson Sisters

A great trilogy.

sanderson sisters

I don’t even care that I’ve used this answer a million times before- Sabriel is just incredible! Plus it’s about necromancy, so it’s really appropriate for this tag.

Winifred Sanderson

A book with a truly evil female villain.

winifred sanderson

Oh gosh- great question! I’m gonna go with Cersei Lannister, cos man, I love to hate her (plus she’s so morally ambiguous that some people don’t even see her as a villain)

Sarah Sanderson

A book that uncannily attracts children.

sarah sanderson

Okay, I’m going for pretty young children, but I don’t know any child that doesn’t like the Gruffalo (or maybe that’s just cos like the Gruffalo 😉 )

Mary Sanderson

A book that is just plain silly.

mary sanderson

I’m going with The Owl and the Pussycat, because the Owl and the pussycat went to see in a beautiful pea green boat… It’s pure nonsense and I love it.

Max

A book that is trying really hard to be cool, but doesn’t always succeed.

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Gosh there’s loads I could put here- I’m going to pick something that’s likely to offend a ton of people and say Divergent, cos I feel like no matter how edgy it tried to be with that concept, it was less Hollister/Abercrombie (or whatever the cool kids are wearing now) and more like a ratty old jumper- if you pulled one of the loose strings it all fell apart. And I know a lot of people think it was the “hipster of books” by doing dystopia before it was cool, but it actually was just the first book to jump on the trend after Hunger Games (just look at the publication dates)

Dani

A book that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

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I’m going to say Jude the Obscure because you can’t beat a little 19th century realism- although, since one of the things it deals with is mental health, and not in a “sensitive” way as so many people are pleading for nowadays, a lot of people will not agree with me here. Still if you do want authenticity, then look no further. (If you want kittens and rainbows and whatnot, maybe don’t read Hardy, or books with depression in them for that matter)

Binx

A book series that just won’t die.

binx

I really have no one to blame but myself for keeping this one alive (cos I keep stupidly buying the darn books) but #sorrynotsorry I’ve had enough of the Shadowhunter books. They’re literally the same thing, rehashed over and over, only by the time it gets to “Dark” Artifices the villains are lamer *sarcastic yayyy*.

Ice

A book with a character that’s dumb as a rock.

ice hocus pocus

I’m gonna pick the main character in the Testing series, specifically because she is *supposed* to be smart and I have never seen a supposedly smart character make so many dumb decisions. Seriously authors- it’s not enough to label a character as clever if you’re then gonna make them an idiot!

The Black Flame Candle

A book or series you wish you could resurrect. 

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Well I just checked on Goodreads, and can’t understand why the Wind Singer series only has c.15,000 ratings- it’s seriously amazing!!

Headless Billy Butcherson

A book that’s not so bad as people make it out to be.

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Hehe this is hard for me, cos I rarely like books that other people hate, but I do think that Catcher in the Rye gets a bad rap. I mean it’s definitely got a hateable main character, so I can understand why it divides people into “love it” or “hate it” camps, but it’s still an objectively well executed book (okay, I may be biased, since I’m in the love it camp)

Winifred Sanderson’s Spell Book

A book with a mind of its own.

spell book

Hmm anything by Tim Bowler to be honest. He’s a complete pantser (no, I don’t mean he pants, I mean the totally-technical term of writing by the seat of his pants) so everything I’ve ever read by him starts very dramatically then tends to meander off into the weirdest and most unexpected directions. Sometimes it’s good, but a lot of the time it’s just very, very bad.

Garry Marshall

A book with a cameo.

garry marshall

One thing I actually *love* about the Iron Fey series is how it manages to incorporate lots of characters straight out of Shakespeare and mythology- like Mab, Titania, and Puck- without making them lousy and pathetic (as so many YA interpretations seem to do). I actually find the cameos in this work really well and add, rather than detract, to the main characters and lore of the world building.

I’m tagging: Alanna, Keira, Kat, The Bookish Underdog, All Bout Them Books, My Musing, Quirky Book Nerd, Upside Down Books, and Melting Pots and Other Calamities

And now I think I might go watch Hocus Pocus for the umpteenth time… what movies do you like to watch at Halloween? Let me know in the comments!