4 Things to Know about Wi-Fi Routers

They're small, they're compact, and they affect the entire outcome of a war. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about hobbits. It’s your Wi-Fi router.

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They're small, they're compact, and they affect the entire outcome of a war.

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about hobbits.

It’s your Wi-Fi router.

Wi-Fi, the wireless internet connection used in almost all homes and businesses, is made available through a Wi-Fi router. Most Wi-Fi customers get their Wi-Fi through the router provided by their ISP (internet service provider) or cable company. These do a good job of handling the basics of wireless uploading and downloading.

They’re not the worst routers out there. At the same time, they aren’t the best. They do an average job.

But there are brands out there producing above-average routers. You’ve probably already heard of their names; Asus, Netgear, D-Link, and Linksys.

There are more, and a quick search of PC Mag, CNet, and Tom’s Guide can give you a more thorough overview of the various and sundry brands out there.

The inevitable next question you’re thinking is “Which one’s the best?”

A Wi-Fi is essential these days for internet connectivity. This makes Wi-Fi routers essential, even if every home doesn't have one. ISPs and cable companies provide these as part of their basic package. There are some consumers out there who want something better though.

Should you decide to buy your own, you’ll have to make the decision based on a few factors. Near the top of the list would be cost and customer reviews. While there are some that cost more than others, it doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Your home, like you, is unique.

Don’t just go with the router that is labelled “the best” by a source that doesn’t know you.

That's like saying Frodo was the best hobbit.

You know, hobbits, from The Lord of the Rings.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, there were wizards, humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and dragons. The smallest of these creatures were the hobbits. These were the guys who were half the height of dwarves. Being that dwarves were half the height of humans, this made hobbits very, very short.

As a result, hobbits were seen as unimportant. Irrelevant even.

And the hobbits, as Tolkien explained, were happy with this. They were fine to stay in their part of the world and not bother with international politics. If the outside world didn't interfere with them, they would leave the outside world alone.

One such hobbit, Frodo Baggins, came into possession of the One Ring- the one thing that could decide whether good or evil prevailed.

And so Frodo, small and unimpressive, set out with his friends to take care of the ring. Journeying with him was Samwise Gamgee otherwise known as Sam, Peregrin Took aka Perry, and Meriadoc Brandybuck aka Merry. Each was unique with their own quirks and personality.

These four hobbits, though small and “irrelevant” ended up becoming the deciding factor in entire battle for the soul of the world; Merry would go on to help slay the Witch-King, Perry would play a vital role in distracting the leader of the evil forces, and Sam would help Fordo get all the way to Mt. Doom, where Frodo tossed the One Ring into open lava.

Peace was restored.

Not bad for four hobbits.

While it would be easy to say that Frodo was the best hobbit of all because he destroyed the One Ring, that’d be a little presumptuous. He did have the hardest job, but without help from the other three, Frodo would have never gotten close to Mt. Doom.

It's okay then to prefer Sam, Merry, or Perry to Frodo. People have their reasons for liking one over the other. Just like they have their reasons for not choosing "the best" product out there.

Like when it comes to picking a Wi-Fi router.

Bands and Numbers

Before picking a router, take stock of your Wi-Fi needs at home.

For those using one device on a consistent basis, 5 Mbps is the download speed that works best for you. With that in mind, you can save some money by avoiding the higher end routers.

If you’re downloading content on multiple devices--like Netflix through your Apple TV and streaming a game on your PlayStation 4--getting a download speed of 45 Mbps is best to handle the larger amount of data going back and forth.

Knowing this will help you decide which router is best for your home.

For homes with light internet usage, a single-band router is best. For homes with heavy internet usage, a dual-band router would be best.

Single-band

Single-band routers use just one frequency.

This is great if you’re using a few devices throughout your home. They can handle the usual amount of data going back and forth.

The downside is the frequency they use, 2.4 GHz. This frequency is usually used by Bluetooth devices, microwaves, and wireless phones. Those devices can inadvertently disrupt your Wi-Fi signal.

The dual-band routers use the 2.4 GHz frequency and a second frequency of 5 GHz. That 5 GHz frequency is less common. This second frequency is better used for third-party devices, giving you a less-impeded channel to work with.

Dual-band routers are great for homes where multiple devices are downloading at once. You can even assign a channel to a specific device. And with more than one frequency in use, downloads can be performed simultaneously instead of one at a time.

As you would expect, dual-band routers are more expensive, so take that into account when you decide to purchase.

No matter the router you decide to buy, you’ll notice that all will come with a number and the letters “AC.”

AC refers to Wi-Fi protocol number, 802.11ac. AC is the version of the protocol in use. There’s 802.11b, 802.11m, and others. The letters denote the gradual improvements and modifications over previous versions.

When it comes to designing routers, the engineers involved decided to use this "AC" for labeling purposes. The AC is for the protocol number. 802.11ac indicates the level of the Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) the router is capable of. For example; Of all the data streaming through the router at one time, the projected maximum speed the router can handle is something like 1300 Mbps. You won’t get that speed exactly, but the router can hypothetically handle the volume of 1300 Mbps. Therefore, if you’re downloading 50 Mbps in one room and 30 Mbps in another, an AC1300 router will handle that just fine.

Of all the numbers on your router, look for the one that starts with “AC.” This is the best indicator of whether your router can handle the amount of data you plan to be downloading and uploading at one time.

The Brands

Now that we’ve gotten the numbers and bands bit out of the way, let’s talk about the brand themselves. All brands listed below come highly rated. This doesn’t mean they’re the top brands, but professional reviewers have marked them highly and on a consistent basis.

You can also check out the best brands after you’ve found the best internet providers in your zip code.

If you’re looking into a brand not listed, drop us a comment to let us know what you think, why you like/don’t like it, and whether you’d recommend it over the ones listed below.

You may have recognized the name from the laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other electronics. They’re the fifth largest PC vendor in the world. This means their products are a good alternative to Apple and Microsoft.

Their Wi-Fi routers are consistently ranking highly among review sites like PC Mag, CNet, and Tom’s Guide. While this may mean they’re a little bit more expensive than other brands, they’re worth the price tag to ensure your stream devices run smoothly.

Unlike Asus, Netgear focuses on networking hardware almost exclusively. This gives them an edge over their competition here. It does limit them a little bit when it comes to other products.

Taking the “D” from its founding company, Datex Systems, D-Link is also based out of Taipei along with Asus. Like Netgear, they focus solely on networking equipment.

Owned by Belkin, Linksys is a networking equipment company that creates networking equipment for consumers and small businesses. Unlike Asus, Netgear, and D-Link that provide business and enterprise networking solutions, Linksys prefers to keep it small.

One Brand to Rule Them All?

When it comes to reliability, Asus and Netgear rank the highest among their competitors. Brands like Linksys are generally cheaper and easier to use. And the rest will fall somewhere between the two.

This doesn’t mean one brand is the best out of every single one of them. That’s a choice that will b depend on your needs and well as what your home can accommodate.

So which brand do you prefer? Is there a brand that’s not listed here you think should be included?

Leave a comment and let us know.

In the meantime, stay up-to-date with On The Download.


Venom: Creepy Enough?

While I have yet to see Venom, I’m hoping what I’m hearing from critics is wrong. Then again, I’ve been disappointed by superhero films before. I’ve also been surprised. We’ll have to wait and see.

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While I have yet to see Venom, I’m hoping what I’m hearing from critics is wrong. Then again, I’ve been disappointed by superhero films before. I’ve also been surprised.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Best of the Bad

I’ve always liked the character of Venom. He was one of those unique villains, the ones you loved to hate and root against. However, you didn’t want them to die away completely.

You know, villains like Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Apocalypse.

Victor Von Doom, who would later become Dr. Doom, was a megalomaniac bent on world domination. He wanted to be 'The One Ruler of the Whole World.'

Then we have Magneto. As a Holocaust survivor, he’s seen the worst side of humanity. Being on the receiving end of that hatred led him to believe that humans are not fit to rule the planet, nor are they capable of even taking care of themselves. What’s a metal-bending mutant to do? Take over the world, of course.

We also have Apocalypse. (Not to the movie version. He was weak)

The comic book version was much more terrifying; He was born in ancient Egypt…let that sink in for a second.

This guy’s mutant power allowed him to live for millennia. He was born with grey skin and random blue lines. This terrified his tribe. As a result, they sought to kill him. Thanks to this lack of understanding, Apocalypse, known as En Sabbah Nur at the time, decided humans must be subjugated. Moreover, who better to do that than himself?

A theme among all these bad guys is the wounds, both physical and emotional, received from small-minded people. Instead of understanding that it was small-mindedness that caused this, they’ve decided ALL of humanity must pay. That anger becomes hatred, and that hatred is what drives them to do great and terrible things.

This drive also makes them scary.

Venom gets put in the same category as these guys.

Not because he wants to rule the world. In truth, Venom could care less who’s in charge of the world.

He wants only one thing- to eat.

Moreover, humans are the tastiest of foods available on the planet.

Venom


In his original debut, Venom was an alien symbiote. He’s not a mutant or something created in a lab. Well, in the Ultimate Universe he was, but that’s beside the point.

The point is, he didn’t come from earth. He just showed up.

Now, the symbiotes are different in that they need a host to survive. They bond with a nearby host, or they’ll most likely die. The Venom Symbiote bonded with the nearest candidate, and that was Spider-Man. However, thanks to Spidey’s strength of will and cunning, he separated himself from the thing.

Eddie Brock--arrogant, angry, forever scarred by an abusive father--was nearby and ended up bonding with the symbiote.

While I’m not sure how the movie handles it, and I’ve heard they could have done a better job, that’s the basic gist of how Brock bonded with Venom.

The two have been a pair for much of the character’s history. There were times when Venom was a good guy. There were times when he was tearing through cities and was nigh unstoppable.

Also, there was a time when an Anti-Venom existed. He was the opposite, even in color, to Venom.

Throughout it all, however, Venom wasn’t to be trusted. He could do good things from time to time, yet there was this feeling that he was just *this* close to losing it and tearing things up again.

While Tom Hardy was a great choice to play Eddie Brock/Venom, it remains to be seen if this incarnation will live on in the movies. If that happens then, by all means, keep Hardy. If not, then I suggest Scott Eastwood.

There is plenty of comic book fodder here to keep Venom going, even if it’s just the symbiotes themselves.

You see, Venom wasn’t alone.

A rare trait of this alien species was that they could reproduce asexually- meaning they merely “hatched” another symbiote.

Carnage

When Venom did hatch another symbiote, that one did the same thing and looked for a host to bond to.

The problem was that it bonded with Cletus Kasaday.

Cletus was a cellmate of Brock’s. When the Venom symbiote came to bust him out, it left something behind. That something bonded with Cletus.

Cletus, unlike Brock, was an unstable serial killer.

The pairing of the two led to a real problem for the Marvel Universe.

Instead of a symbiote that could be persuaded to be good, from time to time, Carnage was never interested in doing anything for the good of others. Cletus loved to kill people. Carnage wanted to eat. Carnage could eat while also equipping Cletus with a unique way of murdering others.

He continues to be a problem, mostly for Spider-Man. A few other heroes have had run-ins with the deranged hunter-killer as well. Now and then it looks as though they’ve captured him and put him away, but he always finds a way to escape.

When they do debut Carnage on the big screen, and they need to do it soon, I suggest Toby Kebbell for the role.

Interestingly enough, when it came time for Carnage to hatch another symbiote, he ended up picking someone who was almost his complete opposite.

Toxin

Patrick Mulligan was a New York City Police Officer and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carnage, looking to offload his new symbiote, placed it in Mulligan, and left, thinking the problem was solved. If that were true, then there’d be no story and no reason to keep reading the comic. Luckily for the readers, and not Cletus, there was a problem.

When the symbiote hatched, Patrick did all that he could to keep the thing from going on a rampage. Unlike Brock, who was scared by an abusive father and Cletus, who enjoyed killing people, Patrick had a sense of justice and didn’t want to hurt anyone.

That sense of justice caused problems with the symbiote who came to be named Toxin.

Of the three symbiotes out there, Toxin is, by far, the most interesting.

When they do finally get around to casting a Patrick Mulligan, Liam Hemsworth would be great in that part.

After all, his brother Chris has done a stellar job as Thor, so why not let the younger brother have a shot at being a Marvel superhero?

Well, maybe not a superhero, but a highly conflicted anti-superhero.

Which One is Best?

While Eddie does have some sense of right and wrong, he’s ultimately a thug with a unique weapon. Whatever conflict there is minimal. This doesn’t degrade Venom as a character. Instead, he’s someone trying to wrestle with morality. The problem is that the “bad” side is constantly tapping at Eddie’s brain and making him feel hungry. Thus, Eddie usually gives in to Venom’s demands.

Carnage, on the other hand, is a straight-up sociopath.

While Lecter may use medical instruments to kill his victims, and Leatherface a chainsaw, Cletus has a suit that warps into blades and other sharp things. What more could a serial killer want?

For Cletus, the argument of right versus wrong is moot. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, but he does not care.

Toxin is where it gets interesting.

Patrick feels beholden to justice; there is right, and there is wrong. For Patrick, it’s up to him to bring offenders to justice.

However, there’s this thing that keeps tapping at his brain, causing hunger in his throat, and that crawling sensation under his skin.

It will not go away.

So what’s a good guy to do?

And therein lies an intriguing conflict.

Until we get that movie, Venom will have to do. When it does hit streaming, make sure you’re hooked up with the best internet deals in your area. Just saying...

Between now and then, catch up on all your reading by heading over to Marvel Unlimited. This way you can stream the comics to your favorite device. You’ll be able to catch up on your reading whenever you have a free moment. You’ll also learn more about the characters as well.

The best part about this is you can form your own opinion about Venom, Carnage, and Toxin.

Who do you think is the best symbiote? When someone finally makes a movie about them, which actors would you cast?

For more news on upcoming films, provider reviews, and streaming technology, keep your browser open to On The Download.


Should Netflix Have Content Quotas?

Netflix provides a lot of content. But should a percentage of that content come from a specific geographic region?

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Roughly 90% of what I watch, I stream through Netflix. If I’m not streaming through my TV, then I’m streaming it through the Netflix app.

I consume my content this way because of convenience. It's easy, it's right there, and there are no commercials! Yes, I'm admitting I’m lazy. It’s something that I’m working on. Netflix is also enabling me.

Despite Netflix enabling of my apathy, I enjoy the content offered. It also helps that I checked out the best internet deals and packages.

Not everything I find there is something I want to watch though.

I would prefer, every now and then, to partake in content that’s centered around my hometown of San Antonio, TX. Not southern California dolled up to look like San Antonio. Instead, I'd prefer a more realistic facsimile.

Not only that, the program should present the city of San Antonio as it truly is. The representation should be based on current trends and not what people in Hollywood assume it is- some uber-conservative town steeped in old thinking (San Antonio is quite progressive, and I should know, I live here).

Can I find this on Netflix?

No, not at all.

Should it be a near-accurate representation of San Antonio in both image and sociological makeup?

I would say, “Yes.”

And can I require Netflix to create that show just for me?

Given my laziness—yes, absolutely I should!

Is it the right way to create content?

…hmmm.

Content Quotas

Although I might have some influence—something like 0.000000000000000001% influence—I highly doubt Netflix will scramble to make my dream become a reality.

Why?

Because they’re not even doing that for the European Union.

Recently, the EU took to changing up the rules they impose on outside entertainment services. Part of that rewrite includes demanding that Netflix allot 30% of their catalog to content centered on European works.

Netflix, understandably, balked at the maneuver.

I can see where the EU is coming from though.

They want to see more and more content that reflects the socioeconomic, ethnic, and regional background of their viewers. This will lead to less alienation, and hopefully, more confidence in oneself. Or maybe they’re just looking to provide opportunities to the content creators themselves? I’m inferring those last two points.

Anyway, this move could backfire.

You’ve heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?

The road to hell can start with these good intentions.

By holding Netflix responsible for creating content specifically geared towards a subset of their audience, Netflix gets hamstrung. They need to figure out what types of programs those viewers like to watch, bring in producers for it, and create the appropriate content. This ties up money and creative powers.

Sure, it helps those specific content creators.

But are they going to create something worth watching for the wider audience? It's possible.

Ethics aside, forcing the many to watch something that appeals to the few will end up alienating the larger group in the end.

And if there’s a quota to meet, then quality will get sacrificed so that Netflix can say, “Hey, we met the quota, so what are you complaining about?”

A Different Tact

Is it more advantageous to create content aimed at specific sub-groups?

Sure. Why not?

As I mentioned earlier, I demand a program centered on San Antonio that doesn’t involve someone butchering a Texas accent, or making all Texans look ignorant.

But forcing Netflix to create that just for me will end up alienating viewers from Dallas, Houston, and the hipsters up the road in Austin. Soon they’ll get their own shows too. When that happens, I’ll refuse to watch them based on principle. This will drive overall viewership down and put Netflix in a bind. They could end up losing money on this content.

This solution is bad.

To solve this problem I’m required to (sigh) get up and do something about it.

If I desire to watch content about San Antonio that represents it honestly, then I need to go out there and make it myself. And if it’s no good, then Netflix can pass on the project. This will, in turn, force me to work harder to create content that’s of quality and will appeal to the mass audience.

And it will involve…sigh…work.

For those who want to have content that better reflects who they are, they’ll have to go out and create it themselves. Or get on board with a project.

Others Can Help

Given how much Netflix is pouring into their content creation, they probably can accommodate new content from creators from specific areas. If the content is approved, Netflix can add it into their catalog and appeal to that specific sub-category whilst still putting out content for the larger audiences. Netflix will handle the distribution while the creators handle the production end.

Another option would be for local and regional governments to offer incentives to content creators. For example; the San Antonio Film Commission offers a 7.5% incentive on film and television project with at least $100,000 of approved San Antonio spending (check the details at filmsanantonio.com). This is to help content creators secure locations and equipment in San Antonio for their projects.

With this kind of assistance, burgeoning projects can find a place to shoot their film in and around San Antonio. They can avoid straining their budget and keep an authentic look. Once filming is wrapped, they can move forward with presenting it to distribution outlets, like Netflix.

It serves as a better motivation for content creators, as opposed to making Netflix go and find content creators. While it sounds a little elitist, this keeps sub-par content from getting distribution.

In the end, it will work out better for Netflix, the greater viewing audience, and even me!


The Quintessential Halloween Playlist

Get the most out your Halloween experience with this playlist featuring favorites and hidden gems.

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This Halloween season, before the trick-or-treaters arrive or you don your own costume, set up a Halloween music mix on YouTube. This will ensure you have the right vibe for the evening.

Some listeners will prefer a more “haunting” or “scary” music mix as opposed to a “fun” or “kid-friendly” list of songs. What it boils down to is the overall tone you want to set for your Halloween experience.

For those who want to go the scary and haunting route, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and the soundtrack from Girl With a Dragon Tattoo would be a good choice. There are heavy beats and creepy lyrics to make the skin crawl and assault the ears. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the composers behind Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, mix electric and strings to create an eerie sound that builds and builds. These music choices are perfect if you want to slowly unnerve your guests, or spook trick-or-treaters.

If you want a more fun and kid-friendly Halloween music list, then stick with the classics like Monster Mash. They may be old, but they’ve got a certain appeal that endures through time.

The list below, created by yours truly, is a mix of both. A few classics are in there, a few scary tracks, along with some lesser-known pieces to keep things interesting. Make sure to create your own playlist through your favorite streaming service. To prevent any lag in streaming, make sure to check out the best internet deals and packages in your area too!

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

 

Who could ignore the cult classic?

Jackson, just as he was really getting his solo career going, released this music video. It’s really a short film with a big budget. But it’s got all the classic tropes associated with horror movies. And THE Vincent Price does the voice over.

If you don’t know who Vincent Price is, then jump on YouTube and search “Vincent Price Performs The Thriller Rap Live.” After that, go and watch the original House on Haunted Hill, you won’t be disappointed.

Of course, there are plenty of tutorial videos out there on how to dance the Thriller dance. It’s a classic dance and you’ll be well prepared for any party with it.

“Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show

 

It’s around this time of year that you’ll see late night showings of this cult classic. And if you ever get talked into one, be prepared for costumes and full-audience participation.

You’ll also get to see a young Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Meat Loaf!

“Dragula” by Rob Zombie

 

Featured in The Matrix, this Rob Zombie hit is good for dance mixes, or just creeping out your friends who are more reserved.

While Rob Zombie is an acquired taste, his music is perfect for certain occasions, like Halloween. For those not familiar with him, be warned, his style is creepy. But it's just the right amount of creepy.

“Monster Mash” by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

 

A classic that everyone has probably heard by now. If not, then it’s likely someone will cock their head and say, “Oh, I’ve heard that before.”

“Monster Mash” is a more kid-friendly tune. It was originally written as a spoof of the “dance craze” type songs that were popular in the early sixties. “Monster Mash” would become part of a much larger album of other Halloween-themed dance songs.

“Phantom of the Opera- Phantom of the Opera Theme Song” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

 

Evil villains in masks, damsels in distress, and creepy lairs, what’s more Halloween than that?

Thanks to the 2004 movie adaptation, we get to hear Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler perform the lead parts. Both are highly talented actors and it’s a pity the two haven’t done more musicals since then.

The film is great and engrossing. But to get the full force of Webber’s masterpiece, one must see it on stage as it was meant to be seen. Originally “The Phantom of The Opera” was a book that was adapted to a stage play. In the early 80s, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a new score to the stage play and from there it took off. This is why there are guitar riffs and electronic synths incorporated among the orchestration. Webber’s musical genius makes it work though.

Hearing it recorded is one thing, but to listen to the music live is an experience that’s on another plane altogether. Another bonus, if you’re lucky, is if you see a production with a master set director. For example; of the three times I’ve gotten to see the stage play, the one that stands out the most was the second time I saw it.

In the middle of the stage was a large brick wall. This cut the stage in half, but pieces of the wall would open to reveal different scenes. And when the Phantom’s theme occurred, The Phantom and Christine would walk along the top of the wall, singing as they did. Stairs would extend from the wall and they walked down to the stage below. When they reached the bottom, the *entire* wall split in two to reveal The Phantom’s lair.

Words don’t do it justice, but trust me, with a live orchestra, this was awesome to behold!

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

 

Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson were the original Ghostbusters and launched this iconic comedy into common consciousness.

Although it is a comedy, I can remember the ghosts scaring me as a kid. Luckily, the comedic stylings of Murray, Ramis, and Akroyd kept me from running out of the room. As I grew in age, I caught the little in-jokes and innuendoes that I missed as a kid, and it got funnier. I also felt for Hudson’s character as he was just looking for a job and instead, got thrown into a mess of ghosts, ghouls, and cosmic abominations bent on destroying the universe.

Ray Parker Jr’s theme song has become iconic. The music video, however, not so much. But the song’s still great. And it’s sure to please the crowd when you play it during parties!

“This is Halloween” by Danny Elfman

 

Only Tim Burton could turn Claymation into something creepy. And this is how we get The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Composing legend Danny Elfman wrote the music for the film and even wrote the lyrics for the main song, “This is Halloween.”

Some may debate that this is really a Christmas movie, like those who debate if Die Hard is a Christmas movie or a summer blockbuster. While Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and those who argue differently are flat out wrong, The Nightmare Before Christmas straddles both. The movie can be watched from Halloween and on through Christmas.

And here’s why; it’s a story about a Halloween Spirit, Jack Skellington, who is disillusioned with scaring people. It’s just not as fun as it used to be.

Taking a walk in the woods one day, he stumbles upon a portal to take him to Christmas Town. Curious, Jack enters and sets off a chain of accidents that only he can fix. Along the way, Jack discovers the true nature of Christmas.

Halloween may be about scaring people, but Christmas is about giving. Thus, Jack decides he’ll give as much as he can to fill the hole where his heart should be.

He is, after all, a skeleton.

“For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica

 

While heavy metal, this tune by Metallica was used for the intro to Zombieland. When I saw that, I thought, “That’s a fitting song.”

The heavy rifts punctuated by a tolling bell give the ominous feeling that something is coming for you. What it is, exactly, it’s clear. Which makes the song all the more creepy.

Vampires, zombies, werewolves, something else?

Who knows.

“I Put a Spell On You” by Screaming Jay Hawkins

 

Originally sung by Nina Simone, Screaming Jay Hawkins covers this hit with a rock twist and his growling vocals. It’s great for spooking trick-or-treaters!

“O Death” by Ralph Stanley

 

When I first saw the film, this tune struck me as odd. It comes about three-fourths of the way through O Brother, Where Art Thou? It's sung by a KKK leader, but the vocals are provided by Ralph Stanley.

The rest of the soundtrack had been full of old-timey hymns, instruments, and lively vocals. But this was a haunting dirge, meant for a funeral.

I bought the soundtrack and listened to this track over and over again. While the rest was about finding the silver lining, this one was about death. It’s really a conversation between a dying man and death itself. The dying man is pleading for another year. Of course, death decides to come when it wants to.

For a Halloween playlist, I figured this was a good one to end on.

While there are things that are scary, they pale in comparison to the eventual end. Everyone must make their peace with death, one way or another. For those who have overcome their fear of it, they still must contend with the fact that they’re days are numbered.

Whether you decide to listen to the entire playlist or just a few, at least you’ve got a good starting point for a killer Halloween playlist.

Happy Halloween!


6 Reasons to Laugh this Halloween

There are scary movies and then there are movies that spoof scary movies. This Halloween, let's laugh more than we scream.

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This Halloween I’d much rather be laughing than screaming when I watch a movie. Instead of having to decide between a comedy or a horror film, why not enjoy both? Watch a horror-comedy! Now don’t worry, there are plenty of movies out there to scare you. You’ve got your Chucky films, gore-fest stuff, the found footage flicks and your straight up freaky killer films. Just get onto your streaming service and I’m sure they’re not far off. Before you do, just make sure you check out the best internet deals and packages in your area. Because nothing is scarier than paying more for your internet than you absolutely need to. Right? For those out there who don’t enjoy the jump scares, blood spraying profusely from an artery, or that creepy guy who just likes killing people- you’re in luck. There are plenty of horror spoof movies out there. Like the Wayan Brothers’ with their Scary Movie series and A Haunted House films. Then there are the movies with horror creatures in them that are put into odd situations, like Warm Bodies. These are humorous twists on standard comedy setups. What I’m talking about are the movies that mock the clichés of the classic horror films. There are spoofs, which are over-the-top in their humor. And then there are these types of films which aim to tell an actual story with a humorous take on the “scary movie format.” Trust me, they are well worth your time.

Zombieland


Who doesn’t like Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin? This move teamed up with all four actors in a comedic look at the zombie genre. Instead of putting people into the usual “zombie outbreak set in X location,” it was a story about people. Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Columbus, is quite lonely. Although he’s survived the zombie apocalypse and is continuing to survive, it’s not the way to live. This is more of a metaphor for modern life, but we can save that analysis for the critics. The point is, Columbus must overcome his own “rules for survival” to make a human connection. And in doing so he’ll not only survive, but he’ll also find happiness. It’s also chockful of great one-liners from Harrelson; “You got taken hostage by a twelve-year-old?” “You ever seen a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” “My mama always told me someday I’d be good at something. Who’s a guessed that something’d be zombie-killing?” And his catchphrase… which shall be saved for later.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Young Frankenstein

Thanks to a lot of Dracula movies being made, Mel Brooks decided it was time to spoof them all. Hence, Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Instead of finding an actor who would just parody Christopher Lee, Brooks went and signed on one of the best comedic actors ever- Leslie Nielsen. Best known for his role as Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun series, Neilsen was perfect for this role. He did the whole Transylvania accent and creepy act so well. We also can’t forget Stephen Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Lysette Anthony, and Peter MacNicol. And we can’t forget Young Frankenstein either. This was Brooks’ first spoof of a classic Hollywood monster, and the movie is full of references to other Frankenstein films. Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle comprise a stellar cast that put the horror classic in its place. And instead of doing it in color, Brooks went with the black-and-white to give that antique feel. It still has that old classic horror film feel but filled with antics that will have you crying from laughter. These two spoofs were done just right. Not too much over-the-top antics, but the just the right amount of absurdity to really bring home the laughs. “Oh, I was having a day-mare.”

Evil Dead 2


In 1981, Sam Raimi created an independent horror flick called Evil Dead. It was scary enough, with some inventive camera techniques and gore. But the film tried too hard to be scary and came off as funny instead. Riding that success, Raimi did a sequel/reboot of the first film with Evil Dead 2. It was the same basic story but turned into a comedy-horror film. So now it could be over the top and everyone was okay with that. And this is where Bruce Campbell got his start, as Ash Williams. When Evil Dead 2 took off, Raimi made a third movie to create a trilogy- Army of Darkness. And now Ash is known as a cult hero on par with John McClane and Indiana Jones. In 2013 Raimi remade Evil Dead as a true horror film. And now it looks like that’ll be getting a sequel too. Enough about that, what’s important to know is that Evil Dead 2 is meant to be a cheap-looking horror film. Thanks to Campbell, it more than delivers on laughs.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

With all these horror movies about “evil,” has anyone stopped to look at it from “their” perspective? This is how we get Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, playing the titular Tucker and Dale respectively, are perfect for these roles. They’re just two hapless country boys who are trying to fix up their summer cabin, which also looks surprisingly like the cabin from Evil Dead. Anyway, a bunch of college students show up and start killing themselves. Or do they? As the two witless friends try to figure out what’s going on, hilarity ensues with several bodies involved. Be sure to look for how the normal horror movie tropes are NOT followed.

A Cabin in the Woods


While the previous five were out and out comedies, A Cabin in the Woods is something different. It satirizes the horror classics by making a dark comedy of what’s going on at this creepy-looking cabin. And yes, this cabin is similar to the one from Evil Dead as well. Apparently, there’s a certain type of cabin that’s scarier than others. I won’t ruin the end, but you’ll understand once you see it. Anyway, this film was made pre-Thor. Don’t be surprised when you see a thinner, more lean Chris Hemsworth. Along with Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams, these are the five college teens who go to “a cousin’s” cabin in some non-descript woods. Little do they know that they’re being watched by a shadowy no-name organization. The guys running this little operation are played by Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, and Brian White. To explain this organization would give away the entire plot of the movie. But know that Joss Whedon wrote the script with Drew Goddard, so it’s worth the time to watch it.

Laughter is Always Better

While a thriller is good for entertainment occasionally, laughter is by far a better choice. And with Halloween so close, there are plenty of chances to get scared, if you’re into that sort of thing. As for the rest who’d rather not create undue stress on their hearts, there are these comedy horror films. They’ll make you laugh and it’s been proven that laughter has more health benefits than screaming does. Underneath it all, you’re really doing something healthy for yourself when you watch a comedy. And not just any comedy, but a good comedy film.