AT&T vs. Spectrum Internet

Live in a city or a metroplex? Chances are, you will have to make a decision on choosing AT&T or Spectrum Internet.

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AT&T vs. Spectrum Internet

Live in a city or a metroplex? Chances are, you will have to make a decision on choosing AT&T or Spectrum Internet. In some cities, you may not have a choice if you want cable or DSL internet and you’re not willing to try Satellite Internet or Fixed-Wireless. Rest assured, we have your all-inclusive report on both of these major internet providers, so you’ll be set to make an informed choice when it comes to these two popular internet providers.

The Big Picture:

Both internet service providers (ISPs) are good if you live in a city and both ISPs can give reliable internet service as long as you live within the city limits or in the greater metropolitan area. These providers do have their drawbacks, however.

AT&T offers fast plans at an affordable price, but, their faster plans such as their Fiber Internet Packages are only available in select metropolitan areas and are not widely available.

Spectrum Internet on the other hand offers customers a faster than average speed that spans a wider coverage area than AT&T. Spectrum Internet is even available in some rural markets or in the surrounding areas of larger markets.

Convinced already? Enter your zip code to compare packages in your area. Please note: AT&T & Spectrum Internet plans vary based on availability. Call our sales center to confirm service availability.

AT&T Plans & Pricing

Plan
Intro Price
Speed
Internet Type
AT&T Basic 5
$40.mo.
5 Mbps
DSL
AT&T Internet 25
$50/mo
25 Mbps
DSL
AT&T Internet 75
$40/mo.
75 Mbps
DSL
AT&T Internet 1000
$80/mo.
1000 Mbps
Fiber

AT&T offers internet deals for every type of customer. Whether you’re looking for a bare-bones internet plan or a super-fast fiber internet plan, AT&T will likely have an internet deal that fits your budget and needs. There are some drawbacks that some customers will find troublesome. Such as internet speeds greatly vary on what part of town you live in.

For example, some customers may only have access to their lower-tier internet packages and may only get speeds up to 10 Mbps while others can receive speeds up to 75 Mbps. With that being said, if you live in an area where you’ll only have access to the lower-tier speeds, we recommend getting a bundle deal with DirecTV to ease the amount of streaming on your internet. This is where you’ll get the most value if you’re forced to consider a lower internet speed from AT&T.

Spectrum Internet Plans & Pricing:

Plan
Intro Price
Speed
Internet Type
Spectrum Internet 100
$44.99/mo.
100 Mbps
Cable

There’s not much to dissect here which is both good and bad. With Spectrum, you’ll get a simple plan with speeds often greater than 20 Mbps in most areas where it’s available. Faster speeds may be available in some areas so it’s always good to call a sales center to confirm speeds before purchasing.

Spectrum also has affordable bundles, although the prices are not as competitive as AT&T. Spectrum has a Double Play offer for $89.98/mo. and their Silver Triple Play for $109.97/mo. Both plans are good for those looking to add TV to their internet plan and make it easy by bundling their service together.

The Verdict:

Honestly, this is a tough one. They’re both great internet service providers that provide fast speeds, affordable pricing, and convenient bundle packages that customers can take advantage of. If you’re a customer who lives in a big city and is looking for fast internet that’s reliable for streaming media or gaming, consider getting AT&T and going with their Internet 75 plan.

For customers looking for a good bundle plan or deals for lite internet users, Spectrum might be the better choice. Overall, they’re both excellent choices and are reliable internet service providers.

Ready to purchase Spectrum or AT&T? Call us now and an authorized sales rep will help you set up your new internet service today.


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.


Viasat: Excellence is No Trick

Viasat is one of the two largest satellite internet providers in the United States. The level of excellence is on par with card throwing artists- aka, cardists

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Viasat is one of the two largest satellite internet providers in the United States.

That feat alone is fascinating. However, when you take into account how much work is going into providing, maintaining—and excelling—then it’s impressive, to say the least.

Viasat is coordinating a lot to provide satellite internet; they must first launch satellites into space, synchronize them, coordinating the orbits, evaluating the speed, upload, and download times, and more. If a new technology comes out that could improve their systems, then they’ll have to launch a new satellite or make do with what they have already in place.

It’s quite baffling how it all works.

While the satellites may not be the newest out there, they are performing at or above standards. Viasat is currently working on designing, engineering, and launching a new fleet of satellites. They’re continually improving their technology and what’s available out there.

As the race to improve satellite internet begins to heat up, Viasat will be at the forefront, possibly even blazing a path. Doing so involves knowing what’s available, what can be improved upon, and blending the two goals together.

Another way of looking at it is to take a well-known piece of technology and doing things with it that no one thought possible.

Take, for example, a deck of cards.

You can shuffle it and play any game you want; canasta, solitaire, free cell, poker, Texas Hold 'Em, Baccarat, Blackjack, 24, Speed, Nine-Card Flip, Nerts, and the list goes on and on.

Playing games with cards is only one option though. You can build houses with cards too.

Alternatively, you can make the cards do things that don't seem possible- like jumping from one hand to another.

It's an art form called Cardistry.

Cardistry


The term “Cardistry” is the combination of the words “card” and “artistry.”

It’s a type of performance art that involves manipulating cards in unique and eye-popping ways. Much like illusionists who shuffle, palm, and make cards appear with their fingers, cardists create flourishes, passes, tosses, and other means of moving cards around with only their hands and fingers.

Some illusionists will also use this artistry into their acts as a means to distract the audience.

Moreover, there are the card throwing artists who incorporate this into their trick shots. It's a display of their dexterity, as well as a hint to the number of hours they've been practicing.


Cardestry, legerdemain, and card throwing appear simple enough.

Much like satellite internet, it’s merely moving a small object from one place to another. Right?

It’s not.

Cardistry is not as easy as picking up a deck.

To master moving cards effortlessly among your fingers, it takes time and lots, and lots, and lots of practice. If you get a chance to watch a cardist, or even an illusionist who's primary medium is cards, take notice of their hands. You'll notice a strange strength there, as though they've been lifting weights with their fingers. It's a unique trait that stems from handling cards for hours a day. When they pick up a deck, they're comfortable with it.

These hours of repetition is how they attain mastery.

Viasat is doing the same here. By taking a version of a technology, i.e., the satellites already in orbit, they're able to innovate and do impressive things with them.

Satellite Artistry

While Viasat is one of the largest satellite internet providers in the nation, they also have a large number of government contracts.

By working the United States Federal Government, they provide internet access for hard to reach places. These may be embassies or state department offices in remote locations.

Viasat is also providing satellite internet connectivity to our nations armed forces. A big reason for this is ships and aircraft require internet connectivity in their missions. Instead of creating an entirely new network for the government, the government has instead hired out Viasat to do it for them. Viasat, while providing satellite internet for many government and military projects, isn't the only provider sub-contracted to do so.

These projects range from aircraft carriers to individual aircraft.

To connect all these projects to their services, Viasat is working with Boeing. Boeing provides the technology, as well as the means, to maintain their satellite systems in orbit around the earth. The aircraft manufacturer is also working to create new satellites that Viasat will use to update their networks soon.

However, it’s not just the satellites that will set Viasat apart.

Much like it’s not enough to have a flashy deck of cards, Viasat has to know how to use the satellites to their fullest extent. Cardists are the same way. They may get a new deck of cards, but it’s not the cards that make the magic. It’s the cardist that does that.

Also, Viasat is working to make sure this happens as they move satellites around the globe to maintain a stable network.

By The Numbers

Viasat, thanks to satellites, is available in 32,787 zip codes. They now have a presence in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The only stipulation here is that the dish must be able to face south without significant obstructions.

There is a tradeoff with satellites, however.

Transmitting signals down to a dish and waiting for them to return causes latency.

If a customer were to download a large file through their satellite connection, they run the risk of exceeding their download speed. To mitigate this, Viasat has instituted data caps. These data caps are to discourage large downloads. If a customer were to reach their data cap, Viasat could slow down their connection, suspend service for a short while, or charge them for the extra data used.

While annoying, data caps ensure that all customers can enjoy their service.

Viasat’s data caps range from 40 gigabytes to 150 gigs, depending on your plan.

So long as customers remain under the data cap, they do enjoy decent download times.

Netflix regularly checks the download speed of providers using their streaming service. Netflix compiles this data into their ISP Speed Index.

For Viasat, from September 2017 to September 2018, they averaged 0.86 Mbps. That speed puts them in the top 75 ISPs (internet service providers) in the nation.

Not bad at all.

Satellites and Cards

As satellite internet technology continues to improve, customers will have more and more options and will increase connectivity between government and military locations, as well as customers in rural areas. As preferable as cable and fiber are, it’s not available everywhere. Waiting for something like that to happen will take years and years of waiting.

Hence, why customers will opt for satellite instead. A satellite dish is more accessible and much faster, to install on their property than wait for fiber. Satellites are able available virtually everywhere in the world.

As Viasat expands their network and their reach, we may soon be seeing it as a serious contender within urban areas.

If you’re considering satellite internet in your area, make sure to check out Viasat internet deals to give you an idea of the upload and download speeds, as well as any deals Viasat may be running in your area.

Just like cardists and other card related entertainers, Viasat is practicing and honing their skills. Much like card throwing, Viasat is literally throwing a card from a great distance to hit a small target. And they’re doing this all the time.

Are you a Viasat Subscriber? Tell us what you like about them in the comments.

For news on new technology for satellite providers, keep your browser open to On The Download.


Frontier Communications: A Fellowship Just For You

Frontier Communications is going the extra mile for its customers. It's not just a 24/7 customer service...it's almost a personal fellowship.

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Frontier Communications, based out of Norwalk, Connecticut, is going the extra mile for residential and business customers.

While they do have round-the-clock customer service, there is something more that customers can expect.

Let’s set the scene here;

A circular council chamber. Ringing the outside of the chambers are stone chairs. The walls are ornately designed and the windows are stained glass. Outside is a beautiful sunny day. This casts the room in a warm yellow hue with hints of reds and greens from the windows.

Each chair is occupied by what you would expect; a character from a fantasy novel. One’s a wizard, another’s a knight, and there’s elves, dwarves, giants, and other creatures filling out the rest of the seats.


Entering the room is a simple person. No flashy clothes or arrogant airs about this person.

They’re just your average customer. They could be a residential customer or a business customer, makes no difference.

The person is lost. There’s so much information out there that it’s confusing.

And not just confusing, but beyond comprehension.

The council chairs empty as the characters encircle the bewildered guest.

“We’ll help you.” The wizard says. “We’ll show you the way. We are…“

(Pause for dramatic effect)

“…your fellowship!”

(Cue music and fade out)

Not So Dramatic

Was that too much?

Theatrics aside, Frontier Communications has launched a new marketing campaign- “Don’t Go It Alone.”

For those who think in much more dramatic terms, it is like having your own personal fellowship. Although it won’t be nine creatures from a fantasy realm. Well, seven actually; Aragorn and Boromir are human. But that’s beside the point.

What’s important to remember here is Frontier Communications focus on helping the customer.

And there are two ways they’re doing this.

Residential

With the “Don’t Go It Alone” Campaign, Frontier Communications is acting as the guide for technology.

It’s the “in” thing these days to be tech-savvy. For most, however, that’s quite a challenge.

Getting a computer and setting it up has been a simplified process. But getting the most out of your computer, your internet, and even your smartphone is something else. Knowing how the computer works with all of its software programs and parts is difficult. In fact, those with computer engineering degrees can find it difficult.

One approach is “trial and error.” Over a long enough timeline of trying, a user will be able to figure out how to make a computer program do a specific task. Like with Excel and figure out averages. One can keep punching in commands to the function bar and they’ll get there eventually.

But who has time for all of that?

By sitting in front of a computer, or with your smartphone, and tapping at all the little icons and punching in commands, you’ll be busy for a while. Though you may not get to the “mastery” level, you’ll at least get to “proficient.” In the meantime, however, you’ll have to forgo spending time with friends, family, and your job.

Again, who has time for that?

And who wants to risk their relationship with their friends, or losing their job?

Frontier Communications is banking on this by training their employees to be all-inclusive “guides.”

Since the campaign was launched on October 9th, 2018, we have yet to see how effective it is.

Business

Frontier Communications is also helping out their business and enterprise customers by launching Frontier Connect WAN.

A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a means to connect parts of a business that may not be in the same place. Given the rise of remote workers, as well as the popularity of outsourcing work, WAN’s are growing in appeal.

By the way, it’s WAN, not wand. We got away from the fantasy allegory a few paragraphs back.

Anyway, WAN’s are similar to LAN’s (local area networks).

Remember, back in the day, when it was just an Xbox?

Everyone was playing Halo and the Xbox came equipped to hook up to a LAN. This allowed for more than just four players to play against each other. Now they could expand to as many as sixteen.

Sixteen!

Back in 1999, this was a big deal.

The main restriction here was the LAN was confined to a specific range, hence the name Local Area.

WAN’s do the same thing but over much greater distances.

This allows for a company or organization to create a WAN and have their own little network. Only employees of the company have access to the WAN.

Frontier Connect WAN is providing this.

By using software to define the WAN, business customers can access it via the cloud. Cybersecurity software keeps the WAN contained and free from intruders, while other software allows for sharing and collaboration on files and programs.

Business customers lease the software from Frontier Communications. From there they can create their own “mini-internet.”

Unfortunately, this is for business only. Not a company-wide Halo 1 tournament.

Sigh.

By The Numbers

Frontier Communications is available in 29 states, according to their website. They currently have a presence in 8,076 zip codes.

When it comes to downloading speed, Frontier Communications is doing well. This is proven by the Netflix ISP Speed Index. Netflix monitors the download speeds of all the providers who offer the streaming service. During peak hours, generally between 5 pm and 10 pm at night, Netflix is watching to see how fast providers are able to download their content.

From September 2017 to September 2018, Frontier Communications averaged 3.35 Mbps. For peak hours, that’s not bad!

Therefore, if you’re looking for a reliable internet, Frontier Communications is a good option. They have both cable and fiber options.

The ISP entered into the fiber market a few years back. They’ve installed some fiber lines themselves, but they’ve also bought up existing lines from both Verizon and AT&T. This has worked out well for them as they’re able to stay competitive during peak hours.

One more thing; Frontier doesn’t have data caps on its plans!

Join the Fellowship

As Frontier Communications engages with its customers to help them navigate technology, they’ll continue to expand as well.

In this technology-saturated world, it’ll be interesting to see how that type of help will play out. It’s one thing to claim to be helpful but being helpful is a different thing. If Frontier Communications is genuine in this endeavor, they could end up rebranding themselves entirely.

It’s still too early to tell.

But for those who want to go with Frontier Communications as their ISP, or to switch from another ISP, then check out the best Frontier Communications Deals and Packages.

Who knows, you could be joining a Fellowship and setting off on an epic adventure. Or you may just find an answer to a nagging technology question.

It will most likely be the latter. But the former would still be a lot of fun though.


Chucky is Preferable to these Films

There are scary films and then there are the truly terrifying films out there. Forget gore and jump-scares, there are truly terrifying stories out there.

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There are scary films and then there are the truly terrifying films out there. Of course, there are things that are scary; that creepy person who follows you a little too closely, someone walking up behind you and you not hearing them, and the odd bird or two that flies too close to you or your car while driving. These are scary, sure. They’re scary in the sense that they make you jump, or they play on the fear that someone or something is not quite right. In the latter situation, you worry that maybe you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Or are you? There are films that play on those fears. The fears that start out as blatantly irrational only to become eerily real. You know, films like Chucky. Of course, there’s no way a doll could be possessed. And you keep telling yourself that. Then there’s that one night you’re working late in a retail store and you pass by the toy section. At the end of the aisle is a display of little baby dolls. And just as you walk by this little display the lights go out. You hear the canned recording of children’s laughter. Then a footstep…

Cheap Horrors

That was a true story, by the way. I was working in a retail store right out of college and it was getting close to a holiday. As a result, I had a lot of clean up to do that night. The lights for the store were on a timer set to turn off at midnight. That little display I mentioned? It was hooked up to a motion sensor so that when people walked by, the little doll would wiggle and laugh to catch their attention. Well, when you walk by at 11:59:59 pm, the lights turn off as you trip the motion sensor. The store goes dark and little doll giggles and laughs. I have to remind myself of this every time I tell the story because it was just too much of a coincidence. Right? That’s cheap horror. The jump scares and the absurd amounts of blood that come gushing out of a wound. It’s a basic approach to scaring people. And it’s used a lot in horror movies. Rest assured, little baby dolls with canned laughed and giggles don’t terrify me. It was the situation that did.

Real Fear

Most of these cheap horrors are entertaining to watch. Mainly because the “fear” they present is due to an over-contrived situation. I don’t watch a lot of horror movies because I find the writing to be pretty basic. And if you’ve watched enough of them, you can easily pick who’s going to die, and in what order, within the first ten minutes of the film. But every now and then I end up watching a film or reading a book, that does send shivers down my spine. These films and books don’t deal with the paranormal or some cooked up and extreme situation. These are plausible. Not just possible, but plausible in that someone could pull these things off. And is most likely alive and well at this moment. After reading the book or watching the movie, I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. I may not sleep well that night either. Eventually, I do get over the fear and figure out how to live a productive life. But if you’re looking for some genuine thrills for Halloween, check out these films, and at least one book. You can download them through your favorite streaming service, so long as you have the best internet deals available.

Contagion

 

I grew up on the northern coast of California. When I was about ten, I think, a small city nearby was used as the main filming location for a thriller called Outbreak. I didn’t watch the film until I was well into my twenties because the thought of a real outbreak scared me. Luckily this film just focused on one town becoming infected and was more action-oriented. Thus, I felt prepared to watch another Outbreak-like film. Then I watched Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh. I was wrong. Contagion was not just one city but the entire world. The virus that causes all the death begins presenting with normal cold symptoms. And then people begin to drop rather rapidly. It didn’t help that Matt Damon plays the dad of a child who gets infected. He survives and has to protect his one other child as the rest of the world falls apart. Then there were the scenes of empty streets and mass gravesites. That just made it worse. Thanks a lot, Soderbergh. There were other storylines but identified with Damon’s role because I am a dad. And the fact that a virus could move that fast was also freaky. Really makes you think twice about washing your hands.

Seven


Directed by David Fincher, Seven walks the fine line between thriller and horror. The film does a good job of focusing on the suspense parts instead of the gore and horror. But that stuff’s in there too, so there’s no avoiding it. The dark cinematography, the grainy scenes, and the bad weather in LA contributed to the bleak mood of the entire film. I’m not one for gross-out types of horror. My brother talked me into watching it. And knowing my brother’s choice in films, I should have ignored him. But here we are. Anyway, the gross-out stuff was easy enough to forget. It was the serial murderer that made it worse. The fact that there was someone out there deranged enough to go those lengths just made me shiver. After all, Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were based on Ed Gein, a real person who really did gross-out, disgusting stuff to a corpse.

Arlington Road


What makes Arlington Road so terrifying is that I watched it as a teenager, well before the 9/11 attacks happened. At first, I was just creeped out that my neighbor might be a homegrown terrorist. And then after the attacks, I was even more freaked out because it seemed even more likely that I lived next to someone who could do horrible things like that. You see, Arlington Road was about a professor, played by Jeff Bridges, who suspects his next-door neighbor, Tim Robbins, is a homegrown terrorist. As the story progresses we get a distinct feeling that Bridges is right, and Robbins really is planning an attack on a government building. A minor detail here is that they live in the DC area, and Bridges teaches at an area university. Of course, Bridges girlfriend doesn’t believe him. Then she disappears. It gets scarier from there, but you get the point.

Apt Pupil


I haven’t seen this film yet, but I did read the short story it was based on. And it was written by Stephen King. I also listened to the audiobook, narrated with the haunting voice of Frank Mueller. Unlike most of King’s other works, this one doesn’t deal in paranormal anything. Set in the early 1970s, a teenager, Todd, discovers a Nazi war criminal is living in his small town. Although he has convincing forgeries that give him the alias of Denker, he’s really Dussander, the former commandant of the fictional Patin Concentration Camp. Instead of turning him in, Todd wants to hear the “gooshy” details of what it was really like during the war. Todd thinks the textbooks have watered down everything. It’s not exciting to read about it. He wants to hear it from someone who was there, in person. In exchange for his silence, Dussander, AKA Denker, agrees and begins to tell Todd what he wants to hear. And then they both start getting nightmares. The nightmares turn into daytime “activities.” Soon both are spiraling out of control. Not only is the short story scary, but the audiobook is even more so. Frank Mueller, the narrator, reads it in a solemn, reserved tone. He also does a superb job of imitating a German accent. As Dussander begins to lose his mind, Mueller’s narration gets creepier and creepier. This is apparent in reading Dussander’s lines of dialogue. To top it all off, King has a character give a sort of “final summation.” You see, Dussander is on various watch lists, both in the United States and abroad. A Nazi hunter from Israel gets involved in the story. I won’t spoil the details, but this guy, named Weiskopf, has a chance to sit down with a detective and explain the cold reasons behind what made Dussander so efficient at his job. Dussander wasn’t sadistic to start with. He was bad, no doubt, but he wanted to rise in the ranks because he believed in Hitler. To please Der Fuhrer, he worked harder to make sure all orders were carried out “swiftly and efficiently.” Thanks to Dussander’s attention to detail, he figured out more efficient ways of carrying out Hitler’s “Final Solution.” This is why he earned the nickname “The Blood Fiend of Patin.” He found ways, through accounting, to make sure he met or exceeded his quotas. This is why, as Weiskopf explains, that if a government ever tries something close to what Hitler did, it’s not the psychos or the sadists we should worry about. It’s the accountants. Because they’ll find ways to calmly, coldly—efficiently—wipe out large portions of a population.