It wouldn’t be Halloween without a special themed episode from Josh and Chuck. In their words, it’s become a tradition right up with the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. They may not be too far off if they keep this up. I like the change of pace and format in this episode. They ditch their typical structure in favor of a couple of spooky readings from the works of HP Lovecraft and Peter de Niverville. And to top it off, the narrations are done by Chuck and Josh themselves.
With Halloween two days away, the timing was perfect. And after watching more than my fair share of terrible straight-to-Netflix horror movies, I was ready for some creepy but quality stories. These selections aren’t your garden variety cheap trick horror tales; they’ll stick with you for good time afterward. A commonality between theme—and, I assume, the reason that Josh and Chuck chose these particular tales—is the authors competence at leveraging the readers’ imagination to heighten the terror. It’s much more impactful to let your audience project their own fears than trying to convince them that what you’ve contrived is scary in its own right.
To this end, audio is particularly well-suited to create fear compared to, say, television or film. What you can’t see makes it all the more terrifying. Even within any “cinematic” kind of horror, the most effective scares leverage the use of sounds, scores, and silence. Michael Myers is creepy, but that John Carpenter theme from Halloween jacks the fright factor up to 11.
The first short story, HP Lovecraft’s “The Moon Bog” feels a little foreign. I find it difficult to articulate the unfamiliarity specifically, but it might just be the setting, a bog in Ancient Ireland. 1 Very quickly, the bog laborers strange nocturnal activities (things that go bump in the night) cause the protagonist to start asking questions. He begins hearing unnerving sounds 2 at night amidst unusual dreams and, uh, things do not develop well from there. Kudos on the old-fashioned scary music and sound effects guys; they really made the experience.
In part two, “The Petting Zoo,” we switch from narration to a more theatre-like experience, with each character assigned a different voice actor. Redneck spider breeder Chuck Bryant will haunt your dreams. That’s really the only hook you need to tune in, but I’ll also mention that the petting zoo is being run a man that sounds like Norman Bates living in the world of Deliverance. 3
I enjoyed this second story a little more than the first—it tapped into some fears that hit a little closer to home. One thing I would have preferred to have a few Halloween things we should know tossed in. A bit more about Peter de Niverville (the second author) would have been interesting as well.
That said, I thought this episode was great. It’s nice to have a special from time to time to break things up. The Brits know about this with their Christmas Specials being quite common for their popular TV shows. 4 I hope to see this become a regular trend across the podcast world too.
SYSK: How Passports Work
“This files under helpful informational podcast.” While not the sexiest topic, Josh and Chuck drop some solid pieces of knowledge about the passport process. If you’re looking into traveling abroad, getting a renewed passport, or just learning about the etymology of the word itself, check out this week’s other episode. If the Halloween special was J+C at their most fanciful, this is them holding down the other end of the spectrum.
- The main story of John Carpenter’s Halloween is derived from Celtic traditions, specifically the Celtic festival of Samhain ^
- Always watch out for mad piping and drumming, it’s never a good sign. ^
- What does this mean? Well, he spits tobacco juice onto the floor and splashes on the main character’s shoes. This is probably the biggest red flag anyone can give you. If you find yourself in this situation, please: RUN. ^
- Who isn’t excited for the Sherlock Christmas special episode. ^
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