Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Review & Interview: Pumpkin Cinema by Nathaniel Tolle

Hello, my lovely readers. Today I'm happy to be interviewing author Nathaniel Tolle about his upcoming book Pumpkin Cinema! Come join us as we chat about movies, Halloween, and things that go bump in the night!


What inspired you to write a handy movie guide like Pumpkin Cinema?

For as long as I can remember, Halloween and film have been two of my biggest passions. My Halloween plans are different every year but one thing is always certain: I will watch multiple films during the late-night hours and stay awake until the sun comes up. I got the idea for this book a few Halloweens ago when I was with some friends and we we were voting on which movies to watch. Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes got the most votes, and even though it's actually a fantastic movie, I knew it would be a terrible way to kick off this movie marathon. After ninety punishing minutes filled with brutality and the senseless destruction of a typical American family, everybody in the room was numb and exhausted--two people even decided to call it a night even though it was only midnight. Fortunately, the Halloween spirit returned for the rest of us once Creepshow started playing, cheering us up immediately. I wanted to write this book to teach people what makes a good Halloween film because there are actually quite a few factors to consider. There are also so many movies out there to choose from so I wanted to make the task of finding a Halloween companion less daunting. Hopefully my recommendations will not only prevent people from wasting precious Halloween time on a lousy movie, but will also remind them why they love this holiday so much in the first place.

Was it hard for you to include all types of genres?

I knew right away that I wanted Pumpkin Cinema to include a wide variety of films because I understand that everyone has different tastes and different backgrounds, and while some readers will be horror aficionados, others prefer to watch films that are completely innocent and wholesome. It was a fun challenge to find many perfect choices for every type of genre fan out there and not make Pumpkin Cinema just another horror movie guide. My goal was to present a good balance of films you could show to your children and titles that would give intense chills to even the most hardcore horror fans.

If you could only watch ONE Halloween/horror movie on repeat forever, which one would you choose?

Oh man, that's a tough one. I might have to go with The Nightmare Before Christmas because it's such a delightful, magical, visually stunning movie with funny characters and an incredible soundtrack. And even though I've seen it over 20 times at least, I still find new things to appreciate every time. There are so many interesting details crammed into every frame of that film, and that's just one of the many reasons why it's such a pleasure to revisit every year. But I would also strongly consider the original Fright Night because it has just about every single thing I could want in a movie.

Do you remember being petrified of any movie monsters or bad guys when you were a kid? Who? I was personally terrified by the Scream mask, even though I had never seen the movie.

It seems that the characters that terrified me the most when I was a kid weren't necessarily the villains, but rather innocent people who were made monstrous by disease or possession. It gave me a glimpse into how truly unfair and unpredictable the world could be. I think the one character that traumatized me the most was Zelda from Pet Sematary, who was bedridden with spinal meningitis, which gave justification to how hateful and bitter she was. I was always able to separate characters like Jason and Freddy from reality, but to see someone like Zelda at a young age and realize that many people out there are really cursed with this affliction made me feel so horrified and sad. So yeah, that's an example of a famous, well-respected movie I would never watch on Halloween! The only other movie that traumatized me as much as Pet Sematary as a child was called The Peanut Butter Solution, which wasn't even a horror movie, but it was deeply disturbing and I cannot believe that it was marketed to children. Out of the more traditional horror offerings, I remember being really afraid of the shark from Jaws, the cenobites from Hellraiser, and Alyda from The Unnamable.

An impossible task: Can you tell me your top five must watch movies I MUST watch before Halloween?

At the end of my book I have a ton of Top 5 lists for specific subjects, but if I were simply recommending five movies that everyone should experience in October, I would definitely start with Trick 'R Treat. It's the quintessential Halloween horror anthology that captures the essence of autumn more than any movie I've ever seen. It surely would have been a monster at the box office had Warner Brothers not been so idiotic. They tragically kept it on the shelves for years before releasing it straight to DVD. Then I would go with a made-for-television movie called The Midnight Hour and a Mexican film called Cemetery of Terror, both of which came out in 1985 and take place on Halloween night. And since everyone is entitled to one really good scare on Halloween, I would put The Exorcist on the list as well. And I also have to give my highest recommendation to a black and white comedy called Hold That Ghost, which stars Abbott and Costello. It has such an appealing rainy night, haunted house atmosphere and it's also even funnier than Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.

Do you decorate for Halloween? Are you one of the houses that gives "full bars" or pennies? Talk traditions with me :)

I live in an apartment so I can't go into full Roseanne Conner mode, but I do my best. Last year my friend invited me to her house to decorate and to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. I was remembering this one house in my neighborhood that was always the highlight of my trick-or-treating odyssey, and I really wanted to emulate that and give the ghouls and goblins something special. But unfortunately, the very first trick-or-treater of the evening immediately started crying when she saw my costume and my plastic chainsaw, so I had to take off my mask and show her I was human underneath. So I had to tone down my theatrics for the rest of the night, but it was still a lot of fun. When I was writing this book I kept the Halloween decorations up for two straight years so I could easily find the inspiration. And since you asked about traditions, I have to tell you that in my hometown of St. Louis, it's still a custom that trick-or-treaters have to tell a joke before getting candy. I just love how certain towns keep ancient traditions like that alive. My joke was always something like "What's a vampire's favorite drink? Blood Light. Or "What's a ghost's favorite dessert? Booberry pie. But one year it was "Bob Dole is so old he's the only person with an autographed copy of the Bible."

Bahaha. I love jokes like that. What are your plans for Halloween this year?

Sadly, this is the first time in years where I have no plans whatsoever, so hopefully I'll come up with something. Last year was very memorable because I took a trip to Los Angeles so I could finally experience Universal Horror Nights at Universal Studios. The Travel Channel specials always made that place seem like the Shangri La for Halloween lovers, and it did not disappoint. Also on that trip I got to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas in 4-D and go to Knotts Berry Farm, who foolishly call their Halloween event Knotts Scary Farm. I live in Oregon and there are no big amusement parks over here, so when I travel, I always make sure it's somewhere with rollercoasters nearby.

Have you considered writing a guide to Christmas movies? (I get kind of obsessed with Christmas, if we're being honest.)

I considered it briefly because I get really into Christmas as well, but to the tell you the truth, watching Christmas movies year-round would probably cause psychology damage and make me crazier than I already am. Numerous Christmas movie guides already exist so the world probably doesn't need another one.

Part of the fun of Halloween is getting your pants scared off- what's something you're afraid of?

I'm absolutely terrified of spiders, but the phobia is so severe that I'm unable to extract any enjoyment out of it. I have a friend who likes to leave plastic spiders in my apartment and I think she will only stop if I have a heart attack or die from fright. I'm also really scared of sharks, so maybe it's a good thing that the Oregon coast is always too cold for swimming.

I'm afraid of sharks too! I've never even been in the ocean (not due to fear, just Midwest living) and they still terrify me. Is it okay for me to tweet and annoy you every time that I need a movie recommendation? (Joking. Mostly.)

That would be awesome, and I will do my best to steer you in the right direction. I am also very new to Twitter, and I could use the practice because I have no idea what I'm doing.

Yay! Thanks. We'll totally be Twitter buddies. Now, can you tell us about any other books or projects that you have brewing?

I recently wrote 50 pages for an idea I had about the worst moments and trends in the horror genre, but then I lost the enthusiasm and realized that I'm probably not mean or snarky enough to tackle this subject.

Describe Pumpkin Cinema in five words.

Definitive Halloween Movie Guide. Waffles.

This or That

Black or orange?

I'll choose black because it's the color of my car and most of my clothes, and because it's a color that even colorblind folks like myself have no difficulty with.

M&M's or Skittles?

Skittles, please.

Halloween (78) or Halloween (07)?

Haha, as much as I admire Rob Zombie as a filmmaker, his version of Halloween didn't do much for me aside from the first 30 minutes. And his sequel was just about as terrible as Halloween: Resurrection. The films from the Halloween franchise that I included in Pumpkin Cinema are 1-5 and H:20.

Frankenstein or Dracula?

Frankenstein has always been my favorite of the Universal monsters

Ereaders or books?

Now I feel like a cantankerous, out-of-touch Mr. Burns individual. I would never choose one of those things over an actual book. Never, ever! But then again I also swore that I wouldn't join the dreadful and annoying world of Twitter, but now you can follow me at @nathanieltolle

Pumpkin pie or apple pie?

My undying love of pumpkins sadly doesn't extend to pies. A slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee is just about the most perfect combination I can think of.

Rain or snow?

Rain! Let me enjoy that apple pie and coffee on a rainy night and I'll be as content as humanly possible. I was really excited when I moved to Portland because this city has a reputation for rain and gloom, but then I discovered that we mostly just get perpetual drizzle, and if we're lucky, we'll get maybe one thunderstorm a year. What I miss the most about the Midwest are the epic thunderstorms.

Haunted Houses or corn mazes?

Both are pretty essential but I get much more excited about haunted houses. I have the worst sense of direction so it's hard not to feel pangs of paranoia and frustration whenever I'm in a corn maze. And whenever there are monsters inside, I feel so embarrassed when I keep running into the same ones over and over. It's even more hopeless than Spinal Tap trying to find the stage in Cleveland.

You and I have a lot in common, my friend. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me and I hope you have a happy Halloween!

Synopsis via Goodreads:

People celebrate the magical holiday of Halloween in a wide variety of ways, but most will, at some point, turn off the lights and allow a movie to take the excitement to the next level. Pumpkin Cinema recommends over 100 titles that are guaranteed to make your Halloween fun and frightening! Halloween only comes once a year, so you can't afford to waste precious thrill time on a lousy movie! However, a great horror movie doesn't necessarily translate into a great Halloween flick, and Pumpkin Cinema uses a simple set of guidelines to help you avoid the "boo!" blues: the films included here are fast paced, have essences of autumn (if they aren't set on Halloween itself!), and have a trim run time (under two hours). Avoiding the mean-spirited and cruel movies more typical of horror offerings, Pumpkin Cinema also includes Halloween treats from multiple genres, in addition to horror: comedy, animation, science fiction, silent era, and foreign films, all ranging in popularity from blockbusters to the obscure. The films included are, above all, fun to watch and share with others! In addition to descriptive film reviews, you'll also find plenty of quirky trivia, various top 5 lists, and a special chapter devoted to the greatest Halloween television episodes of all time.

You can buy a copy for yourself by clicking here.


Title: Pumpkin Cinema
Author: Nathaniel Tolle
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: August 28th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Schiffer Publishing


Four and a half stars.


Halloween is a holiday that leaves me greatly confused. On one hand, I love all the spooky makeup, accessories, and decorations that come out at this time of year. I identify as one of the "goth kids", so it's a great season for stocking up and going all out without much effort. On the other hand, I have a tendency to be a wimp. No haunted houses, marathons of movies that give me bad dreams for days. Because of this, I haven't seen nearly as many horror movies as I would like. So, I picked up Pumpkin Cinema with the hopes of getting a new list of titles to force myself through this October.

I got exactly this, and so much more. I was beyond excited that this list of 100 Halloween-tastic movie titles includes more than just horror. The bulk of it is, but it includes comedies, family movies, and even a musical or two. They're organized by alphabetical order, and each film blurb has the production information, a summary, and Tolle's opinions and facts on the movie. He writes with a sense of humor, and it was fun to read each entry. Of course there were titles on here that I hadn't heard of that I will definitely be checking out this season (such as Trick 'r Treat and Satan's Little Helper), but there were also old favorites that I got so excited to see, such as "Hocus Pocus", "The Nightmare Before Christmas", and "Beetlejuice". I was blown away when he included another family favorite- "Ernest Scared Stupid". I didn't know anyone else had ever seen that movie, as none of my friends have heard of it but I love it!

This book doesn't just include a top list of movies. It also includes a list of "short films". These are things like animated shorts and TV movies. The list continues on to a TV guide, which I loved. It highlights what episode number and season of what TV shows have the best Halloween episodes. From "The Simpsons" to "The Twilight Zone" and "Modern Family", if TV is more your speed, then this listing will definitely be helpful to you this season.

And last but not least, there's a handy little section dedicated to Top Five lists, if you're searching specifics. I thought this was a nice touch. Some of the featured lists include "if you want nudity", "for the youngins", and "if you want gore". Personally, I'll be using this section a lot based on my mood.

Considering there is absolutely no way to jam pack everyone's favorite Halloween movies into the same list and make everyone 100%, I think Tolle did a great job covering all the bases. That said, if you read Pumpkin Cinema, I would personally recommend that you add "The Crow", "Repo! The Genetic Opera" "The Devil's Carnival", "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the remake of "Fright Night" because David Tennant in leather pants. If you love Halloween or are looking to expand your spooky film collection, this guide would definitely be handy.

Thanks to Netgalley and Schiffer Publishing for a copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.


  1. I absolutely LOVED the interview, Nathaniel is hilarious and I so enjoyed his answers! I'll join him on his forever watching of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And I will definitely be getting myself a copy of Pumpkin Cinema, it'll be great for finding new favorites and starting new Halloween traditions!

    1. He is pretty hilarious. You should follow him on Twitter if you don't already.

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