My Favorite RiffTrax Movies for Halloween

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of RiffTrax, the team (including some former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000) who turn bad movies good by making fun of them. I watch RiffTrax movies just about weekly. But today I want to tell you about my favorite Halloween-themed RiffTrax movies!

In no particular order, they are:

Tourist Trap. I find this one genuinely scary, and with a few actual actors, including Chuck Connors! Having said that, it definitely deserves some teasing, and RiffTrax has that covered.

Troll 2. It’s not a sequel to “Troll,” the creatures in the movie aren’t trolls (they’re goblins), and nobody in this thing is an actor. I came to appreciate this stinker after seeing Best Worst Movie, an excellent documentary about Troll 2’s cult following. Though the writing is bad and the acting is bad, Troll 2 is never boring.

Plan 9 From Outer Space. This is possibly my favorite riffed movie of all. Plan 9 is so entertainingly, over-the-top bad on its own that it’s fun to watch, but the RiffTrax crew adds another dimension. I watch this one several times a year. It’s also the first “RiffTrax Live” presentation, where the gang riffs films live in front of an audience and transmits it at the same time to theaters all over the US.

Night of the Living Dead. OK, I’ll admit it. As much of a fan as I am of the classic Night of the Living Dead, I prefer the RiffTrax Live version. I never feel that the Riffers are mean-spirited, so it doesn’t offend me when they riff actual good films like this one.

House on Haunted Hill. I love the RiffTrax Live presentation of this, the Vincent Price version of House on Haunted Hill. This, for me, is one of the things movie riffing is best at—taking a movie that on its own is charming but a little slow, and adding some more interest to it. Some of the effects in this film are amusingly bad, but Vincent Price is perfect as always.

Manos: the Hands of Fate. This was riffed before on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and then on RiffTrax, but my favorite is the RiffTrax Live presentation. I would fall asleep trying to watch this film on its own, but in the hands of RiffTrax, it’s wonderful. (Dance, Torgo, dance!)

Birdemic. This one is special in the same way Plan 9 is; it’s enjoyably horrible on its own, but the RiffTrax Live riffing takes it to a new level of fun. Bad (or should we say “non”) actors, bad story, and visual effects that will make your eyes bleed add up to a lot of laughs.

I’d love to hear YOUR favorite Halloween films, too—RiffTrax or otherwise!

My Halloween Music Playlist

Halloween is near! I know these words will sound terribly dated in a year or two, if they don’t already, but I like to burn1 a playlist of my favorite Halloween music onto a CD2 so I can listen to then when I’m driving3.

(Translation key:
1: record onto physical media
2: a piece of plastic used to store digital music in the physical world
3: people in my time didn’t have self-driving cars)

I’m due to put together a new playlist, but here’s the one I’ve been listening to for the last few years.

  1. Monster – Fred Schneider. This monster is in his pants!
  2. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo. My favorite Halloween-related song.
  3. Fright Night – J. Geils Band. From the original movie. Very 80s.
  4. This Is Halloween – Danny Elfman. From The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  5. The Blue Wrath – I Monster. Used at the beginning of Shaun of the Dead.
  6. Partytime (Zombie Version) – 45 Grave. From Return of the Living Dead.
  7. Halloween (She Get So Mean) – Rob Zombie, from his Halloween Hootenanny album.
  8. Zombi – Zombie Nation. Also from Shaun Of The Dead.
  9. Addams Family Jazzy Theme – Czech Quartet. A jazzy cover.
  10. Gravewalk – Satan’s Pilgrims. Also from Halloween Hootenanny.
  11. The Time Warp – Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell & Cast. From The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  12. The Munsters – The Ventures. Another unusual cover.
  13. Ribcage Mambo – Frenchy. Also from Halloween Hootenanny.
  14. Puttin’ On The Ritz – John Morris, Gene Wilder, Danny Boyle. From Young Frankenstein.
  15. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
  16. The Gonk (Remix) – Kid Koala / The Noveltones. From Shaun of the Dead (and, before that, Dawn of the Dead).
  17. Devil Woman – Cliff Richard. (I really need to complete the trilogy by adding Evil Woman and Witchy Woman.)
  18. Back From The Dead – Spinal Tap.
  19. Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck. (Admittedly a weak connection to Halloween, but I love the song so there.)
  20. Theme From ‘Young Frankenstein’ – Rhythm Heritage. From Young Frankenstein.
  21. The Raven – Read by Christopher Walken, from Closed on Account of Rabies.

I’d love it if you shared some of YOUR favorite Halloween songs with me here! What do you like to listen to when it’s the haunting season?

2016 Ghostbusters Costumes

My son dragged me to a local party store recently (to look for masks–which he wears year-round), and I got to browse the Halloween stuff. I was happy to see some new Ghostbusters costumes:

Best of all: no “sexy Ghostbuster” costumes! Not that I have a problem with sexy costumes, but it’s refreshing to see a focus instead on “brainy Ghostbusters.”

Having said that, you could easily repurpose this one as a “sexy Ghostbuster” costume:

Subsector Precinct Station 18: “The Donut”

Happy National Donut Day! Now that the sugar is flowing through my bloodstream, I wish to present a tribute to both Donut Day and CypherCaster Magazine’s new setting “Sector Agents” (in issue 6, just released on As an added exercise, see how many donut references you can spot.

Subsector Precinct Station 18: “The Donut”

by Logan Garrett, age 13

Precinct Station 18 is one of many space stations that serve as precinct houses for the Sector Agents. The station, fondly known as the Donut, serves the Sector Agents of the region as a meeting place, armory, living space, repair bay, administrative center, and prisoner incarceration facility.

The station doesn’t spin; the need for fighting weightlessness in this old-fashioned manner went away after the development of artificial gravity devices. The Donut is home to about a hundred Sector Agents and staff members, as well as ten police ships (ranging in size from shuttlecraft to light cruisers).

Areas of the Donut:

  1. The Hole. The inner ring of the station contains an interdimensional tuner that can generate a portal to a small pocket universe connected to our own. The Sector Agents use this pocket universe as a prison for its most dangerous inmates. Attempting to pass through the portal when it is active requires a vessel that has its shields tuned to a specific frequency; without this, any trip in or out of the prison universe results in a fatally krispy ship and crew.
  2. Landing Bays. The main method of entry to the station is flying a small ship into one of the landing bays. Each of the two bays features sufficient space to house and support a dozen ships. (The west bay was recently expanded, enabling it to hold a baker’s dozen.)
  3. Docking Ports. Made to accommodate ships that are too large to enter the station via the landing bays, the docking ports are rings on the outer hull that ships can connect to. These ports are useful when the bigger police or naval vessels deliver a large batch of convicts destined for the prison universe.
  4. Defenses. While the Donut is not a military installation, it was designed to both withstand and deliver high-energy punishment. On the protection side, the station features armored hull plating and heavy-cruiser-level energy shields. And in case any criminals are foolish enough to try and take on the Sector Agents on their own turf (whether looking for revenge or trying to break a fellow crook out of jail), the station is equipped with an array of lasers, missiles, and mines. In other words, any vessel smaller than a police cutter that comes too close to the station without permission will quickly find itself filled with holes.
  5. Communications Array. This equipment—critical for dispatching purposes—is mounted on raised metal scaffolds to prevent interference from the station’s power systems.

Notable Personnel

Valorpa Glono, tvornica Chief of Police. Chief Glono is a 3rd generation Sector Agent, and speaks often (and proudly) of its parent and grandparent and their lofty positions in the hierarchy of the Sector Agent command. The chief holds its personnel to the highest standard, hoping that by doing the best possible police work Station 18 will finally be recognized this year in the sector-wide Agent Awards. (Level 5; visual perception as level 1; resists might effects, moves in zero-g, moves underwater, and conducts police work as level 7.)

Sam Marlowe, antarean Space Patrol Captain. Though he is not from Earth, and in fact never left his home planet until he joined the Academy, Captain Marlowe grew up on Terran hardboiled crime dramas. He was initially disappointed to discover that the reality of the Sector Agents is much different than he expected, but like most antareans, the Captain resolved to make the best of the situation, and he brought his favorite fictional trappings with him. Fortunately for Captain Marlowe, Chief Glono doesn’t even realize that the antarean speaks almost completely in archaic slang; since Glono must use a translator to understand non-tvornica, words like “fried” and “dough” are converted to the same tvornica translations as “killed” and “credits.” And as far as Captain Marlowe’s trench coat and fedora, the Chief doesn’t think they look any more silly than “pants” and “shoes.” (Level 5; interrogation as level 6; archaic Earth culture as level 7.)

Than’vo’tok, rekan’choc Detective Lieutenant. Than’vo made a name for himself last year by achieving a record number of busts in his previous position of data-crime investigation. He accepted the promotion to his current position, leading investigations into violent crime, but so far he’s not fitting in to the new job very well. Than’vo sees every problem as an excuse to do some electronic hacking, and this is causing friction with the Chief. (Level 4; engineering and technical tasks as level 5; hacking and programming as level 6, social interactions as level 3; Armor 1.)

Shuff, shardfolk Sergeant. The senior sergeant at the station tries her best to fit into the mold of the grizzled police sergeant, but she frequently slips and reveals her concern for the patrol officers under her charge. Shuff makes sure her people are well-trained, well-fed, and well-armed, and is often hands-on in doing so. Her officers appreciate her skill at police work—her cooking, not so much. (Level 4; social interactions, climbing, police work, and teaching as level 5; cooking as level 2; Armor 3.)

Jack Simpson, human Patrol Officer. Unlike most of his fellow officers, Jack sees the Sector Agent thing as just a job, not a calling. Jack had been happy living on Earth, in Berlin, until his family moved to New Germany with the latest colonization boom. Jack had always been pretty tough, and naturally fell into a job as a security guard in New Bavaria. When he learned he could do similar work on other planets for better pay, Jack signed up with the Sector Agents. No longer identifying as an Earther or a New German, a Berliner or a Bavarian, Jack often feels adrift, like a man without a home. Also, and on a less existential level, Jack is sometimes annoyed by the fact that he’s the only one on the station who really knows what a donut is. (Level 2, tough-guy tasks as level 3.)

Avaroo, kiln Dispatcher. Avaroo is good at her job, but she’s become more excitable lately. The reason is simple: coffee. Avaroo’s coworkers introduced her to the beverage, and she was delighted to discover that coffee produces spectacular color changes in kiln, much different than those caused by drinking water. (Level 2, Armor 1, inability to resist cold environmental effects.)

Zemm Orayu, ponchiki Animal Control Officer. Zemm was a zookeeper for the biggest zoo in the Galactic Union before joining the Sector Agents, so he thought the job of Animal Control Officer would be a piece of cake. What he didn’t realize was that in his new job he would encounter animals that Galactic Union biologists had never even seen before. How can you tell if a pet without pain receptors is a victim of animal cruelty? How do you contain a rampaging helium-beast that can turn into a mist? Should a sentient powdered narcotic be considered an animal or a drug? Zemm would like the answers to those questions, too. (Level 3, zoology tasks as level 5.)

Oliekoek, yanathalaspan Technician. The inhabitants of yanathalaspa are not monkeys, and not every one of them is a programming expert. But because a lot of humans think they look like Terran monkeys, and because a lot of yanathalaspans are programming experts, the nickname “code monkeys” has stuck. Oliekoek doesn’t mind it. He’s happy enough that his skills are so in demand on the station that he’s willing to overlook the occasional joke about his lack of height or his affinity for a yanathalaspan fruit that looks almost exactly like the Terran banana. Sure, his coworkers’ eyes glaze over when he tries to explain his work to them, but he knows they value his work. And maybe the Captain complains sometimes about Oliekoek scratching up the consoles—after all, his fingers DO still bear claws—but the technician doesn’t let it bother him. Where else in the galaxy could he work on secretly solving the problem of keeping a dimensional gate from destabilizing and swallowing an entire star system? (Level 3, climbing and computer tasks as level 5.)

Sprinkles, feline Mascot. Sprinkles the cat has lived on the station since it was built around a decade ago. Nobody remembers when he first arrived, or who he arrived with. But surely it doesn’t matter. When Sprinkles knocks over a drink with his tail, or jumps up on a console and lands with one paw on a specific button, it’s obviously an accident, right? Of course it is. Sprinkles just likes to sit around the station and watch the Sector Agents come and go, come and go. (Level ?)

The Springfield Ghostbusters

My son’s rendition of Homer and Bart as Ghostbusters

If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent the week watching Simpsons Halloween episodes with the Ghostbusters Roleplaying Game within reach. Obviously you’d want to put those together, so guess what? I’ve saved you the trouble!

Your Own Simpsons Halloween Special

Let’s use the Ghostbusters rules to bring a Simpsons Halloween episode to the gaming table. The first thing we need is some Simpsons.


Brains 1 Weasel Out of Things
Muscles 2 Eat Anything
Moves 2 Bowl
Cool 2 Borrow From Flanders

Goal: Eat, Sleep, and Cuddle With Marge

NOTE: If Homer is a player character, you might want to give him 5 more points in Traits, enough to give him the standard total of 12. The other Simpsons already have 12 Traits points. (Yep, even Maggie.)


Brains 3 Springfield Facts
Muscles 3 Carry Things
Moves 3 Clean
Cool 3 Raise Children

Goal: Keep Family Safe


Brains 2 Make Mischief
Muscles 2 Fire Slingshot
Moves 3 Ride Skateboard
Cool 5 Fast Talk

Goal: Have Fun


Brains 5 Library Science
Muscles 2 Run
Moves 3 Play Saxophone
Cool 2 Debate

Goal: Save the World


Brains 4 Escape
Muscles 2 Climb
Moves 2 Pacifier
Cool 4 Attract Attention

Goal: Defeat Her Enemies

Ghostbusters in Springfield?

Sure, why not? Here are a few ways we could bring professional paranormal investigation and elimination to the entertainment capital of this state.

Option 1: The PCs could be the players’ own Ghostbusters, visiting Springfield to take care of some spectral business.

Option 2: The players take the roles of the Simpsons family, who have (in the manner of a Simpsons Halloween special) somehow gotten into the Ghostbusting business. Professor Frink could believably invent ghostbusting equipment (such as his patented De-ghostifier), which the Simpsons could then acquire (along with a power source from Homer’s workplace).

Option 3: Who needs grownups? Bart and Lisa and their friends can get the job done, operating out of their Treehouse of Terror. They’ll need equipment, of course, but Frink could provide it (as above) or Lisa could develop it herself.

What Do Springfield Ghostbusters Do?

Here are a few story seeds for Ghostbusters operating in Simpsons territory.

  • Haunted Milhouse. Bart’s friend Milhouse has died, and his ghost is inhabiting his house. The PCs can trap the poor dead kid, but he reappears in his room the next night—Milhouse is a repeater! If the team wants him to stay gone (so they can get paid), they’ll need to satisfy his Goal: he wants his parents to remarry!
  • Krusty Kult. Springfield sees a spike in its clown population, as numerous clowns arrive to worship Krusty. The object of the clowns’ reverence has been broadcasting a mind-control signal as part of his show, and now he controls a clown army which he intends to use for some nefarious purpose. Will the Ghostbusters make a deal with the devil when they learn that the incarcerated Sideshow Bob knows a way to break Krusty’s kontrol over his kreepy kult?
  • Comic Book Die. Comic book characters are coming to life and causing chaos at the Android’s Dungeon! Luckily, all the animated comic characters are still comic book sized. Less luckily, even the “good guys” in the comics are behaving badly, thanks to a comics crossover event in which Radioactive Man and friends have been replaced by twisted mirror versions (bizarre, eh?). Can the Ghostbusters stop their heroes from wrecking the comic store without doing it themselves with their proton packs? (Pardon me…De-ghostifiers. Glavin!)