GUEST POST: Karissa Laurel

Halloween Spirits:
A Pairing of Scary Movies & Contemporary Cocktails

Midnight Mass
Really more of a limited series than a movie, Midnight Mass is the latest Netflix entry from Mike Flanagan, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and many more. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite horror directors, and if you like scary movies but haven’t seen Midnight Mass yet, you really must: “The arrival of a charismatic young priest brings glorious miracles, ominous mysteries and renewed religious fervor to a dying town desperate to believe.”

The movie centers around a devoted population (most of the inhabitants of a tiny, isolated fishing village) who attend mass in a small catholic church. The congregants regularly participate in communion and eventually discover the sacramental wine is more than merely the symbolic blood of Christ. With that in mind, I’m paring this movie with “The Devil’s Margarita,” a tequila cocktail with a red wine “float.”

1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce red wine

Add the tequila, lime juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Float the red wine on top by slowly pouring it over the back of a bar spoon so it pools on the surface of the drink. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The Shining
The Shining—directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Stephen King about a haunted hotel, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval. It’s really one of the best horror movies out there and one of my perennial favorites. I can watch it over and over. That wild look in Jack Nicholson’s eye as he peers through the hole he just hacked into the door of the bathroom where his wife is hiding and snarls “Here’s Johnny!” will never not be scary as hell.

Fun movie fact: How is it that Kubrick, infamous for his painstaking attention to detail, allows Jack Torrance to order a glass of bourbon, only for the ghost bartender to pour from a bottle that is clearly Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey? Anyway… as for a cocktail pairing, I thought to find something older and classic that might have been served at The Overlook Hotel in its glory days. Instead of that, I cheated and checked Google. A website called 12 Bottle Bar has a recipe for a drink based on the movie. It’s called the “Jack Torrance”.

1 oz Jack Daniels
3 oz Advocaat
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters (optional)

Place all ingredients in a mixing glass half full with crushed ice. Shake and pour, without straining, into a rocks glass

Or, if something sweeter is more to your taste, maybe you’d prefer a little REDRUM Punch:

1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of pineapple juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup of grenadine

In a pitcher, combine the juices, the rum, and the grenadine. Stir. Pour into ice-filled glasses and serve with an orange slice and maraschino cherries.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
From the hapless victims’ points of view, Tucker and Dale are the worst kind of psycho killers, but the audience is in on the secret. They’re really just a couple of good ol’ boys who want to spend a weekend alone in the woods getting back to nature and cracking a few cold beers. What happens during their vacation is really just a series of unfortunate, hilarious, and grisly events. With that in mind, you could probably crack a few Pabst Blue Ribbons to enjoy with this movie, but since cocktails is the theme, cocktails (made with beer) is what you’re going to get. The classic Shandy:

6 ounces pale ale or lager beer (Your favorite cheap beer works great for this!)
6 ounces ginger ale, ginger beer, lemon lime soda (Sprite), or sparkling lemonade
For the garnish: lemon wedge (optional)
Optional: 1 dash bitters adds a complex flavor

Add the beer and mixer to a glass and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Cabin in the Woods
Similar to Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Cabin in the Woods is another movie that brilliantly subverts the most cliché horror movie tropes. “Five friends arrive at a secluded cabin with clear rules for their retreat. But when protocol is broken, punishment is swift — and everyone will pay.” While Tucker and Dale use irony and humor as their main tool, Cabin in the Woods sticks to its horror roots. It’s got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. It’s got monsters and nightmares galore. You want dismembered body parts? It’s got twenty (at least)!

Don’t watch the end if you have a weak stomach, but if a little (okay, a lot) of blood and gore is your thing, then a classic Bloody Mary might be the perfect movie refreshment for you.

Celery salt
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch smoked paprika
Garnish: parsley sprig
Garnish: green olives
Garnish: lime wedge
Garnish: celery stalk

Pour some celery salt onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of the lemon or lime wedge along the lip of a pint glass. Roll the outer edge of the glass in celery salt until fully coated, then fill the glass with ice and set aside. Squeeze the lemon and lime wedges into a shaker and drop them in. Add the vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire, black pepper, paprika, plus a pinch of celery salt along with ice and shake gently. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with parsley sprig, 2 speared green olives, a lime wedge and a celery stalk (optional).

The Lost Boys
This was the first “real” horror movie I remember watching as a kid. I still love the soundtrack to this day. It was fully of great 80s cheese and glamorous vampire boys that would put poor Edward Cullen to shame. Classic duo Corey Haim and Corey Feldman use every tool in their arsenal—holy water, wooden stakes, and of course garlic—to battle a coven of blood sucking fiends and save their hot, broody older brother from supernatural, evil influences. If you want a drink that’ll keep away the vampires, too, then a Black Garlic Mojito might be just the thing for you:

1½ ounce dark rum
1 orange wheel, sliced into halves
3 basil leaves, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1 ounce black garlic simple syrup*
Soda water

Muddle basil and half an orange wheel in the bottom of a rocks glass filled with ice. Add black garlic syrup and rum. Stir, and top with soda water. Garnish with orange and basil.

*Black garlic simple syrup
½ cup hot water
½ cup Demerara sugar
3 cloves black garlic
1–2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

To make syrup: Bring water to boil. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Pour the syrup into a blender and add garlic. Blend until the garlic is finely ground. Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove any solids. Add the vinegar and taste. It should taste slightly acidic with a sweet, earthy finish.

Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, superheroes, and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer, she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s skiing or curled up with a good book. She is the author of the Urban Fantasy trilogy, The Norse Chronicles; Touch of Smoke, a stand-alone paranormal romance; and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a YA second-world fantasy trilogy.

Serendipity at the End of the World
Serendipity Blite and her sister, Bloom, use their unique talents to survive the apocalyptic aftermath of the Dead Disease. When Bloom is kidnapped, Sera is determined to get her back. Attempting a rescue mission in an undead-infested city would be suicidal, so Sera forms a specialized team to help retrieve her sister. But unfortunate accident sets Sera teetering on the edge of death. She must fight to save her own life, because surviving could mean finding family, love, and possibly a cure.

You can find it on Kindle Vella
New episodes come out every Saturday


Meghan: Hi Lucy! Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Lucy: Right now, it’s baking. Every Sunday, my mom and I bake together over FaceTime. From mid-September to the end of October, we’re baking exclusively Halloween-themed treats. I get a lot of inspiration from the baking shows on the Food Network.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Lucy: When I was a kid, we’d have huge Halloween parties. It would start in September when the Oriental Trading Company catalog arrived. My brother and two sisters and I would sit down with our mom and create an order for party favors and decorations. Weeks in advance, we’d start planning all the attractions. Putting macabre labels on spice mixes for the witches brew in the shed. Collecting supplies for fortune-telling in my sister’s room. I remember scouring DC-area magic stores one year trying to find an appropriate crystal ball. We never did, and my dad wound up mounting a glass orb onto a stocky cylinder. My mom had new ideas for the party every year, but some of the staples were the kids wrapping each other in toilet paper as mummies and eating small, powdered donuts hanging from a tree branch without using our hands. My dad hooked up a trailer to his lawn tractor, filled it with hay, and towed us around the backyard. The trailer would frequently detach, leaving kids at an odd angle in the yard, and my dad would just keep driving as he couldn’t hear the screams over the sound of the lawn mower.

But the best part was the haunted house. Since I’m the oldest, I was in charge of transforming the garage into a room of terrors and leading age-appropriate tours for the younger kids. My parents used the garage for storage, so we used whatever we found in there. A recurring character was Harold, my dad’s jeans and flannel shirt stuffed with pillows and newspaper that sat in an old rocking chair. Two female salsa dancer pinatas, a relic from my third birthday party, hung from the ceiling by their necks. Someone would always be waiting outside, sticking a foot through the cat door, then brandishing a leaf blower to terrify the kids who thought the nightmare was over when they had left the garage.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Lucy: The memories. Halloween was a big deal to my family when I was growing up. We’d take long drives through the changing leaves to far-off farms in search of pumpkins. We never had packaged costumes, always ones that we’d construct from seemingly disparate items around the house. When I was in kindergarten, my mom turned dining room chair cushions into turtle shells so my brother and I could dress as our favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One year, we put stuffing in long underwear to turn my little sister into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Two years ago, my mom and I went up to Salem for the weekend a couple weeks before Halloween. We did a ghost tour, an interactive Rocky Horror, and a bunch of of witch stuff. It was so much fun. We keep talking about how we need to go back. It’s my most recent wonderful Halloween memory.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Lucy: Five years ago, I broke my face after flying off a set of gymnastics rings at the gym. I will not use that particular set of rings again. Unfortunately, the owners just rearranged the gym so I don’t know where that set is. I have to accept that it was not the rings’ fault…

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Lucy: Jack Torrance. Several years ago, I was the only copywriter at a busy ad agency and was assigned about 17 hours of work in each eight-hour day. In a meeting with the agency president and the project managers who were constantly haranguing me about status updates, I told them how every time they interrupted me, they broke my concentration. It’s like at the gym. I was cooled down and needed to warm back up again to get back in the creative zone. So, their constant interruptions were slowing me down. Nearly a year after I was fired, I was watching The Shining (as I do every Halloween) and realized Jack gave almost the identical speech/rant to Wendy — with a lot more profanity. The Shining has always been my favorite horror movie, but I got a whole new appreciation for the horror of stress-induced psychosis.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Lucy: Jack the Ripper. I like all the theories and find it interesting how many Ripperologists seem convinced that it has to be a notable person who committed the murders when the vast majority of known serial killers were losers.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Lucy: The ones with the spiders and bugs burrowing under skin. That sounds like it could actually happen.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Lucy: SPOILER ALERT. Leland Palmer. The singing, the crying, the dancing, and the emergence of BOB when he gets locked in the cell. And the scene where it’s revealed that Leland is the killer — one of the best things ever on TV. I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it aired, but I can’t imagine many people saw that one coming.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Lucy: I remember reading Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face when I was 10 or 11. I loved it and was hooked on her books after that. My first horror movie was Psycho, but I can’t remember how old I was. I saw Scream as soon as it came out on VHS when I was 13. That was my first modern slasher flick. I memorized it. A few years later I won a tickets to a premiere screening of Scary Movie for calling into a local rock radio station and completing a line from it.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Lucy: The Painted Bird is more disturbing than any horror book I’ve ever read.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Lucy: For some reason in 6th grade band class we watched the Twilight Zone movie. I remember getting all freaked out by the sister with no mouth. That gave me nightmares for a couple days. We also watched the original It in that class. That one left no impression…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Lucy: Sharon Tate. Halloween 2007 when I was 24. I wore a blood-soaked nightgown over a fake pregnant belly though which I stuck a plastic knife.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Lucy: “Song of Joy” by Nick Cave. Spooky, dark, and uses one of my favorite literary devices, the unreliable narrator.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Lucy: I’m one of those crazy people who love candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins. But Indian corn is disappointing. Something about that fake chocolate flavor just does not do it for me.

Lucy Leitner is the author of horror-comedy novels Working Stiffs (2012) and Outrage: Level 10 (2021). From Arlington, VA (where the joke says people are dying to go), she lives in Pittsburgh, PA (where the movies say the dead live). She’s been making up scary stories since frightening her little sister out of sharing a room at age 10. In 2010, she earned a master’s in journalism, won an award for a piece in Justice Magazine, and promptly retired from journalism. Now she’s the writer, spokesperson, and sometimes hand model for a global vitamin company that tends to post more zombie content on social media than all its competitors… When not scaring customers into taking their vitamins, she’s working on her next horror novel.

Outrage: Level 10 was originally released through Necro, but sadly Dave Barnett died right after the book was released. It will be re-released through Blood Bound Books on November 26th.

Get Me Out of This Shimmering Oasis is a short story.

Outrage: Level 10
Alex Malone is brain damaged from a career as a legendary goon in the outlawed sport of hockey. Now he’s a cop because that’s the only job that’ll take him. His presence is enough to raise a citizen’s outrage level, putting him at constant risk of being banished—or worse, sent to the mysterious Maze.

His headaches bring the type of pain that makes plunging off one of Pittsburgh’s bridges a viable option. The bouts of unfettered rage interfere with his ability to complete even the simplest task of rounding up the centenarians with the dying brains and bionic bodies who terrorize other citizens.

Since The People assumed control of the Republic of America, death before 130 has become a thing of the pre-Revolutionary past. Cancer, heart disease, spinal cord injury—all eradicated thanks to tax dollars funding medical research instead of wars and unjust justice. If only they could figure out the brain…

So an experimental treatment sounds good to Malone. It feels good, too. The blackouts that would end with bleeding knuckles and a citizen unconscious on a sidewalk are replaced by vivid memories. The only problem is that the memories aren’t his. They’re filled with torture and more violence than even the undefeated champion of ice boxing could imagine.

With a sense of purpose not felt since his days as hockey’s premier fighter, Malone is determined to find out what’s going on in his head, even if it makes him a target of the outraged mob and the powerful sadists that manipulate it, and leads him to horrifying truths that should have remained lies.

Outrage: Level 10 is an anti-hero’s journey through the inner workings of a violent, near-future dystopia.

Get Me Out of This Shimmering Oasis
OMG this place is amazing. I can feel all the remnants of my leaky gut clearing right up. A few more days and I may even be able to tolerate dairy again. These innovative treatments are truly elevating my wellness. They are literally scaring me to death, but doing good for yourself never feels good, right? Right?