Many people out there enjoy horror movies. Many of those same people also like food. That’s why I’m presenting Food Fright. Think of it as the horror fan’s ultimate date night. I’ll pair a movie and a dinner plan, often including dessert. Heck, I might even suggest an accompanying cocktail. That’s a complete theme.
Curated Short Film Festival
Sometimes you just need to change things up. While plenty of horror films come out, and a few are even good, many fail to capture the imagination or keep us riveted longer than 10 minutes. Enter the short horror film. Even if it stinks, you’ve only wasted a few minutes of your time.
YouTube provides a wealth of short horror films to tailor your own experience. For this evening, I created an eclectic mix of ones I had not seen. The list we watched is below.
Why a short film festival: It’s easy to get in a horror-movie rut. By creating a list of short films that sound interesting, you can create an event, not just watch another movie. For instance, I created a cheap and easy ballot so that we could rate the movies. If you’re the creative type, you can make your ballot look less austere. (Remember, I’m a writer, not a designer!) If you’re techy, make an online ballot so your friends can cast thoughts from their phones. Decide if you want to provide time for notes after each film or during an intermission (with cocktails).
The date: This is a film festival, so make it feel different. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, and this doesn’t have to be a date per se; it could be for a group of friends. Start by creating an ambiance, such as jack-o’-lanterns. Get the lighting right and make it comfortable and ready for conversation. Make sure you set up a space for the snacks and for each person to set his or her drink. Think about how you want to display the food, too. For instance, I used a small black cauldron for the popcorn. Leaves and orange candles add a touch of autumn to the setting.
The snacks: The best way to make it feel like a film festival is to create homemade versions of some archetypical movie theater snacks. For this evening, I chose homemade versions of:
- Caramel popcorn
For the drink, I skipped the soda fountain and went for mulled cider with bourbon.
Cheese crackers are a great salty snack to cut the sweet of the candy and the caramel popcorn. The recipe is adapted from the More with Less Cookbook!
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ t. salt
½ t. baking soda
1 T butter
1 T bacon grease (or butter, margarine, or oil)
2⁄3 cup sour milk or buttermilk
1 to 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheese
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter and bacon grease. Stir in milk until moistened. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead a few times, and divide into four smaller pieces. Roll into thin slightly smaller than 10” x 15” rectangle. Transfer to 10” x 15” baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and prick with fork. Cut into 1- to 2-inch squares with knife or pizza cutter. Bake in 375-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
Caramel popcorn is actually pretty easy and the gold standard version is from the cookbook everyone should own: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.
8-12 cups of popped popcorn (I add more popcorn to lower the sugar ratio.)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
6 T butter
3 T light-colored corn syrup
¼ t baking soda
¼ t vanilla
First, a note on popcorn: I am a popcorn fanatic. I buy it in bulk, and I still prefer Orville. For popping, I love the incredibly easy-to-use Colonel Popper microwave popper. Oil is optional, but I prefer coconut oil for caramel corn.
Remove all unpopped kernels and put popped popcorn onto large baking sheet. In a medium pan, cook and stir brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup until mixture boils. Continue to boil over moderate heat without stirring for five minutes more. Remove from heat, and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture, quickly but cautiously, over popcorn. (Don’t do it by an open window with the cool fall air coming in like I did!) Toss gently to coat. Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Gently stir again. Return to oven and bake five minutes. Spread onto parchment paper and allow to cool. Serve or store in a tightly sealed container.
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Goobers
This is my own recipe!
1-2 cup(s) salted peanuts (Less if you want sweeter, more if you want saltier)
1 cup crushed cookies (I used animal crackers)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 bag white chocolate chips
½ bag dark chocolate chips
Directions: Melt the white chocolate (in the microwave) in a glass mixing bowl. When melted enough to stir, stir in the pumpkin pie spice; once incorporated, stir in the cookies and peanuts. Drop by spoonful onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. (If you used more nuts, then they will want to fall apart, so you may need to shape them.) Once set, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle over each cookie. Add sprinkles if desired. Makes about 22 cookies (more if you use 2 cups of peanuts.)
The beverage: Mulled apple cider is delicious and easy. In fact, you can let the flavors meld while you make the other snacks. Pour the apple cider in a pot and set it to low. Add mulling spices. (I chose Spice Islands mulling mix, or you could use a mixture of whole cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and/or fresh ginger.) I added two tablespoons of mulling mix for a ½ gallon of cider. Cover pot, but do not allow it to boil. Remember to stir it occasionally. If you don’t want to think about it at all, use a Crockpot, but reduce the mulling spices by half and start it sooner. Give it at least two hours on low. Once mulled, fill a rocks glass with a shot of bourbon. Garnish with orange slice, if desired.
That’s it! Just sit back in your comfy seating, reach for a handful of snacks, and hit the play button.
Happy date night!
My curated list of films:
The Last Halloween
2 AM: The Smiling Man
The Witch Tree
A Father’s Day
The Good Samaritan