Cyrus R. K. Patell

October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween! Today we have some listening, reading, gaming, and viewing suggestions for those of you who want to bring a little spooky Star Wars flavoring to this year's celebration.

Star Wars wouldn't be Star Wars without the music of John Williams and the music by other composers that it has inspired as the series has branched out into television with the Clone Wars (music composed by Kevin Kiner), Star Wars Forces of Destiny (music composed by Ryan Shore), and The Mandalorian (music composed by Ludwig Göransson). 
It isn't, however, just Star Wars to which Williams has made a crucial and indelible musical contribution. The Indiana Jones franchise, Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, and the Harry Potter franchise are just a few of the films that wouldn’t be the same without Williams’s music. 
So, to celebrate Halloween, I suggest listening to the version of “Hedwig's Theme” on which Williams collaborated with the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. The pair released a single version in 2019, which they described as “Harry Potter meets Paganini.” Take a look at this extended live version performed in September 2019 with Williams conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Mutter displaying the virtuosity for which she is justly famous.

What's the most terrifying thing in Star Wars? Darth Vader's red lightsaber in Rogue One, the rancor's roar in Return of the Jedi, or Luke’s severed head in 
The Empire Strikes Back
After exploring Star Wars: The High Republic, the epic multimedia project chronicling the Golden Age of the Jedi, I’d say the scariest things in Star Wars are killer plants (hear me out). 
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Claudia Gray's young-adult novel, Into the Dark, introduces jungle horror to the Star Wars canon with the predatory Drengir—sentient vegetal beings with venomous thorns and tentacles, maws with sharp teeth, and a voracious appetite for meat—including the flesh of fallen Jedi. Picture the evil seed pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the menacing, mobile Venus flytrap-like organisms in The Day of the Triffids, but lurking in an abandoned space station in the Outer Rim. These ghastly green creatures strangle victims with their vines, regenerate when cut down, pollute the minds of those around them, and ransack agricultural planets. 
For instance, in Cavan Scott's Marvel comic Star Wars: The High Republic #3, Jedi knight Ceret is drained by the Drengir and infects their twin, Terec, through their Force bond, causing both knights to crave the wild, untamed Dark Side. With the Jedi struggling to control the plant's aggressive spread across the galaxy, the Drengir sow the seeds of discord in the Republic. While the Drengir are the most salient example of the monstrous vegetal in Star Wars, another spooky plant in Legends deserves mention: the Force-sensitive Murakami black orchid from  Joe Schreiber’s novel Star Wars: Red Harvest, which communicates telepathically and spawns a Sith virus resurrecting the dead as cannibals. Given the climate crisis, deforestation, and zoonotic disease, it's timely that the newest phase of Star Wars storytelling grapples with the strange alterity of the nonhuman, particularly plants. 
A villainous plant fun fact: there are at least two varieties of dark-hued flowers named after Sith lords—the Darth Vader begonia (Begonia darthvaderiana) and Primula auricula ‘Palpatine’—garden at your own risk!

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A Horror Gaming Experience 
Out of the many video games spawned out of the Star Wars universe, Ewok Hunt, a mode in EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II, provides a unique and accessible horror experience. Modeled on popular asymmetric multiplayer games such as Dead by Daylight, Ewok Hunt pits the Ewoks against Imperial Storm Troopers who are desperately trying to escape Endor.
Thanks to its lean game design and the stunning graphics of night-time Endor produced by the Frostbite engine, Ewok Hunt is good Star Wars horror if you play the stormtroopers. For all those who doubt the Ewok martial mettle vs. the stormtroopers, the gameplay of Ewok Hunt shows just how deadly Ewoks can be with their archaic spears, bows, and the fire sprite Wisties. The usually cuddly Ewoks are made more terrifying than creatures like the Sarlacc, which for all its fanged presence, had the decency to stay put. Not so the Ewoks, who can pop up anywhere, and kill anyone in your team, who disappear marked only with the ominous message that they were “lost to the forest.”
It’s a good showing for the Ewoks, and one of the bright spots in a game that has been marked by controversy for an exploitative game economy. It’s also one of the most immersive ways to get your Star Wars spook on this Halloween.

Anything, with the right perspective, can be twisted into a horror story. Maul’s appearances throughout The Clone Wars television series draw some level of horror to them due to the unmitigated, destructive chaos that he causes, but the most horrifying thing of all is the particular way in which he reappears after twenty years of primal survival following his “death” falling down the reactor shaft on Naboo in The Phantom Menace.
The episode featuring his return, “Brothers” (S04E21), is a study in the prolonging of suffering that the Dark Side is capable of. Driven past the point of insanity by the darkness that both surrounds and consumes him, Maul is found by his brother Savage Oppress at the bowels of the planet Lotho Minor, finding no solace in the teachings of the Sith that he attempts to repeat for comfort.
This horror, of course, is intensified by Maul’s physical appearance: ravaged by isolation and malnutrition, his scavenged mechanical limbs are designed to resemble a spider, depicting him at his lowest and drawing on the revulsion that so many people feel toward spiders. And it is through Savage’s attempts to reconcile his brother with reality that Maul’s terrible obsession with revenge surfaces …
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To celebrate Halloween, Lucasfilm has followed up last year’s charming Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, a reboot of the infamous, reviled, and disavowed Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, with this year’s Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales, set after The Rise of Skywalker  and currently showing on the Disney+ channel. Poe Dameron and BB-8 crash-land on the lava planet Mustafar, where Anakin Skywalker was dismembered in Revenge of the Sith and where Darth Vader constructed the castle that we see in Rogue One. There he discovers something truly horrifying: an enterprising Hutt trying to transform the ruined castle into a vacation resort. But Darth Vader's old caretaker has something else in mind, as he regales Poe, BB-8, the Hutt, and a Force-sensitive boy with a series of—you guessed it—terrifying tales.
One of these tales provides an alternative account of how Darth Maul is revived and given new legs by Mother Talzen and the Witches of Dathomir. In “Revenge,” the Clone Wars episode that follows the one Amrita describes above, the insane Spider-Maul is restored by the witches to sanity and bipedalism. (Yes, that’s a real word.) In Terrifying Tales … well, let's just say that the spider legs aren’t the most terrifying possibility.
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Of course, if you want a truly terrifying Star Wars experience, the original 1978 Holiday Special can be found on YouTube here, but be warned: it is not for the faint of heart.

Next Issue: Turkey Day!

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