The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week of Halloween and Day of the Dead

Castro Theater
Courtesy of the Castro Theater

Big-Screen Fright Nights

Courtesy of NBC/Universal

Halloween is my favorite holiday for many reasons: sourcing and carving pumpkins, coming up with a fabulous DIY costume, indulging in ghoulishly good treats, and embarking on a scary movie binge in the weeks leading up to the 31st. While the glut of streaming services puts many an iconic movie at one’s fingertips, there’s nothing quite like viewing a horror film on the big screen; the jump scares, creepy visuals, and suspenseful score are so much more effective when experienced in macro. So I couldn’t be happier to discover that my two favorite San Francisco cinemas have almost nightly scary screenings on the dates leading up to Halloween. The Castro Theater, an historic room that perennially features second-run screenings, is offering the following double features: Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein (Oct. 28), Rosemary’s Baby and It’s Alive (Oct. 30), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing from Another World (Oct. 31). Meanwhile, Alamo Drafthouse—my pick for the roomiest seats and in-seat dining—will screen Ghostbusters (Oct. 28), Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Oct. 29), and Beetlejuice and The Exorcist: The Director’s Cut (Oct. 31). So many big-screen options, so little time!  —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Cuckoo for Coco

Creative Commons photo by Allavudeen s is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I love Halloween—who doesn’t? But this year, it’s the Day of the Dead, the campy-scary holiday’s more soulful sibling, that is calling out to me. If I take in a film about death this year, it’s going to be Coco, at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. For two nights (November 1 and 2), the SF Symphony will play along with the beloved Pixar film, making it seem new again even if, like me, you’ve wept through seen it multiple times already. The showings may sell out, but if you don’t jump on seats early enough, a few rush tickets will be released each afternoon—you can stop by the box office at 201 Van Ness Avenue each day to check on availability, or call the Rush Hotline after 6pm the night before each performance: 415/503-5577. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

Coco with the San Francisco Symphony, from $165

A Horror Classic, Now with Acrophobia

Creative Commons photo by Marc Burkhardt is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Once October comes around, things just begin to feel a bit spookier—the temperature starts to drop and our nights fall sooner and darker. It’s no wonder that it’s the best time of the year to watch scary movies. While everyone else will be out running away from zombies in haunted mazes, I’ll be watching my all-time favorite slasher film, Halloween, on a rooftop, curled up in a fleece blanket on a comfy deckchair, munching on popcorn and sipping champagne at L.A.’s Rooftop Cinema Club. Wondering if the honking cars will ruin the movie? No need. You’re given personal headphones so nothing can disturb this unforgettable cinematic experience. —Janessa Reyes, social media manager 

Rooftop Cinema Horror Classic, from $17

L.A.’s Spookiest Neighborhood          

Creative Commons photo by A Cru is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Halloween is upon us! I have so much to look forward to: miniature versions of all the best candy; dogs in topical costumes; horror movies on every channel; pumpkin carving parties (oh, the roasted pumpkin seeds!)—and a stroll through my neighborhood on Halloween night. Angelino Heights is both the second-oldest neighborhood in Los Angeles and the city’s first recognized historic district, due to its large concentration of eclectic, historic Victorian homes. And when Halloween rolls around, folks come from all across the city (and beyond) to see those Victorians decked out with cobwebs, tombstones, giant spiders, “flying” bats, creepy cadavers—and that’s just a taste. Light shows and fog machines set the mood, adults don movie-quality makeup to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, and the streets overflow with costumed critters of all ages (and some of those topically costumed dogs, too). It’s a feast for the eyes and the belly, and I can walk home in minutes once I’m sufficiently spooked. —Kate Wertheimer, travel editor

Quiet Neighbors

Creative Commons photo by Amy Goodman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There’s no better time for a stroll through your friendly neighborhood cemetery, and lucky for me, mine just happens to be Portland’s oldest. Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery was established in 1855 on the Donation Land Claim owned by James Stephens (the man grimacing to the left of his wife Elizabeth on the headstone pictured above); his father Emmor was technically the first buried in the cemetery, as he was already in the ground when the site became a graveyard. Numerous notable Portlanders are buried here, everyone from Asa Lovejoy (the man who lost the coin flip to name our fair hamlet) and Gus Waterford (the city’s first black firefighter), but more saliently to the season, there are also a number of notorious subterranean residents of Lone Fir. Dr. James Hawthorne, who owned and ran the city’s first insane asylum just a mile away, is buried here, along with 132 of his former patients (he promised to bury any patient there who’d been abandoned by their family, which happened a lot back then). Lone Fir also holds the remains of Emma Merlotin, a prostitute who was murdered just before Christmas in 1885; her eyes were removed during the forensic investigation—then a budding science—to find out whether or not they held the image of her murderer. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

A Flashlight That Will Age Gracefully 

Courtesy of Best Made Co.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but come Halloween I’m as obsessed with flashlights as much as kids are with candy. It’s a seasonal habit I picked up when my kids were little and I’d take them out trick or treating, illuminating the way with various lamps, lights, and lanterns. Somewhere along the way I lost my big metal 4 D-cell truncheon of a Maglite, tried some other lights, and eventually settled on a compact Surefire model, which was bright and sturdy but maybe a little too tactical looking with its matte black finish and sharp crenellated bezel advertised as a self-defense feature. Now that my kids are grown, Halloween has taken a backseat to other autumnal givens, like the rolling blackouts that come with fire season. The flashlight I’ve got my eye is the handsome MMR-X from the aesthetes at Best Made Co. Its guts are modern (USB rechargeable, LED efficient, can crank out a blazing 1000 lumens), but the brass case is as classic as they come. I’m looking forward to watching it patina with each future Halloween. —Hugh Garvey, executive editor

MMR-X Flashlight, $198 from Best Made Co.

Any Questions?

Because David Pumpkins. And because here Oakland’s own Tom Hanks is, like Halloween itself, both creepy and funny at the same time. —Matt Bean, editor-in-chief