A quick search for Halloween apps will scare up thousands of mobile games, most of them involving that most currently fashionable of monsters, the zombie. Future historians are going to have fun decoding the cultural subtext of our current zombie obsession. Root around a bit, though, and you'll find some fun and even genuinely useful Halloween apps — photo filters, sound generators, haunted house finders. Here's a sampler.
A fairly straightforward photo filter, SpookyPic has a small assortment of effects, but they're nicely understated and even artful. Use the color filter to add that appealing green zombie pallor, or a Stygian red tint for that carefree hellfire look. Image overlays include aged and distressed paper, cracked glass or an ominous hand shadow. Photos can be uploaded directly to Twitter, Facebook or email.
$0.99/$1.99 - iPad
If you want to step up your game, the terrific iMut8r has seven different photo transformation themes for turning yourself (or someone else) into a zombie, vampire, werewolf, etc. The interface is dead simple (heh) and the effects can be startling. Be sure to use the "fade" function which lets you fine tune those gaping wounds, neck bolts, bloody fangs, what-have-you. You can also mix and match between themes. Highly recommended.
Slight, simple and stylish, Make A Zombie is a cartoony avatar maker with a few twists. You can save your creations to your photo album, post them to the usual social media suspects, or even order them printed on a t-shirt, coffee mug or custom iPhone case. In-game paid upgrades remove the ads and provide new theme packs (zombie pirates!).
A kind of update to that old viral video that used to make the rounds, the Scary Prank app looks like a brain teaser game, until the zombie pops onscreen with a piercing shriek. Start up the "game," hand it to a friend, and wait for the fun to begin. In terms of strict consumer advocacy, we should warn that the app has been known to cause people to throw the iPhone across the room.
There are literally hundreds of flashlight apps out there that use the LED flash on back of your iPhone. Most are free, many have ads, and several tack on bells and whistles like strobes, sounds, etc. But for trick-or-treating purposes, you want a fast, free, no-ads flashlight app that you can light up in a pinch if need be when escorting the kids. Remember to use sparingly — all flashlight apps eat up battery power like the walking dead eat brains.
This generous compilation app gathers classic horror stories along with a handful of spooky sounds and a couple of scary prank games. It's not much to look at, but there's some depth to the horror story selections, including genre staples like Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and selections from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and that gentlemanly old New England maniac H.P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu lives!
For littler readers, this charming storybook app ports Dr. Seuss' classic story to the iPhone or iPad. Kids can read by themselves or opt for the pleasant, professional-grade voiceover narration. Onscreen objects can be tapped for identification (Brickel bushes, Grinitch spinach) and some subtle music and camera movement liven up the page-turning.
Serious horror fans and pop culture archivists will appreciate this interesting little app, which offers streaming horror movies on demand. All of the films are old and in the public domain, and most are only good for camp value. But there are a few gems including the acknowledged indie classic Carnival of Souls from 1962. That film, which will freak you directly out and looks quite good on the iPad, was a major influence on a whole generation of dark-side filmmakers, including George Romero and David Lynch.
You can find hundreds of sound board apps, some with spooky sounds as a category and some dedicated entirely to Halloween audio inspiration. Halloween Sound Shelf earns a spot on the list thanks to its spacious iPad design and its variety of clips — screeching cats, moaning ghosts, demented psychopath laughter — plus four different background music selections which loop underneath your selections. You can play this thing like a piano. A demonic, haunted piano. But still.
For a more streamlined sound board experience, Halloween Sounds Pro is designed for the iPhone and offers 16 clips, including a cackling witch, a revving chainsaw, creaking floorboards and, um, a croaking frog. Maybe it's a croaking joke. One nice feature is the time delay slider, so you can queue up a bloodcurling scream, max out the volume, and leave your phone somewhere interesting.
The undead developer community has yet to field the killer app that will actually help you find a nearby haunted house. (There are some decent websites that help, though.) This app from SyFy channel's Ghost Hunter reality series at least provides solid info on 100 or so of the haunted locations that the team has explored over seven seasons, such as the evocatively named Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
true storiesTrue Ghost Stories From Around the World
A surprisingly successful idea, True Ghost Stories From Around The World compiles ghost stories submitted by users, and it has a real aura of authenticity. Readers rank the stories, and they're organized into top ten lists by week, month and all-time. The ranking system keeps the lame stuff buried (these puns just keep happening) and the most popular stories are amended with hundreds of comments from readers. The $0.99 upgrade adds in audio ghost stories and ghost videos.
There's not a lot to this app — it's essentially an alphabetical listing of costumes with links to retail websites. But it's useful for brainstorming when you've got a party coming up and not a stitch to wear. The HD photos and the sheer volume of costumes are bound to inspire something. Predictably, there are literally hundreds of costumes that start with "Sexy." You've got your Sexy Nurse, Sexy Gladiator, Sexy Leprechaun ….
Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor. Check out more tech trends and new at Digital Crave.