It’s ironic. The profession of horror journalism (or horror literature of filmmaking for that matter), at least for this writer, was initially and unsurprisingly inspired by my love of all things Halloween; yet, the subsequent October workload which has resulted often forces me to miss the simple trappings that launched my macabre interest in the first place.
Given that, this season I’ve taken a few moments – with my black cat curled upon my lap (she’s ‘Halloween’ all year round) – to compose a list of the filmic treats which allow me to revel most in this season of seasons.
So if you’ll allow me to indulge, sit back with a pumpkin spiced latte (or pumpkin martini, as in my case) and hopefully enjoy the following list of Halloween, burnt-umber cinematic offerings of things that stab (with butcher knife or lollipop), toilet paper or make your little creepy hearts smile.
What more is there to say about this homage to German Expressionism, aside from the fact that it served as the template (nods of course to Bob Clark’s Black Christmas) for modern slasher films? Bloodless, creepy and eternally frightening, John Carpenter’s masterpiece has stood the test of time and still gives us the chills. Note: If you’ve got the extended cut (which includes the shot-for-television scenes), watch it.
Halloween 2 (1981)
Pamela Shoop famously gets naked in a whirlpool, The Shape finishes off the night in a conflagration and Jamie Lee Curtis rides off into a post-traumatic sunset to the strains of ‘Mr. Sandman’. Director Rick Rosenthal’s follow-up to another party night in Haddonfield.
Fright Night (1985)
Filmmaker’s Tom Holland’s classic vampire-arrives-in-the-suburbs flick captures the spirit of mid-Eighties horror like no other. Rodney McDowell’s character of late night horror host turned vampire hunter ‘Peter Vincent’ is delightful, William Ragsdale’s portrayal of ‘Charlie Brewster’ made us feel not so alone and the practical FX are at once whimsical and frightening. While the remake’s release is imminent, I can surmise that Holland’s original will always be the one. “You’re so cool, Brewster!”
The Monster Squad (1987)
Director Fred Dekker’s homage to the Universal classics, the flick is altogether endearing and innocent, with just enough bite to keep you on your toes, and captures the feeling of Goonies-cum-Spielberg without the saccharine (“Wolfman’s got nards!”). Stan Winston’s studio cleverly reincarnates the Universal monster stable of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, The Mummy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, all without drawing the ire of Uni’s litigious brigade – and it’s a lovely thing to experience. This flick is an absolute must.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – ‘Halloween’ (1997)
In this episode written by Carl Ellsworth, the Scooby Gang find themselves transformed into the costumes they’ve rented from Ethan’s Costume Shoppe, and all hell erupts in Sunnydale. For anyone who has ever pondered what might happen if those little trick or treaters actually became the characters they portrayed, this one’s for you. Buffy goes Southern belle, Willow creates the first slutty ghost, Xander gets all Hurt Locker and William the Bloody muses, “This is just… neat.” It’s the perfect backdrop to carve a pumpkin to.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – ‘Fear, Itself’ (1999)
Buffy Summers and the gang find themselves once again at the epicenter of Halloween badness, or goodness, depending on how you look at it, when they attend a frat party hosted by a diminutive demon, with all the sugary ocular trappings of All Hallow’s Eve. Written by David Fury, this ep is suspenseful with a comedic finish; grab a bowl of candy corn and dig in.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Writer and director Michael Dougherty delivers the quintessential All Hallow’s film, perfect for horror fans and Samhain devotees alike. The cinematography is gorgeous, the script is astoundingly clever and multi-layered, little ‘Sam’ steals our blackened hearts and Warner Bros. defined the concept of ‘fail’ by not releasing it theatrically. If you haven’t seen this flick, then most likely you are the kind of cat that kicks over jack ‘o lanterns – and Sam wouldn’t like that.
“Supernatural” – ‘Monster Movie’ (2008)
Penned by Ben Edlund, ‘Monster Movie’ lands Sam and Dean Winchester in classic black and white at an Oktoberfest, where they investigate a string of macabre murders that seem to be perpetrated by a stable of Golden Age Universal monsters. Witty and nostalgic, the episode is altogether endearing.
Night of the Demons (2010)
A dishonest trick or treater gets zippered with a paintball gun in the opening scenes of Adam Geirasch’s gonzo remake of the cult classic, and with that the flick is off and running with boobs, blood and skimpy costumes as some unlucky partiers get down in an infamous New Orleans mansion, all set to a great punk rock soundtrack. Whether you are watching intently or screening it for atmosphere, the Night of the Demons redux is sure to put you in the Halloween mood.
United Monster Talent Agency (2010)
Greg Nicotero’s immensely entertaining black and white short posits what would have happened had the cinematic monsters of yore been living and breathing (and in some cases undead) entities and what Hollywood agency would have represented them. With a clever Movietone News take and ingenious recreations of scenes from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, this one will warm the hearts of monster lovers everywhere.
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