Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Top 10 Halloween Movies

So, here's the complete rundown of my Top 10 Halloween movie picks, as featured this month on Facebook, as well as list of honourable mentions & recommendations - Happy Scary Halloween movie watching!

Here we go!

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas - The Tim Burton produced/Henry Selick directed film opened the floodgates and ushered in nearly a decade's worth of dark family stop motion movies. And with the Halloween/slash/Christmas cross-over appeal, you can watch this one as many times as you want on the two best holidays of the year!
*Also released a couple of years ago in 3D!

9. Beetlejuice - This earlier Burton film about a recently deceased couple settling into their after-life groove and scare away the hipster-doofus city folk who bought their classic country home features the role Michael Keaton was born to play - a foul-mouthed, lecherous zombie trying to make a fast buck off the naive newly-deads. How is this not a great Halloween movie?

8. Sleepy Hollow - Another Tim Burton film, a stylish re-telling of the classic Washington Irving Halloween story. The cast features several actors who had worked with Burton in the past or starred in films that inspired him - Johnny Depp and Martin Landau starred in Ed Wood, Michael Gough played Alfred in Batman('89),Jeffrey Jones from Beetlejuice, and Lisa Marie - Burton's partner and beautiful Martian interloper in Mars Attacks!, as well as Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid, and the perennially creepy Christopher Walken.
Autumn in upstage New York, flaming pumpkins and repeated Tim Burton themes and images - it must be Halloween!

7. Se7en - not specific to Halloween, but the film takes place in late summer/early fall... lot of rain and dying foliage (at least dead grass in the last scene...).
It's creepy and unsettling and amazing!

6. Donnie Darko - Again creepy and unsettling, but more specific to Halloween, as the major events of the film occur on Halloween night. And what's creepier than someone you may or may not know in a really spooky giant bunny costume? Being stuck in a time loop, possibly living the last week of your life over and over and over again...
Retro music, Patrick Swayze and falling aircraft pieces - Sparkle Magic indeed!

5. Poltergeist - the best ghost movie ever!
A family in suburban California (in a neighborhood that looks like it's just over the hill from E.T.'s families place... )begins to experience some disturbing supernatural phenomena, seemingly focused on the angelic youngest daughter. Based on a true story about a subdivision built on a sacred aboriginal burial ground. And... it also comes with a curse - four members of the cast of the three films passed on before the final film was released...

4. Night of the Living Dead - George Romero's original low budget zombie movie changed the rules and gave us a new view on zombies. Previously, zombies had just been relegated to being the tools of voodoo priests and were not really associated with flesh-eating, lurching shotgun targets we know and love today. Originally created by 'radioactive contamination' from a destroyed space probe, the explanations of what causes 'zombification' change over the years, usually based on what's causing the most public hysteria - most recently, fast spreading mutant viruses - back in the day, the Vietnam War or the damn Russkies... and since then, they've evolved into hyper-active, sprinting ferocious demons, but the original sloth-like, clumsy biters pack just as much punch. One bite is still all it takes.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street - Director Wes Craven re-invented hte slasher movie when he created A Nightmare.... The horror movie market was overrun with cookie cutter slashers based on either Jason Voohees or Michael Myers, seeking revenge or upholding some moral code wherein promiscuity is wrong and savage murder is an acceptable punishment for 'doing-it' on a camping trip, at the drive-in, or girlfriend's parent house while they're out of town for the weekend...
And while Freddy Krueger seemed to kill by code as well, he used his victims sex as a distraction and got them where they weren't expecting - in their dreams.
After a parade of sequels, the series' popularity fell off as its formerly terrifying star became a rubber clown, but the original maintains its chills and revolutionary scare tactics.
You may think Freddy's tired and lame now, but check out the original and you'll respect the sweater man again.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - They say the scariest things are true. And that what makes this film REALLY scary. It's partially based on the activities of serial grave robber and murderer Ed Gein who actually did decorate his home with handicrafts make from relics recycled from Wisconsin cemeteries in the '50's. His exploits also inspired the characters Norman Bates from Psycho and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of The Lambs. Like Gein, the chills in this film come from the protagonists presenting themselves as normal in society, kidnapping victims when the opportunity arose, only to do unspeakably terrible things to them. Unlike Gein, the film concerns a family working together, and the tool of choice - the titular chainsaw. Not too many sound effects had the same effect as the sudden start of a two-stroke hornets nest like Leatherface's beloved saw.
The grainy quality of the film itself lends an almost documentary realism and that, combined with John Larroquette's monologue/disclaimer at the film's outset makes the audience feel like they're watching these actual events unfold for real.
No Halloween movie party is complete without a screening of the original. And it's a great way to weed out some of your more squeamish guests!

1. Halloween - This really doesn't even need an explanation.
It just makes sense. And not because it's called 'Halloween'...
It all takes place on Halloween night and there's an escaped mental patient on the loose, wearing a modified William Shatner/Captain James T. Kirk mask.
So good - so creepy.
Just a big guy in overalls killing teenagers for pretty much no reason.
(In my humble opinion, Rob Zombie effed up the whole appeal when he tried to explain away Michael's killing ways by making his step-father an abusive prick and having him be the target of bullies... What's more terrifying that some middle class 6 year-old in a clown costumer randomly and without provocation murdering his older sister? And then returning home 15 years later the hunt down friendly babysitter Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis....? Awesome.
Curtis's screams are the only sound effect more 'Halloween' than the sound of Leatherface's (or I guess anyone in the dark..'s) chainsaw!

Honourable Mention - (in absolutely no order whatsoever).

*The Shining - yeah, it's a classic. And while it has little to do with the novel for which it's named, it's still got some pretty solid scares, but it's more of a Winter Holidays scary movie.
*Batman - two guys running across town in a clown outfit and a bat outfit? how does that not scream Halloween? (Also, Tim Burton).
*Ghostbusters - yup.
*Cloverfield - giant monsters are always cool!
*The Exorcist - a little over-hyped but still a classic. Who here doesn't like watching little girls verbally abuse priests and curse like sailors?
*Invasion of the Body Snatchers - a forgotten '70's gem! Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum and some other people on the run from pods stealing their identities - a perfect allegory for... anything! And the suspense just builds and builds in this one. So good.
*The Others - there's nothing better than a great ghost story, and Spanish director Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar scores some excellent scares with this film.
*Jacob's Ladder - Tim Robbins is awesome as a guy who's really confused by the weird stuff that's going on around him since he came home from the Vietnam War. Man, everybody was making movies about 'Nam in the early '90's...
*The Mothman Prophecies - an intriguing and spooky movie about some weird going's-on in Wes Virginia. I could even overlook the vanilla wave of bland self-satisfaction that is Richard Gere for this one.
*Hellraiser - you want gore? Here, take one of these and call me when you're crying to Mama. Clive Barker gives a double blast of blood and eroticism in the first of a series that spawned several unwatchable and useless sequels. Doug Bradley is imposing and gentlemanly as The First Cenobite (Pinhead), and Clive Barker does a considerably better in his first directorial effort than Stephen King (Maximum Overdrive).
*An American Werewolf In London - You gotta have a good werewolf movie! Great atmosphere, awesome transformations and plenty of laughs to relieve the somberness of English weather, and a great oldies soundtrack!
*The Fly - another amazing monster movie, and a nice Canadian element(shot in Toronto, directed by David Cronenberg). Obsessed scientist turns into giant fly through genetic experiment gone wrong. It's funny how one little thing can make such a big difference.
*Pin - another obscur-ish Canadian film, this psychological thriller concerns a doctors son's preoccupation with a medical dummy. Creepy, creepy, creepy.
*The Silence of the Lambs - the autumn setting, the horrible activities of Buffalo Bill and Tony Hopkins' perfect delivery - excellent.
*The Sixth Sense - the basis of countless parodies, this film still delivers authentic chills and a great shock ending. It even provided a little credibility to Bruce Willis' resume.
*Halloween III: Season of the Witch - the dirty bastard child of the Halloween franchise. H3 does not directly feature Michael Myers, but instead concerns itself with a malevolent Irish industrialist bent on killing the youth of America by way of electronically dangerous rubber masks. Making an 'action star' of character actor Tom Atkins and featuring one of the MOST irritating television commercials in modern cinema, Season of the Witch is still a pretty fun Halloween watch.

1 comment:

  1. Great list - are you planning on doing one for the Christmas holidays?? ;)