Halloween Movies List!!!
Chris and I have finally reached a shooting draft of Ep7. It’s big, it’s badass, but it doesn’t necessarily feel unmanageable anymore. More on this next week.
It’s finally Halloween week for real. I love Halloween. The atmosphere of fun-spookiness is just too good. These are the jack-o-lanterns that I, my friend Jill, and my wife, Eliza (left to right) carved this year.
Edgar Wright is one of the coolest directors ever and he hangs out with Tarantino, programming double features at Taratino’s New Beverly theater all the time, so of course his list is going to be made up mostly of super esoteric 60’s and 70’s pictures with a few horror staples thrown in. Plus, he’s a director that gets a lot of spotlight, he’s using it to draw attention to some hidden gems from filmmakers he respects that people may not have heard of. (Sentence ended with preposition. Acknowledged, uncorrected, I still feel okay about myself) That’s a really cool thing for him to do. And he’s a big movie buff, so he’s seen a lot more stuff than normal folk.
I want to do a list of my own this year. His was 16 movies. That’s what it takes to fill up a full 24 hours, I guess, but I’m not going to do that many. I’m simply going to do 10 movies that I feel capture a great Halloween vibe. For me, that usually means at least a dash of smirking fun and panache thrown in to complement the scary stuff.
Jake’s 10 Great Picks for Halloween List
The John Carpenter original. Can’t be beat. The Rob Zombie re-makes are frenetic garbage filled with a bunch of the worst people in the world that are only tolerable when they’re being killed. The ’78 Carpenter original popularized the slasher genre and it did it with a slow tension-building pace and lots of shadows and an amazing syncopated melody on the piano. The rest of the Halloween series is great too (Pre-Zombie, excluding Ressurection, including the Season of the Witch), making for the best Horror franchise ever, I think. It doesn’t hurt that it’s flat out called “Halloween.”
2. Hocus Pocus
I wanted to acknowledge straight off that not all of my picks are going to be what a horror fan would consider “legit.” My wife and I watch this movie around Halloween every year with any of our friends who want to participate, in fact, we’re doing it tonight. It’s got everything. Witches, trick or treating, Disney cell-animated effects for some of the magic, some great music (Come little children/I’ll take thee away…), Sarah Jessica Parker from back when she was only allowed to play airheads, Bette Midler giving it her all, Kathy Najimy giving a Masters-course in muttering. It’s as fun as the lighter side of Halloween gets.
The original Scream is one of the best horror movies ever made. Side note: Scream 4 is actually pretty good too. It has that blend of actual horror and really clever comedy that makes for the best kind of horror films and encapsulates the spirit of Halloween. Plus it’s a genre-defining horror picture that revitalized interest in its genre while mocking/paying homage to the clichés and tropes of its genre without being annoying about it. It’s like finding a unicorn. A wonderful, karo syrup-drenched unicorn. The only reason I started watching The Vampire Diaries was because of Williamson (the Scream screenwriter) and I’ve just about come around to forgiving him.
4. Cemetery Man
This is my one esoteric, Italian-made, look-what-a-movie-buff-I-am entry. The entire picture starts with a slow track back out of a skull, how Halloween-ish is that? It’s about a cemetery where the recently dead come back to life and the caretaker (Rupert Everett), instead of dealing with the paperwork involved, just kills them and reburies them. It then devolves into one of the weirdest movies ever, zig-zagging around meaningless side plots and bizarre happenstances instead of involving any real plot. I found this in high school right at the peak of my anti-mainstream, indie-fueled, Jarmusch-hypnotized mania and it probably stands as one of my best finds from back then.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
I feel like Freddie had to end up on this list and I think 3 is as good as it gets. This is a franchise that’s responsible for so many great horror tropes, tag lines, and catch phrases. The tag line for the original was: “If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all.” Come on! That’s amazing. And then in 5, I think, we find out that Freddy is the “bastard son of 100 maniacs.” BOOM! Deal with that. [EDIT: Nope. That idea was introduced in 3 as well. Clearly, a landmark film for Freddie.] I chose Dream Warriors because it’s when Freddy started really getting his sense of humor, the dream kills were the most inventive (the kid getting puppeteered using the muscles and sinew from inside his arms and legs is AMAZING), Patricia Arquette is the leader of the Dream Warriors, and one of the writers on it was Frank Darabont (Director of Shawshank).
6. Sleepy Hollow
The Tim Burton feature-length one. I was actually let down when I saw this in the theater and I think that for everything that it is, it’s not really a great flick. But it’s hard to get more iconic Halloween imagery than the Art Direction in this picture. Everything about it is the Halloween from inside my head and I love to look at it. So even though it always disappoints me in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on, I find myself drawn to it at this time of year.
7. Donnie Darko
NEVER! Nevernevernever…watch the director’s cut of this awesome movie. Richard Kelly pretty much ruins it by injecting too much of his RIDICULOUS explanation of what’s happening. The less it’s spelled out the better. Darko works best at a practically subconscious level. I think Kelly becomes a good filmmaker when he’s on a tight financial leash. If you’ve seen Southland Tales, or the inexplicably flawed The Box, you know what I’m saying. The original cut of Donnie Darko is perfect. The time travel stuff, Frank the rabbit, the visible fate worms, the countdown numbers, Sparkle Motion, the soundtrack, Halloween, “I have those too, what kind of emotional problems does your dad have?” This movie is just awesome. I love it love it love it.
8. House of 1000 Corpses
See? I don’t completely hate Rob Zombie. I like the first Rob Zombie movie; the one that all of his fans hate. It’s just such an awesome conglomeration of bizarre horror tropes that it worked for me. The slow motion sequence in the middle, where the sheriff finds out what’s happening at the Firefly family home, is horror movie perfection as far as I’m concerned. That sequence alone is what told me that Zombie was really a filmmaker. He’s spent the rest of his career trying to prove me wrong.
9. In the Mouth of Madness
It’s weird that this ended up on my list. Apparently I’m a sucker for Carpenter and Craven. I love the Stephen King-ish concept of falling into the world created by an awesome horror author. Even though King had nothing to do with this, it always felt kind of like a better interpretation of his work than any of the adaptations. There’s a notable Kubrick-y exception that has very little to do with King’s actual book. Plus Sam Neill is great and genre-y in this. And the padded walls with all the cool symbols and writing on them? Awesome.
10. Lady in White
This one is a tip of the hat to my mom, who let me watch this repeatedly as a kid despite how horrified it always made me. This is a GREAT Halloween movie. The little ghost girl always having to reenact her murder, the fact that the murderer isn’t visible meaning that he’s still alive, the old woman in the house, the HORRIFYING side story of the tragic mother taking her revenge on the wrong man. This is outstanding storytelling executed in an intensely creepy way. Great movie. It’s only slightly hindered by a couple of really bad ‘80s effects at inopportune moments that kill the buzz just a little, but it’s more than worth it.
Thanks for letting me do a Halloween movie list, guys! Happy Halloween.