Friday, October 30, 2009

A Halloween Film Fest

Just about ready for Halloween? On this night, a common custom among adults is to gather around the TV and watch movies that celebrate the creepy and kooky. One of the most popular, of course, is "John Carpenter's Halloween", but aside from that movie about a terrorizing masked murderer, there are others worth pulling off the shelves for a few screams as well. Here are our top 5 favorites to make it into our personal Halloween film fest...

01. POLTERGEIST (1982)

Throughout the the late 70s and 80s, Steven Spielberg reigned supreme, especially in the genre of horror. Over the years some have dated better than others. Of those that dated well, I believe "Poltergeist" is still effective in the chills department, as well as effects. As a child the supernatural was always particularly frightening, so you can imagine how I was traumatized if I were to only peek at any given scene. Even today I find it just as eerie and strangely realistic, even with repeat viewings. Most of all, I just find something about the little psychic lady, Tangina, to be deeply unsettling!

02. SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

Tim Burton is practically synonymous with Halloween, which made it a tad difficult to narrow it down to one of his films. Still, as much as I love "Nightmare Before Christmas", I believe "Sleepy Hollow" is Burton's true Halloween opus! He perfectly lays out each scene of Washington Irving's classic tale with ominous suspense. The red blood stands out starkly against the gloomy cinematography, which is presented in generous quantities. This is not the Disney version most of us were familiar with as children, but more of an expansion for those who grew up loving it.


On a lighter note, Young Frankenstein is the work of comedic geniuses, Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder. It follows the classic tale of the rejected monster, but with a twist of humor as it follows the nearly identical chain of events of Dr. Frankenstein's grandson, who prefers to pronounce his name FrankenstEEn. As always, Gene Wilder shines in his own eccentric way and Peter Boyle is excellent as the monster he raises from the apparatuses of dead people.

04. BELL, BOOK & CANDLE (1958)

This is a little known film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak about a jealous and manipulative witch who is willing to do just about anything to get what she wants. This time her sights are on a poor, unsuspecting man who is engaged and ready to tie the knot. It appears as though she has wooed him firmly into her clutches when unexpected feelings arise. This movie is more of a twisted romance with a touch of the supernatural, which makes it great for Halloween viewing. But when it comes to women in general, I am reminded of a quote from Bugs Bunny in the short "Bewitched Bunny" (featuring Witch Hazel); "aren't they all witches inside?".


Ever wish you could live forever? Vanity has a price, as displayed here in the deliciously dark comedy, "Death Becomes Her". Although Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn are set to steal the show, Bruce Willis is brilliant and practically unrecognizable as a sniveling, cowardly man who is bullied by the two women in his life. A prime example of how far things can go when you allow jealousy to control your life...and that is as scary as it gets!

Well, I am no horror film buff, but I do appreciate a great scare. There are films like "Jurassic Park", "Jaws", and "Aliens" that certainly sent several chills up my spine, but I will choose five that I find particularly fun to watch at Halloween. (Beware, these are not for children.):

01. CARRIE (1976)

This one put Stephen King on the map and was a favorite when I was a teenager in the '80's. It was riveting and many of us (bullied and fundamentalist kids) could relate! Of course, Sissy Spacek did such a compelling acting job that it rose to the top of the genre of the time and her pathos and angst was felt deeply by many. Creepy, yet heart-breaking.

02. SILVER BULLET (1985)

Stephen King again, but this time a short that was probably made on a small budget. Still creepy! It probably contributed to my life-long aversion to werewolves, LOL. Come on, they are the CREEPIEST monsters, don't you agree?! Anyway, it's scary enough to be chased by a werewolf, but when you are a kid in a wheel-chair, you can feel your throbbing heart in your throat. (EXTRA SCARY BIT: Watch for the werewolf in the window!)

03. THE VILLAGE (2004)

I love it. Maybe not M. Night Shayalaman's best according to the critics, but it's tops for me. This is in large part due to the amazing Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Ron Howard), but also to the super creepy setting and theme. If werewolves are the most scary monsters in my mind, then the woods are the most scary PLACE. I'll take a haunted house over the woods any day (I still can't watch "The Blair Witch Project.") Creepy woods hit too close to home.

04. VAN HELSING (2004)

Another sentimental favorite of mine. It features all of the classic monster favorites with modern day effects. Again, super-creepy werewolves, a dashing Count Dracula, and a convincing hero played by the equally dashing Hugh Jackman. Yes, I do love him in this. I also love the creepy Romanian setting and accents, where the sun doesn't shine and the people accept a few human sacrifices a month in order to keep the peace. FUN!

05. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Probably the best creepy flick I've ever seen. OK, I admit it's because of that darned, famous twist at the end! I may love "The Village" more, but this one made Shayalaman famous and rightly so. If you haven't seen it, don't read anything about it and ruin it! I will say no more except run out and rent this baby ASAP!



It may be just about everybody's nightmare that the vacant house next door would become occupied by some freak, let alone one of the supernatural variety! Specifically, a vampire. What could be worse? How about the fact that he has the hots for your sweetheart and would like nothing more than to kill you in your sleep? Well, the best thing to do in a situation like that is probably call the self-proclaimed vampire hunter who hosts a midnight movie program on local TV...or perhaps not.