Well, it’s autumn again, and the time of year when the world makes sure that things go bump in the night. Halloween is a popular holiday, a concept that is still growing in popularity in some places in the World. It’s a time for family fun, cuddling up to spookiness and for those with a penchant for the darker things in life to hold out their arms and embrace the ghoulishness that comes with it. Whether it’s carving a pumpkin, having a costume party complete with a blood punch, watching a butt-load of horror films, trick or treating, or whatever else it is that you might do on Halloween, we all have a specific movie that we pull off the shelf and watch each year. A film that embodies the time of year and gives you that undeniable feeling of festiveness (you can be festive about Halloween, right?). So, here at The Cinephiliacs, we got together and decided to share each of our personal picks of what is out favourite Halloween movie. It might not be the best Halloween film ever made, but each member of The Cinephiliacs team has highlighted their personal favourite, and given a bit of detail as to why it is so. So, join us in our Halloween celebration, and feel free to comment below and let us know what YOUR favourite Halloween movie is, and why.
Happy Halloween, dear reader. Have a wickedly groovy time!
The Monster Squad (1987)
Directed by Fred Dekker.
The 1980’s was a truly great time for purely-fun horror films, bright, colourful, zany, corny (in a good way) and glittery (yeah, I said glittery) horror films that echoed with synthesizers and the shredding vibrant silliness of hair metal, and had as many legwarmers, scrunchies and jean-jackets as they did blood, gore and visceral entrails.
A bunch of classic monsters, led by Dracula are planning to take over the world, but it isn’t quite as easy as that, because a bunch of kids discover the monster’s monstrous plan, and decide to do something about it. The monsters go toe-to-toe with a rag-tag group of kids in 1980’s American suburbia. White picket-fences, barking dogs, Frisbee’s on the lawn, you get the drill. It just reeks of the 1980’s, doesn’t it? It’s a cult classic, and for good reason.
There’s never a better time of year to watch this type of film, it fits perfect among the fallen leaves and pumpkins of Halloween season. The classic monster characters, such as The Mummy, The Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster are here, with the effects being iconic and top-notch, and the tone of the film family-friendly and just spooky and creepy enough to appeal to adults yet remain approachable for the younger crowd. Nostalgia perhaps does it plenty of favours, but regardless it’s a joyous film. The fun spirit of the season is brought out front and centre with The Monster Squad, and that’s possibly its biggest positive of all, its pure fun, and anyone can enjoy it. Now, that’s damn cool, in my view.
Directed by Rob Zombie
It always shocks people when I tell them that I actually saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween before the original John Carpenter version. Of course, I have seen the Carpenter movie since then but Zombie’s version is my Halloween. The Devil’s Rejects had such an impact on me that when I found out that his remake of Halloween was coming out I was instantly excited. I was not disappointed. Zombie’s decision of following Michael Myers from an early age was what made this one stand out. I have to admit that those scenes with young Myers brutally killing his family are still hard to watch. In only a way that Zombie can do, the movie turned away from its slasher beginnings to become a much grittier version. Something much more real and horrific to me. When I think of a good Halloween themed movie, this is the first one that comes to mind.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Okay, so there are plenty of films that are perfect for the holiday, I mean I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but if you make it through October without watching at least one Vincent Price or Boris Karloff movie, frankly you’re doing Halloween wrong. That said for my money your ‘main event’ Halloween movie /has to/ feature the holiday; with that in mind, I reckon “Trick ‘r Treat” (2008) is /the/ Halloween movie. With Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Psycho-killers, and a man being tormented by the spirit of the holiday, its multiple entwined stories have something for all flavours of horror fans, and the way the stories connect and bleed into each other is genius; like a Halloween Pulp Fiction. It’s reasonably kid-friendly, which for me is just the right type of scary for Halloween / Halloween is about enjoying the fear, watching from behind the sofa, or through the gaps in your fingers, not wanting to leave the room, or sweating in abject terror. But what makes trick ‘R’ treat /so/ great, is that you could pause the film on virtually any frame and be left with no doubt on which day of the year the movie is set – name another Halloween movie which can boast that! And on top of everything, we have Sam; finally Halloween gets its own version of the Easter Bunny or Santa!
The Changeling (1980)
Directed by Peter Medak
The Changeling, starring George C. Scott, is my pick for must watch every October. In essence it’s a haunted house story, complete with secret hidden rooms, slamming doors, a piano playing by itself and many dark and stormy nights. What sets it apart is the gorgeous set, the haunting score, the gothic feel and a stellar performance by Scott. Scott plays a widower who lost his wife and child in an accident. He moves across the country to Seattle to start a job as a professor. He rents an old house from the Historical Society and things begin going bump in the night straightaway. If you love supernatural movies with a throwback to early horror classics, be sure to add this one to your list. Maybe on the next dark and stormy night.
The House by the Cemetery (1981)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
I personally think Lucio Fulci’s 1981 classic, House by the Cemetery, is the perfect film to watch at Halloween. The whole film has a vaguely surrealistic approach to its story telling which gives the whole film an uneasy, almost disconcerting, feel that really helps build atmosphere. If you couple the uneasy atmosphere with the stunning special effects of Giannetto De Rossi, and the eerie score of Walter Rizzati you get one of the best Italian horror films of the 80’s, and in my opinion Fulci’s best film. Now don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t perfect, the dubbing is mind blowing in its terribleness, and at times you find yourself shouting at the screen in frustration because of the downright stupidity of the characters. But to be perfectly honest that is a very common thing while watching 80’s horror, and especially Italian horror. But for all the films little niggling downsides, there are endless good things about it. The majority of the acting is good, the film is shot very effectively by Sergio Salvati who worked a great deal with Fulci, and has a real talent for strange and disconcerting close ups. Somebody who doesn’t get as much credit for their influence on this film is the editor Vincenzo Tomassi, who manages to piece Fulci’s madness into an actual feature film. Which I can imagine would have been difficult at best. Although the film is very gory, one gore scene was in fact left out of the film by Fulci, an extended eye gouging scene that Fulci felt wasn’t realistic enough. This scene has never been seen by the general public, and is in fact deemed to be lost.
This film has a very special place in my heart, because it was the first Italian horror film I ever watched, it was also the very first “Video Nasty” I ever watched. And I think because of this films’ influence on me, I went on to explore Fulci’s other films, and basically started my passion for European horror. I couldn’t recommend this film highly enough, so this Halloween night why don’t you try and survive in the House by the Cemetery.
Dingbat Dollface (Mark)
Directed by James Whale
James Whale knew how to make a movie, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, these are all considered classic and well made movies, even outside of the horror fandom. And of course my favourite movie to watch around Halloween and possible my favourite of the Universal Monsters (it changes every time I watch them!) Frankenstein.
This film is the originator of every Frankenstein’s creation you have seen portrayed in your life. The grunts, the walk, even the stare, all came from the stellar acting of one Boris Karloff, and the makeup skills of renowned artist Jack Pierce. They, together, created an icon that will be immortal for both monster fans and general pop culture.
This is a film all horror fans should watch and, really, all film fans should spend some time with, it is a magical experience to meet and spend time with both Colin Clive’s maniacal but charming Henry Frankenstein and Dwight Frye’s Fritz. Brilliant cinematic characters in their own rights
Search this out and watch now if you haven’t already, and if you have, I’m sure you’re wanting to hurry and watch it once again.
Mondo Squallido (Pete)
Lady in White (1988)
Directed by Frank LaLoggia
The year is 1962 and it’s Halloween. The sky is grey, the leaves are brown and there’s excitement in the air. Frankie (Lukas Haas) puts on his Bela Lugosi mask and heads out for a night of mischief and with the sweet taste of candy on his mind. Things don’t go to plan for Frankie however, as he gets locked in his schools cloakroom by a couple of cruel school kids. As if being locked in his school for the night wasn’t bad enough, Frankie witnesses a ghostly re-enactment of a young red haired girl being killed. To make matters worse, Frankie is attacked by a dark figure. Just as he’s about to lose consciousness, the girl pleads for him to find her mother. Frankie is found and revived by his father, and the schools janitor is arrested for the attack on Frankie. Once back on his feet, Frankie begins his journey to find the girls’ mother, the mysterious Lady in White, and to also figure out who the dark figure actually is. Things aren’t always what they seem and some shocking home truths are unearthed.
I recently revisited the film after a good few years since my last viewing. Going to the local video shop with my mum on a Friday renting tapes and stocking up on penny sweets for the weekend was a tradition. Memories of us sat watching this flooded back to me as the title credits rolled. Does the film still hold up? Yes indeed. It’s one of those films that is aimed at an older audience, but has enough of a family feel for children to watch. The story has some nice twists and turns and there is comedy, adventure, terror and also sitcom level melodrama. That combined with a gorgeous fall Rochester setting, culminate in to what I consider a perfect film for Halloween. If you like legends such as The White Lady, want something that isn’t too heavy and want a film the whole family can watch, this is the film for you. Maybe I’m biased because this film holds a firm place in my heart? I could go in to much more detail, but this is an instance where it’s best for you to discover the film for yourself.
Corpse Bride (2005)
Directed by Tim Burton & Mike Johnson
At Halloween time, I like to watch a multitude of stop-motion animated films. The organic feel and look of these types of movies seems to really fit in with the mood at this time of year. One of the standout’s among the multiple great films like it is my pick, Corpse Bride. It was a struggle to choose, because I watch a handful of the same animated flicks each year, but this one has been a staple for the past nine years. With its stellar voice cast, stunning Burton visuals typical of Tim Burton’s style, and a selection of wonderful and memorable original songs, this covers all the bases for me, as far as what I want in a Halloween movie. The story follows Victor, a groom who, when practicing his wedding vows, ends up marrying a deceased woman that the title speaks of. Drawn into the underworld, while also torn on how he feels about his living, breathing fiancée, Victoria, Victor must figure out his situation and decide his future.
It manages to be both slightly creepy, other-worldly and dark, whilst also being funny, quirky and creative. Meshing a love story with a macabre tale of death, it is as tragic as it is romantic, and I feel is overlooked compared to other Burton films. At a time of year when films like Paranorman, Frankenweenie and Coraline and traditional animated films like Hotel Transylvania and Princess and the Frog find their way into my Blu-ray player, it’s Corpse Bride that is at the top of the pile, encompassing the wonderfully spooky mood of the season.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN FELLOW MOVIE LOVERS, from all of us at The Cinephiliacs!