Happy Halloween ghouls and boils. Hope you have a spooktacular time today, whatever it is you’re doing. We, here at The Cinephiliacs, will be watching some of our favourite Halloweenie films. A year ago the team picked our fave Halloween movies and talked about them, this year however we will merely be recommending a movie that we watch at this time of year. We did our favourites, but this article will look into a handful of other flicks that we also like to throw on while the ghosts and goblins are out in high numbers knocking for treats. So, here goes…
Recommendation: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
I adore Autumn. October is the time when the weather loses its humidity, the trees change to a beautiful deep orange and Halloween is just around the corner. It is at this time of year where I tend to watch more horror movies or films that are set during the specific season, but this isn’t a column to recommend a horror film, and so I wanted to highlight a film that really encapsulates Halloween for me. There are a few flicks I always visit during Halloween time. Satan’s Little Helper is a little known slasher film that really captures the fun and freaky feeling. Trick ‘r Treat does the same and is a great modern anthology with wonderful Halloweenie imagery. These two horror films are great ones to watch but there is another film, or television special, that truly brings that Fall atmosphere and that childhood cute spookiness, and that’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”.
I’m a big Charlie Brown fan and the Christmas special is an annual tradition in our home during the festive season, but for the season of “good chill” the pumpkin episode is just perfect. They don’t make animation like this anymore. The writing is exquisite, the way the characters are drawn is classical and the overall “feel” is just spot-on. It’s a timeless tale and even as an adult I find it so charming and brilliant. I think, though, that the reason I, a thirty-something, can still go back and watch Charlie Brown animations over and over again is because of the attitude, the wonderfully morose tone and the intelligent writing. I never fail to laugh while simultaneously feeling the “warm fuzzies”. Truly one for the whole family, this is essential viewing for Halloween.
Recommendation: Hocus Pocus
Live-action Disney with witches? Count me in. I’m a Disney fan, a lifelong one like so many people, and Hocus Pocus is a favourite of mine to watch at Halloween. During myself and Chris’ honeymoon at Walt Disney World we got to see the live Hocus Pocus stage show on Halloween night during “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” so this film has a soft spot in more ways than one for me.
It’s super entertaining, it is acted brilliantly (especially by Bette Midler) and has gone on to be a huge favourite at this time of year. I don’t tend to watch much horror so I love when there are movies like this that offer that feeling of Halloween without scaring the pants off you. Brilliant!
Recommendation: Let the Right One In
This year, my pick for must watch Halloween viewing is the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One in. Every year this film tops my choices for must watch in October, along with a previous year’s pick, The Changeling.
I have a weakness for Scandinavian and Nordic films in general due to the masterful atmosphere and cinematography that is a hallmark of many offerings. After seeing Lars Von Triers The Kingdom in 1994, I made a mental note to see as many dark, brooding dramas and horrors that Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland produce.
Let the Right one In is directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the book of the same title by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It tells the story of Oskar, who is a bullied, quiet child who lives with his mother in an apartment complex. He meets Eli, also 12 when she and her guardian move to the same complex. Eli spies on Oskar while he is role playing how he might stand up to his school tormentors. They become acquainted but Eli warns Oskar that they can never be friends, but gives no explanation why. Strange crimes, murders and disappearances are happening in the quaint, snow covered town and Oskar is admonished to go no further than the apartment complex’s courtyard. There he bonds with Eli and she encourages him to stand up for himself and they begin to communicate nightly via Morse Code through their apartment walls. Oskar is so starved for affection and belonging that he pays no attention to some bizarre things that Eli does, such as bearing the piles of snow in bare feet, scaling walls and the low grumbling and growling sounds that surround her.
The look of this film is magnificent. It captures the isolation that winter and snow can cause perfectly. The adolescent children are all very believable and relatable, even the jerky ones when you see the impetus for their bullying. The soundscape of crunching snow, dripping blood and screams set the tension and draws the viewer in immediately. Among the horror, the budding friendship and love that Oskar and Eli have shines. The actor who plays Oskar, Kare Hedebrant portrays the anguish and triumphs of adolescence masterfully. I don’t want to divulge much more about the plot, suffice it to say that if you are looking for something beyond slashers and things that go bump in the night movies, give Let the Right One in a try. It is among the horror films that I must watch at least once a year and in my top 10 of all time.
Recommendation: Bride of Frankenstein
Last time we did this I recommended the superb Trick ‘r Treat as your “main event” Halloween movie, but I also pointed out that you just weren’t doing the season properly if you didn’t set eyes on at least one Boris Karloff movie at some point in October; and there’s none finer than Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
My favourite of all of the classic Universal Monsters cannon, Bride is where director James Whale (who also directed 1931’s Frankenstein) really hit his stride, and set the tone that would continue through the shared universe inhabited by Universal’s three biggest Monsters throughout the 30s and 40s.
The tone is perfect for Halloween, being whimsical and (by today’s standards, at least) non-threatening; perfect for adults and (supervised) youngsters alike, and the story has enough thrills, laughs, and even pathos, to entertain all but the most cynical.
It’s not for nothing that both Karloff’s green skinned flat-headed Monster, and Elsa Lanchester’s portrayal of The Bride, with her huge beehive haircut with its distinctive white streak, have become icons of the season!
Recommendation: The Horror Network: Volume 1
When I was younger, Halloween was a serious thing for me, in the funnest possible sense. Costume sorted weeks in advance, sweets bought for the now rare sight of Trick or Treaters pretty much a last minute thing and the wonderfully bleak and nippy Autumnal mid-evening weather with the smell of mischief and stale fireworks in the air… All dem feels coming to me as I write this. For me, Halloween was more about the fun than getting genuinely scared. After knocking on people’s houses for the evening with friends, I would return home and share my sweets with my parents (genius move on their part!) and watch whatever films my mum had bought from the Music Zone (you UK folk remember that place?) bargain VHS bin. Fun romps like The Willies, Lady in White and House instantly spring to mind. We weren’t allowed to have so much as a cigarette lit in the back garden thanks to the lovely folk at the council so instead of telling stories round a campfire, the anthology films would come out. Such great memories…
Cut to now and this jaded cinephile may not celebrate Halloween like he used to, but in recent years has come to enjoy the full day. However, now I find myself swapping sweets for a big bag of crisps or pumpkin soup and replacing horror themed punch for a good old fashioned bottle of beer – or two. That being said, my viewing habits stay the same. It’s retro children’s cartoons and Halloween specials in the daytime and an anthology film fest in the evening. Of course, staples like The Willies and Creepshow will always get a spin, but this year I will be much more looking forward to revisiting a more contemporary anthology film; The Horror Network: Volume 1 from 2013. It’s low-budget and not exactly for children (especially the messed up short, Merry Little Christmas), but it still transports me back to being in the living room, sat in my (probably) awful costume and chomping on pure sugar with family and friends. There’s something for everyone with this anthology film, so even though I’ve pretty much sabotaged this post by being more sentimental, you should definitely track down the Wild Eye Releasing DVD. Now if you excuse me, I have a cheap supermarket costume to buy and maybe a pack of eggs!