- ASC presents Take 6, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Dec. 15
- Leeth named UAB School of Medicine assistant dean for strategic planning
- Coping with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
Movie Mania Season — Halloween Screams
As is my tradition, I try to write a horror movie-themed article every Halloween, but it occurred to me that I’ve never actually done one that covered movies set around Halloween itself. So, without further ado, allow me to rectify that with my list of my all-time favorite Halloween-themed movies!
Of course, you can’t talk Halloween movies without talking about the all-time best: John Carpenter’s seminal classic Halloween. The film remains one of the most profitable independent films ever made, costing only $325,000 and grossing $45 million in the US alone. It also single-handedly brought about the ensuing “slasher” movie craze, though some might be surprised how tame it is in comparison to most films of that ilk. Carpenter opts for a Hitchcock-style approach, rather than ladling on the gore, something the majority of sequels sadly didn’t emulate.
Of the seven sequels, the second installment is novel in that it actually takes place on the same night as the first. So, if you watch the two films back-to-back, it feels a bit like one long movie, although star Jamie Lee Curtis is noticeably older (the film was made several years later) and the sequel is considerably gorier, as was the trend at the time, thanks to the many films that followed in the original’s wake.
Of the rest, the fourth installment is somewhat underrated, featuring a young Danielle Harris as Michael Meyers’ niece, a role she reprises in the following movie, which should be avoided by all but the most ardent completists. An all-grown-up Harris was also cast as Annie in Rob Zombie’s remake of the original, as well as the subsequent sequel, which is very much of a piece with Zombie’s other work, and therefore, not for the faint of heart. Zombie’s remake isn’t bad, if a bit over-the-top and cartoonishly violent, but you might want to skip the check-cashing sequel, which is nonsensical and a bit ridiculous. Instead, check out Zombie’s underrated House of 1000 Corpses, which also takes place on and around Halloween and features a fun genre cast that includes Rainn Wilson of The Office fame.
The sixth installment features a young Paul Rudd as the character Tommy from the original, but is a bit ridiculous, plot-wise. The seventh, aka H20, is arguably the best since the original, thanks to a clever script that Scream scribe Kevin Williamson worked on. It also features the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise for the first time since the second installment. Oscar nominee Michelle Williams also crops up, as does a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LL Cool J and Josh Hartnett, plus a cameo by Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh, the original “scream queen” from Psycho. Avoid the eighth film at all costs, despite a nutty cast that includes Busta Rhymes (!), Tyra Banks, Battlestar babe Katee Sackhoff, and a returning Curtis.
The odd one out is definitely the guilty pleasure third installment, Season of the Witch, which is of the so-bad-it’s-good variety. It features horror stalwart Tom Atkins (The Fog, Creepshow) in a tale about a madman that uses masks to try and take out the children of the world en masse. Nice! It’s kind of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Raiders of the Lost Ark, and is just as nutty as that sounds. It’s terrible, but in a really entertaining way.
The Other Franchises
So, you’ve seen the Halloween series through & through a billion times, and you’re looking for other thrills & chills. Well, that isn’t the only Halloween-centric franchise in town. Horror fans can also get their scare on with the Night of the Demons trilogy. The first installment, from 1988 and featuring legendary “scream queen” Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead), is top, featuring a nude scene you won’t soon forget- and not in a good way. (Yes, there is such a thing.)
There’s also a 2009 remake with some familiar B-movie faces involved, including Monica Keena (Freddy vs. Jason), Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2), and Diora Baird (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), plus a cameo from the original’s Quigley. It’s passably good, but stick with the original if you can, which revolves around a Halloween celebration gone horribly awry.
There’s also the Pumpkinhead series, of which there are four to date, including two made directly for the Syfy Network, which is synonymous with cheesy goodness. The first installment, though, directed by legendary FX artist Stan Winston (the Terminator films), and starring cult icon Lance Henriksen (the Alien series, which Winston also worked on), is still the best, and, as one might expect, features some pretty exceptional special effects. It’s about a vengeful man whose son is killed in an accident and seeks revenge via a witch who summons the titular demonic creature that more than lives up to his name.
Last but not least, there’s the Ginger Snaps trilogy, a tale about two sisters who become infected by a werewolf and how they subsequently deal with it. Only the first features a prominent Halloween connection, but the second one picks up right where the first left off and the third is a prequel, so if you like number one, you should definitely check out the rest. Katherine Isabelle, also of Freddy vs. Jason, stars as Ginger, hence the title, and Emily Perkins, late of TV’s Supernatural (which Isabelle also has appeared on) is the other sister.
Prefer your horror on the sillier side? Looking for something you can crack wise about with your friends? Look no further. 1986’s Trick or Treat is the very definition of ridiculous, featuring a high school teen who is haunted by the ghost of his favorite metal rocker after he plays his record backwards- yes, record, this was ’86, remember. This one has appropriate cameos from rockers like Gene Simmons (as a DJ) and Ozzy Osbourne (as a televangelist!), plus an early role from future Desperate Housewives house-husband, Doug Savant, as a bully.
The aforementioned Linnea Quigley crops up in Jack-O, a Pumpkinhead knock-off with more of a slasher movie bent, which seems oddly appropriate since Quigley also starred in the second installment of that franchise the year before. It’s good, trashy fun, even if it doesn’t hold a candle to its source of inspiration.
Satan’s Little Helper is a fun, silly horror flick that strikes just the right balance between scary and funny, and features Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction) and Katheryn Winnick, who would go on to be an ongoing love interest for David Boreanz on Bones. The director is Jeff Lieberman, best known for the cult favorites Squirm, Just Before Dawn and Blue Sunshine, all of which are well worth seeing.
Last but not least, there’s the completely bent flick Idle Hands, featuring lots of familiar faces, including a young Jessica Alba (Sin City), Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Devon Sawa (Final Destination), Kelly Monaco (Dancing with the Stars), Fred Willard (Best in Show), Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill), and rock group The Offspring (whose singer gets hilariously offed while playing live at the school’s Halloween Dance). If Ash’s possessed hand in Evil Dead 2 got its own movie, this would be it. It’s silly but a lot of fun.
Other films that fall more on the so-bad-they’re-just-bad side of things include The Pumpkin Karver, which I’m guessing star Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights) wishes she could have expunged from her resume, though it does have an admittedly bravura scene involving a mid-urination execution that must be seen to be believed (do yourself a favor and YouTube it and forgo the movie itself. You’ll thank me later); 2006’s Halloween Night, a cheapie from The Asylum, best-known for ripping off other people’s stuff and the infamous Sharknado, it’s an original, at least, but that doesn’t make it good; and the similarly-titled Halloweenight, from 2009, about a killer scarecrow, which was made on a $4,000 budget (not a typo) and looks it.
One of my all-time favorite movies of any season, the superlative Donnie Darko is set right around Halloween, and culminates in a memorable fashion on that spooky night. It revolves around the titular character, played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal, whose real-life sister Maggie co-stars as his movie one. Also cropping up are Drew Barrymore (who co-produced), Noah Wyle (Falling Skies), Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) and, in one of his last roles, Patrick Swayze. It’s a bona fide modern-day classic that rewards multiple viewings, and is available in a slightly-more streamlined and less cryptic director’s cut on Blu-Ray and DVD for those who like their mysteries spelled out for them.
A slightly lesser-known cult offering, Trick ‘r Treat, is the rare anthology film that works, thanks to a clever structure that ties all the stories together in a way that recalls someone like Quentin Tarantino. The cast isn’t too shabby, either, featuring True Blood star Anna Paquin; former Hannibal and The Ring star Brian Cox; Iron Man series star Leslie Bibb; Spiderman series star Dylan Baker; and Dollhouse and current Supernatural star Tahmoh Penikett. Barring Darko, if there’s a film on this list you should see if you haven’t, it’s this one. It’s creepy and clever, and super-underrated.
If you prefer your terrors really old-school, check out the black & white classic Arsenic & Old Lace, which is surprisingly modern and twisted for its day, that day being way back in 1944. It’s about a couple played by the legendary Cary Grant and Pricilla Lane, who get married on Halloween and subsequently have the weirdest honeymoon ever, as he gets to know her decidedly unorthodox family. Horror legend Peter Lorre is also on hand as a dubious doctor, and the dialogue is fantastic. It’s based on a play, but translates wonderfully to the screen, while losing nothing in the process.
And if you can find it, 1988’s traditional ghost story-cum-mystery Lady in White is pretty fantastic. What it lacks in star power, it makes up for in atmosphere and inventiveness. I never hear anyone talk about it, and it might be a bit slow by modern tastes, but it’s a solid little chiller that should appeal to those who also enjoyed the recent Woman in Black, in that the emphasis is on story, not gore.
Something for the Kiddies (or the Kids at Heart)
Not all Halloween horrors have to be gore-fests or nightmare-inducing. If you’re a big fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, but you’ve seen it one too many times, check out the similar Corpse Bride, from the same team, and also featuring the distinctive stop-motion animation technique, plus the voice talents of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Tim Burton also put forth the underrated Frankenweenie, one of my favorites last year which also didn’t get the love it deserved, no thanks to the lousy Hotel Transylvania. Skip that and go with one of these instead, or even better, if you can track down Mad Monster Party? from the legendary Rankin/Bass (aka the geniuses behind the Rudolph Xmas specials that inspired Burton’s stuff in the first place), its super cool and even more family friendly. All are available on DVD.
Another fun animated flick with a Halloween theme is Monster House, from Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis (the team behind the Back to the Future films), which features some clever in-jokes for horror fans, plus the vocal talents of Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee (My Name is Earl), Nick Cannon and plenty of other famous names where that came from. It uses the same motion capture technology Zemeckis used in The Polar Express, only here it’s intentionally creepy.
Have an affinity for witchy women? Check out the Halloweentown series or the fun Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, both from Disney. Slightly more adult but not too graphic for the family is Practical Magic, which is more or less a romantic comedy, with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, that’s like a lesser Witches of Eastwick, but not nearly as inappropriate. (Hey, better this than that dreadful Bewitched movie.) Though not expressly Halloween-related, the Good Witch series, which can be found on the Hallmark Channel, is fine for the family. It’s on the sixth installment, the new one of which premieres this weekend, and will no doubt repeat all week, and stars the delectable Catherine Bell (Jag) as the witch in question.
For the teens, there’s the recent Fun-Size, with former Victorious star Victoria Justice, with TV-talk-show host Chelsea Handler as her mother. Now that’s a scary thought, Chelsea as someone’s mother! The Big Bang Theory and Sleepy Hollow fans should seek out The Hollow, a teen take on the latter, with the former’s Kayley Cuoco, plus former teen idols Nick Carter, Kevin Zegers (Gossip Girl) and Dylan Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody).
Well, that should do it. Have a happy Halloween, and remember to lock the doors, bolt the windows and turn out the lights, you never know what might be out there lurking, watching, waiting for the right moment to spring…when you least expect it! MWHAHAHAHHA!!!!