From MONSTER, a Halloween film afficionado
If movies are a part of your Halloween celebrations, here are MONSTER's movie musings for the season.
My Halloween Film Festival
Mad Monster Party
The Monster Club
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
The Addams Family
Fright Night (the original, although the remake is quite good, too)
The Beast Must Die (any movie with a "werewolf break" is a must-see)
Phantom of the Paradise
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Batman (1966) (this is straying considerably from my premise, but what a fun movie for Halloween!)
Little Shop of Horrors (The Musical)
Creepshow or Creepshow 2 (I prefer the second one, for "The Raft")
Twilight Zone The Movie
An American Werewolf in London
The Company of Wolves
Dark Shadows (2012)
I Sell the Dead
Frankenstein: The True Story
A Few More
Looking at my list again, I feel like I left too many films off of it (I did feel I should stop at 20 or it would go on and on) but particularly Lair of the White Worm and Fido (that's really sublime and I have an instinct it would particularly appeal to you). Also, if after seeing 30 Days of Night you have found it worthwhile, you might watch the sequel Dark Days, too. I think it was direct-to-video, and it's regrettable that Melissa George didn't reprise her role, but it has some very worthwhile ideas and one especially awful moment, when the protagonists commit to entering into a situation from which there will be no turning back, that inspired genuine dread in me.
Alien is definitely very scary. I'm disappointed that a lot of the younger generation aren't that impressed with Alien, and it's often because they've seen one of the sequels first, which obviously kills the suspense considerably. Even when they haven't, the film series is so well-represented in the cultural zeitgeist that the aliens have lost much of their menace.
Suspiria, too (I think it was Joe Bob Briggs who once wrote that the soundtrack alone was terrifying--so nerve-wracking that viewers could be frightened even when nothing was happening), and possibly Evil Dead, which is pretty scary even though it's also pretty stupid. After the first girl is possessed, which horribly alters her face, the other characters don't know what to make of it and still talk about her needing a doctor- EVEN THOUGH SHE LEVITATES A COUPLE OF FEET OFF THE FLOOR! I mean, come on!
Halloween suffers from the same problem as Alien; if you've seen any other slasher movie beforehand, it's pretty much ruined. It may have been a forerunner, but by now its virtues are hardly unique. If you're going to go that way, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is scarier. Or The Shining.
I love Rosemary's Baby, but Ruth Gordon is too flat-out entertaining for me to get that scared. It is very effective in terms of suspense, though, especially [SPOILER ALERT!] the scene in the doctor's office where she thinks she's found help. Charles Grodin told a great story in his autobiography, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here, about his disagreement with Polanski while they were filming the scene. Polanski wanted Grodin to respond immediately after Mia Farrow has related her bizarre story, but Grodin was adamant that he should pause before saying anything because if he responded too quickly it would be obvious he didn't really believe her. Eventually Grodin won out and in the end the director agreed with him. When I watch the scene, I find the logic of Grodin's choice irrefutable, because the first time I saw it I was as shocked and disappointed as Farrow's character was when it turns out he was only humoring her. [SPOILER ALERT ENDS]
I think The Omen is scarier than any of the above mentioned devil-related movies, and it's my satanic film of choice. My all-time scariest would have to include Phantasm ("Boy!") and possibly The Mist. I'll mention Cloverfield, which is Sci-Fi/Horror and not scary all the way through. The parts that are scary, though, are big-time scary (four people in a pitch dark subway tunnel can hear something crawling towards them. It gets worse when they can see what it is). I find Blair Witch Project is a divisive movie; people are either terrified by it or not moved at all. My viewing was ideal: I watched it all alone after everyone else was in bed, in my attic room with all the lights off. Boy, that was good! So are The Thing (1982) and The Descent (that was truly nerve-wracking, even before the monsters show up!).
About Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
I admit that I don't appreciate the comedy elements quite as much as I did as a kid, although I still think they work to form a great balance with the spooky stuff, an ideal film for Halloween, but I don't agree that Lugosi or any of the other horror stars are in any way badly served by the film. To the contrary, what I love about the movie is that it features two great horror stars, Lugosi and Chaney, (and a third, Vincent Price, in a clever cameo) and one lesser one (Strange) reprising their most famous roles in a script that was very true to the characters' greatest film appearances. They were all presented straight and appropriately for a contemporary setting, Lugosi's machiavellian battle of wits with Lenore Aubert a particular highlight. I especially like the plot's method of bringing the monsters together, having Dracula, a supernatural villain employing science to achieve his ends, take control of the Frankenstein Monster, while Larry Talbot becomes a Jekyll/Hyde character, struggling to oppose Dracula at the same time his own dual nature adds to the danger. Even allowing for the Abbott and Costello slapstick bits, the climactic clash of the monsters is quite thrilling, and I don't think represented anywhere else among the Universal monster pictures. The final scene, that of the Monster's demise, is quite chilling.
Interview with the Vampire and other Vampire films
Masterfully adapted, and
surely the only modern novel to equal Stoker's, or the lush, supremely sensual, The Hunger. No accounting of great vampire movies should fail to include at least one version of Salem's Lot. Katherine Bigelow's groundbreaking Near Dark also merits inclusion. An updated list might also comprise Suck, Stakeland, Daybreakers, Priest, and John Carpenter's Vampires. 30 Days of Night not only tops this list, it is my choice for the scariest movie of all time.
Maybe we need another list, of scary sci-fi movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Strange Invaders, Event Horizon, Slither, and X-Files: I Want to Believe.
The Donald Duck cartoon, Trick or Treat, I rate second only to Charlie Brown. The Peanuts special is, incontestably, essential viewing, and I'd like to add The Great Ghost Rescue, a little gem I happened on that's appealing to older folks, too (or at least me); I thought it had some genuine wit. The Goosebumps series would make good Halloween viewing, though, admittedly, I'm straying into TV.
Beetlejuice would be genuinely scary for kids, but also quite fun. Halloween is entitled to lay claim to Nightmare Before X-Mas, and it is the perfect movie to represent the holiday season, which I feel certain will eventually be one long four-month event beginning in September if the retail industry has its way.
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