Halloween is my favorite time of the year. I know it's still about two months off, but my projects here and on my gaming channel Cool Media get me planning ahead of time for it. Besides, with the nightmare 2020 has been, preparing for my favorite time is providing a much needed pick-me-up. Yeah, planning stuff about murderous undead fiends to make me feel better...
Sigmund Freud, analyze this.
(A gold star for anyone who got that reference!)
Anyway, while preparing my big Halloween events, I found myself thinking of how I got to the point that Halloween excites me more than Christmas, and it all started with movies. When I did my top 40 favorite movies, I mentioned I could fill a whole list just with stuff I'd watch for Halloween. Well, it's about time for me to do just that. These thirteen films are the ones I make a point of plugging in every October. These aren't necessarily the greatest monster movies of all time; they're just the ones I enjoy watching the most. Rather than listing them alphabetically or chronologically, I'm instead putting them in order of my personal exposure to them. That way, you can follow the growth in my interest in the horror genre.
My interest started with one recorded VHS tape in my parents' library which had two movies on it. The first was the original Ghostbusters. This classic about out-of-work scientists who became spectral exterminators not only helped develop my dry and dark sense of humor (further cemented by Howard the Duck), but it also showed how fun scary stuff can be. Admit it, that scene with the library ghost got you the first time you saw it, didn't it? It was painful that this movie was only an honorable mention on my favorite movies list. This is the perfect starter for kids getting into horror movies.
The other movie on that VHS tape was the original Teen Wolf. Yeah, let's forget about that dour MTV series for a moment and look at the fun one. It's not the deepest movie revolving around werewolves. However, Michael J. Fox's Scott Howard was definitely the most likeable and relatable werewolf. While some of the jokes don't work anymore (it is a product of the 80s, after all), its message about accepting yourself still resonates with me. I watched the cartoon when I was a kid, as well, though I wisely ignored Teen Wolf Too.
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Elvira is an important part of my childhood... not for THOSE reasons! Get your head out of the gutter! She introduced me to the joy that can come from classic B-movies. It's appropriate that her first starring vehicle was an homage to B-movies. It is incredibly cheesy and darkly funny, and it introduced me to W. Morgan Sheppard who was awesome in every role I've seen him in. This movie was an important part of my movie appreciation development as I gained an interest in the not-quite-classics of the past.
Okay, I thought Elvira was hot, too.
You might have noticed that, so far, I was sticking to horror-comedies. That's because the straight horror movies that people were watching at the time were slasher flicks which didn't interest me at all. I was young, and I thought straight horror movies were all that stupid and cliche. Then I saw The Shining, and my point-of-view changed forever. Those who follow my work here know that I place a lot of importance on atmosphere when it comes to horror, and this Stanley Kubrick masterpiece instilled that in me. Providing an environment that keeps the audience tense and uncomfortable is more important than just finding new ways to up the gore levels. Even though I've seen this movie tons of times (even getting it the #12 spot on my favorite movies list), I still make a point of loading it up every Halloween.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Artistry is almost as important as atmosphere when it comes to great horror movies. Francis Ford Coppola's take on the story of Dracula taught me that. I know the acting isn't the best, not even from the unbelievable Gary Oldman, but the cheesy, wooden acting somehow gives this film its own unique flavor. This one managed to find the perfect mix of elegance and over-the-top sensibilities to make it one of my favorite vampire films of all time. However, it's not my absolute favorite vampire film...
Interview with the Vampire
This one is. This one made #33 on my favorite movies list due to it telling a very different vampire story. Unlike other vampire movies which show them as just undead killers, this one follows a newborn vampire that finds it impossible to let go of his humanity. Louis (Brad Pitt) and Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) are sympathetic characters that clash wonderfully with the fiendish Lestat (Tom Cruise). Though this movie has just as much blood and nudity as other vampire films, it doesn't tell the same story as the others. I find that incredibly refreshing.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (The Whole Franchise)
What I said about Interview with the Vampire extends to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. While, on the surface, it seems like another slasher series like the ones I lambasted earlier, Wes Craven's idea of a killer that attacks his victims in their nightmares provides tons of unique ways of dispatching the kids. I'm putting the whole franchise here (minus the unnecessary remake) rather than singling out any of the movies because this is a franchise with absolutely no bad films. Sure, The Dream Master is rather rote and Freddy's Dead is pretty stupid, but they're not outright bad. Dream Warriors is my favorite, but I can easily watch them all.
(Thanks to Cinemassacre for the franchise summary video attached.)
The Devil's Advocate
I've already given a whole article to this masterpiece; so, I won't go on too much here. It's atmospheric, it's gloriously over-the-top, and Al Pacino plays the greatest Satan I've ever seen on film.
Shaun of the Dead
Even with my increasing interest in full-blown horror movies, I hadn't ignored the horror-comedies. Two zombie comedies were in contention here. Even though Zombieland is absolutely hilarious and action-packed, Shaun of the Dead is just a bit more creative, especially with its social satire. Even George Romero, the godfather of zombie flicks himself, called Shaun of the Dead one of his favorite movies! That's an endorsement right there!
Tales from the Crypt (The Series)
Horror anthologies need to be more commonplace. Having a wide variety of scary stories to tell keeps things from getting stale. However, I guess producers feel that Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, American Horror Story, and Tales from the Crypt already have that covered. Tales from the Crypt is my favorite anthology series due to the mix of creative horror scenarios, tons of big name guest stars, and the kind of dark humor that always works for me. I even find the Cryptkeeper fun though his reliance on bad puns can wear on me a little.
Speaking of horror anthologies, how about one written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero? That's a match made in Hell! Not only are the stories the kind of fun tales that you'd imagine told around a campfire, the five stories in this movie are all unique. Some parts are a bit hard to watch. Ally couldn't watch the story about the cockroaches, and, to be fair, that one is REALLY disgusting. Still, it's one of the most fun horror movies ever.
It was a treat when I got around to watching the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. It's hard to talk about this one as those who hadn't seen it need to go in knowing as little as possible. However, it is one of the best looking old movies with peerless atmosphere and amazing performances, especially from Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Ignore Gus Van Sant's remake, and watch this if you haven't already.
I didn't get to see this one until last Halloween, but it's definitely going to be a staple from now on. No, it doesn't make much sense. However, Don Coscarelli went out of his way to make every frame feel like a vivid nightmare. The atmosphere is fantastic, and Angus Scrimm's Tall Man is one of the ignored gems of movie monsters. I definitely want to track down and check out the sequels which, I hear, are every bit as insane as the original.
What do you think? Are these in your Halloween rotation? Let me know, and check in next time when Ally gives her picks!