Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 10 Horror and What the Fuck Movies for Halloween 2011

My favorite holiday is right around the corner and no, it's not Christmas despite what all the craft and department stores keep insisting as they shove all the glittery jolly fat Santas out front. That's right my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember was and always will be Halloween. I'm not quite sure what exactly it is that I love about this holiday from the scary movies, to costumes and crisp autumn air, or perhaps its the excuse to indulge in candy for one night, whatever it is I love it so.

With that said it's my tradition (as I'm sure I'm not the only one out there), to mark the occasion with a two day movie marathon of some of my favorite Halloween type movies from the family friendly sort that I grew up watching to the -pardon my french- mind-fucks, pop out and scare you to the splat-stick variety. So as October is upon us, I give you my top 10 must watch movies in no particular order.


Every Halloween for as long as I can remember, my mom and I would watch this and The Witches together. It's a classic and a tradition and oh hey did I mention that Tim Curry is in it? The Worst  Witch is about a young girl Midlred Hubble who is, as you might've guessed it, the worst witch at the academy. However trouble is a brew (couldn't help it), before the big Halloween celebration and the arrival of the Grand Wizard, aka Tim Curry, because the Headmistress's evil twin sister Agatha is bent on taking over the school, but fear not because Mildred Hubble will save day! It's a cute a movie and at least for me, a classic and has actually gone on to spawn a remake and even a short lived television series.

Fun fact: The last movie I worked on, Happy & Bleeding co-starred Charlotte Rae who played Headmistress Mrs. Cackle/evil sister Agatha Cackle. I'm not going to lie, I nerded out a bit, but kept my composure.


Another childhood classic I watched with my mother every Halloween was The Witches, although upon recent viewing, I'm not sure how I was not absolutely terrified of this movie. Originally penned by famed children's author Roald Dahl, this movie is about a little boy who loses his parents and stays with diabetic grandmother who takes her grandson on a little vacation to a hotel. There he bumps into a plump child named Bruno who's also on vacation with his parents, but unbeknownst to them there is a convention happening at the hotel that weekend, a convention for... you guessed, witches. However these aren't you run of the day, Samantha Stevens Willow Rosenberg type of witches, these are scary, goblin looking witches led by a domineering Angelica Houston. The two boys go on to investigate these witches and are inadvertently turned into mice, I'll leave it at that, because no matter how old you are, you should probably this, it's fun cute and kinda terrifying, especially with Angelica Houston rips her face off. Did I mention this is for kids?

I'm not quite sure I want to call this a childhood classic, in that it's not really for kids, but thanks to my two older brothers I watched this many times over, and later would end up sleeping on my parents floor all because of those damn little creatures that came up from the ground; but I digress... The Gate is a story of a brother and sister left alone for the weekend by their parents, little brother hangs out with weird friend and big sister holds a sleep over with the cool kids. And naturally as the story goes, little brother and weird friend open the gates of hell in their backyard via a rock record. Normal, right? As the story progresses it becomes big sister, two annoying throwaway character friends, little brother and weird friend against little creepy demons that want to tug them down to hell, oh and a giant creature monster that erupts from the floor boards and implants an eye in the hand of little brother. It's a fun, what the fuck did I just watch, kind of a horror movie that screams 1980's and is also oddly endearing, if you've never seen it I highly suggest a viewing with friends.

As a history nerd who's written a paper about the darker history of asylum keeping, it's a story that naturally called out to me.  However sadly enough Shutter Island is one of those movies that suffered at the hands of the studio. Overlooked by an ill-fated release date, it's one of those perfect movies that warrants multiple viewings on account of a demanding soundtrack, beautiful editing, great acting, and
amazing cinematography that help to tell an enthralling story of a US Marshall with ulterior motives who goes to investigate at an asylum for the criminally insane located on a small island off the coast of Boston. As the story unfolds the complexities play out concerning the Marshall and his intentions and whether or not the good people running the asylum are as well intentioned themselves. And just when you think you had the whole thing figured out a question is posed at the end of the film by our protagonist that makes you reevaluate your consensus on the story. Overall it's a darker movie with a flair of Hitchcock, and besides how could you go wrong with Scorsese at the helm?


A cult classic. I could just leave it at that and hope it entices you to see it if you haven't already. Made by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and essentially everyone you see on camera, in the backwoods of Tennessee and their home state of Michigan over the course several months and a freakish cold snap on very little money, it's a classic. Sure some parts are a little goofy, and the film lacks consistent continuity, but that considering how it was made it just ads to, well the overall awesomeness. It centers around a group of friends who decide to take a trip to a cabin in the woods and end up stumbling upon the necronomicon (the book of the dead) and a recording of the man who found it and end up coincidentally bringing about the deadites and some crazy raping trees (and that's raping as in rape not to be confused with the musical genre of rap). Oh those crazy kids.

I highly suggest watching this and not just because everyone and their mother has seen it, but just because you need to. Trust me. Plus after watching the movie, I also suggest reading Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill where he gives a detailed account of the making of the movie (also listen to the commentary for the same purposes). After reading of the harrowing tale you'd be surprised that they all survived it.


Where Evil Dead was starved for money and packed in some legit scares and created some truly original camera techniques to pack in the suspense, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn created a genre; splat-stick. Sure there are few moments that make you jump out of your seat, but there are more seriously funny gorey moments that have become iconic moments in film history. This story is essentially the same as the first, with the addition of a few new characters, oh and our protagonist from the first story has a little more testicular fortitude this go around, minus a hand.I could probably keep going on about this movie, because I do heart it so, but I'll leave it there and let you enjoy.

This would definitely be one to watch after the trick-or-treaters and kids have gone to bed.  Oh and most definitely listen to the commentary when you get a chance.

Fun Fact: They rebuilt the cabin and created the entire set in a high school gym over the summer, where it was incredible hot. Sam Raimi's little brother Ted Raimi (whom Bruce Campbell used to babysit for), who wore the Henrietta suit would have pools of sweat in his costume by the end of the day.

Need I say more? Although Stephen King wasn't quite happy with Kubrick's adaptation of his famed novel about a recovering alcoholic who uproots his family to take a job as caretaker to an immense mountainside hotel during the off winters months, and who encounters a little more than just snow. Kubrick is a master, and much like Scorsese just how could you go wrong? His sets become apart of the cast, the large rooms echoing their isolation while the madness boils away as the ghosts play. While the book and the later remake of the film focus more on the breakdown of a weakened man and his family, Kubrick's vision focuses on the madness that isolation brings on an already damaged family. Mainly known for those two creepy twins (and lets face it, nothing can be scarier than children, especially when speaking in unison) and Jack Nicholson's spin on iconic Johnny Carson's "Here's Johnny!" as he busts down the door with an axe, The Shining is a holiday treat to be enjoyed, but perhaps not be the whole family... together.

Session 9 is not only one of my favorite horror movies, but one of my all time favorite movies for so many reasons. A small independent movie by Brad Anderson shot at the formally known Danvers State Hospital, an infamous mental hospital now turn luxury condominium (if you don't believe me check it out here) it tells the story of a down and out asbestos and abatement crew who win the bid for the old state hospital, except something more is going on. This is the beauty of Anderson, instead of taking the "oh this old abandoned creepy mental hospital is haunted" approach, he makes the story about the people and what haunts them. Each character has a downfall and as the story unfolds through the eyes of our sympathetic protagonist Gordon, we watch as each one of them falls prey all to the soundtrack of the session tapes of former patient Mary Hobbes and her multiple personalities. It's a mind-fuck movie that stays with you and it's one of the few that have thoroughly creeped me out, oh and not to mention those final few seconds of celluloid are some of the creepiest moments of the entire movie (if not my favorite part)....

Some people refuse to watch black and white movies, or even worse, refuse to watch old black and white silent movies, and this I believe should be a crime. Especially when The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Noserferatu or any Charlie Chaplin movie is in question. But lets focus on Caligari, a result of German filmmaker Robert Wiene and German expressionism, this film isn't your everyday silent film horror movie. To me, it's a slightly bizarre twist on Frankenstein, except it takes place at a fair and the bad man who takes the little girl is a somnambulist who takes a grown woman and whips the town up into a frenzy. It's a fun movie to watch and the acting isn't as cheesy and over-the-top as in parts of Noserferatu. Although the movie has spawned a pretty good remake starring Doug Jones of Pan's Labyrinth (also another great movie to watch), I'd stick with the original, the old grainy film just adds a certain something.

  HALLOWEEN (1978)

This was a tough choice, I also absolutely equally love A Nightmare on Elm Street for much of the same reasons, when I was younger I went through all the sequels of Halloween and Elm Street much to my mothers dismay. The original in both cases is always better from the gritty aesthetics of 70's filmmaking to the crude humor that accompanied the story; their classics. Halloween wins out I supposed because one memorable Halloween I actually dressed up as Michael Meyers, yup I was that kid. Although out of all the monsters and bad guys to be on the silver screen, when you look back in retrospect he shouldn't be all too scary, he walks insanely slow and carries a knit, why not just shoot him and be done with it? Well we wouldn't have countless sequels if it were that easy, for some reason Michael Meyers is superhuman, Lori shots him in the end and the man plummets off a balcony, but he still lives; he's the boogeyman.

And speaking of boogeymen, I add Mr. Boogedy as an honorable mention. When I was younger we used to have this on tape and watched it all the time, but the stupid VCR ate it if I recall correctly, but oh happy day ladies and gents thanks to the wonderful world of youtube I've found it again!


Other Halloween movies to watch: Hocus Pocus, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Night of the Living Dead & Shaun of the Dead 

What's your favorite movie to watch on Halloween?

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