Monday, 11 October 2010

The Horror The Horror!

Welcome to the show folks....

Egad, Halloween is just 20 days away, time for a young man's fancy to turn to thoughts of UNSPEAKABLE HORROR!

Okay.... Just kidding.

It's time to start looking at my favorite Halloween movies, and for you to look back at yours. Here's my list of fun and scary October movies in no particular order.

1. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein: This film sets the template for how to do a horror comedy right. The comedy is handled by Abbot & Costello, and the monsters, the titular Frankenstein's Monster (Glen Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi), and the Wolfman (Lon Chaney jr.) all play their parts dead straight.

2. Suspiria: This film by Italian shock-meister Dario Argento is officially bat-shit crazy. It's extremely violent, gory, and surrealistically weird. It's about a dancer who goes to a special ballet academy in Germany, only to find out that it's run by a homicidal coven of witches. The movie is not for those of gentle, delicate, or nervous disposition because it does everything in an extremely over the top manner.

3. Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein: You can't have a list without one of the original Universal classics of the 1930-1940s. The films are stylishly shot, with spookily atmospheric sets, and deliciously hammy performances by all the cast, except Karloff, who humanizes his monster simply with grunts and facial expressions that manage to work their way through the heavy makeup.

4. The Changeling: Not the Clint Eastwood film about missing children, this is an old fashioned ghost story guaranteed to leave you feeling spooked out. George C. Scott plays a successful composer who moves back to his hometown to recover from the recent deaths of his wife and daughter in a car accident. He rents a big historic mansion only to discover that he isn't alone. There's a ghost in that house, it's pissed off, and it's also involved with a powerful Senator with a secret worth keeping. The film is almost perfect, delivering real scares without resorting to gore or excessive special effects. My only problem is with the ending, which seems rushed, like the production ran out of money and had to wrap things up quickly. There are some missed opportunities there, but still an enjoyable scary movie.

5. The Fog: This is the original by John Carpenter with Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau. It's about a seaside town under siege by some vengeful ghost-lepers with a bone to pick with the locals and anyone that gets in their way. Despite the low budget and effects that would be considered primitive by today's digitized standards it still holds up pretty well, and has that great WTF ending.

6. The Curse of Frankenstein: Any horror film list needs an entry from Hammer Films. This film marked several milestones, having been their first horror film shot in color, the first pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and sparking a late 1950-60s gothic horror revival. Considered very gory for its time, it's now milder than an episode of CSI.

7. The Howling: Part werewolf horror, part satire of the California self-help culture. A fun game to play is to spot the little in jokes planted throughout the film by director Joe Dante and writer John Sayles.

8. Halloween: The slasher film that took the formula set by the earlier Black Christmas, and took it to the next level. Forget the nonsensical remakes that tried to explain Michael Myers, because he's way scarier when there isn't any explanation at all.

9. The Thing/The Thing: Both the 1950s and the 1980s versions are good for their time and both can still be enjoyed today.

10. Deep Red: Dario Argento's classic giallo is all about a music teacher in Rome who finds himself in the middle of a murder case when he witnesses the murder of a mind reader who read the wrong mind. The plot is all over the place, the blood flows freely, and it is extremely violent. However, its manic plotting, strange supporting characters, psycho-groovy soundtrack, and hyper-stylish imagery draws you in and won't let you go. Also, when the hero solves the case, you'll be kicking yourself for overlooking the exact same clue at the beginning of the movie.

I got lots more horror movies, but I'd like to hear some of your favorites in the comments.


  1. Looking Glass11/10/10 7:43 pm

    The Changeling, The Thing (both), The Fog, and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein are my favorites. Actiony horror is too much action.

    Constant weirdness tends to numb my senses after a bit, although I've got a copy of Coppola's Dementia 13 around here somewhere. It's more of a teen favorite, between the lingerie clad lady and the flowers dying on the grave.
    (Had to switch to Internet Explorer to comment. Firefox wouldn't show the word verification word. If you're getting fewer comments, that's why.)

    Thanks a lot for the blog, by the way. I've spent many happy hours reading through the archives. Been lurking for a while, too.

  2. Hmmm.. I use Firefox and have no problem with the verification word. The closest thing I can come to tech talk is to tell you to check if your Firefox is up to date.

    Anyway thanks for being a reader. Feel free to comment anytime, and I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

  3. Jake Was Here12/10/10 9:21 pm

    One of the most frustrating things about DEEP RED is that the clue giveaway at the beginning is played COMPLETELY straight. The audience winds up stuck in the same position as the hero, desperately trying to remember what he saw. We don't get to see it again almost until the end of the film. It is indeed one of my favorite Argento films, but my absolute favorite has to be TENEBRE.

    Another underrated giallo (despite being of a slightly later period) is THE PSYCHIC, a/k/a SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK. You can find a review (written by my wife, no less) of the film here.

  4. I love horror movies with a passion therefore I really don't have a list of certain films I watch during the month of October. Suspiria remains one of my favorite horror movies of all time and Halloween is a requirement to watch in our household on Oct 31.

    However I would like to throw in Romero's first three dead films as well as his underrated masterpieces Creepshow and Martin. Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead and The Beyond are also on rotation in our house in the month of October.

  5. You picked some of my favs already.

    Let me see if I can pick one from each decade I've been alive [alternate]: (1960s) Black Sunday (Mask of the Demon)--no horror fest is complete without Barbara Steele [Curse of the Demon]; (2000s) Ring [Skeleton Key]; (1970s) Night Stalker [Alien]; (1980s) Hellraiser [Angel Heart]; (1990s) Candyman [Lord of Illusions]. No vote for this decade yet.

    I second Abbott & Costello and the Universal films.