Saturday, October 17, 2009

'Tis the Season...

...of the witch. That's right, Halloween is soon upon us (by the way, if you have a hard time remembering when holidays happen, go to a craft store...they generally begin to put stuff out around three months in advance of the actual date of the holiday so you can use that to calculate) and I thought I'd do a little something in the spirit of what I've found the purpose of Halloween to be. It's not about scaring people, nor is it about candy. It's more about acknowledging and celebrating those darker and more macabre elements of human history that have been intertwined with the rest of it for as long as anyone can remember. To that end I've compiled a list of movies that are good to watch on or around Halloween... (click on the pic or links for a trailer or a clip)

The Corpse Bride/Coraline/The Nightmare Before Christmas
-The slashes here don't necessarily mean "or", by all means watch all of them, but I didn't want to use up three whole spots on Burton-esque animation...Also, Nightmare needs to be watched on Halloween because you can't really watch it on Christmas (ironically, I've always found Edward Scissorhands to be a Christmas movie)

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
-Because Halloween will always be dominated by childhood nostalgia. (This is less about the spirit of Halloween and more about how the actual night feels when you're young)

Rosemary's Baby
-The ultimate achievement in casual demon cinema. What makes this movie great, and ultimately, creepier, is how it all happens completely within the bounds of genial neighborhood relationships (I love Ruth Gordon.) SIDE NOTE: It's always bugged me that I love this movie so much, simply because Roman Polanski, the director, is such a raging asshole...his work is filed along with Peter Sellers's, Phil Spector's, and, to slightly lesser extent, Woody Allen's in the "people I whose work I wish I didn't respect so much because they are/were not good people" and is a constant aggravation and conscience questioner for me.

-THIS APPLIES ONLY TO THE ORIGINAL John Carpenter film from 1978, in no way does it come close to suggesting the Rob Zombie remake or any of the sequels. I don't usually like slasher films, but this is one of the few. Carpenter knows enough about horror and suspense to know what works and what doesn't and he successfully eschews the failings of most other entries in this genre by using actual suspense and terror, not just shocks and gore. Few things are creepier than a guy that can't be stopped but also never seems to need to walk faster to catch up with his victims.

Evil Dead II
-There aren't a lot of genuine scares in this movie, but it fits squarely in the celebrating the absurdities of horror as it applies to real life category. It's cheesy and low budget and few films have been more successful at aping a genre while also becoming a genuine entry in it. Part Lovecraft, part Romero, and part "teens in the woods alone", I recommend this one over the first Evil Dead because this one corrects a lot of needless vulgarity and Army of Darkness is just silly (not bad, just silly)

Night of the Living Dead
-If you're curious about zombies, but don't like gore this is the one for you. I can't say it has aged entirely gracefully, but this is the real beginning of this now rampant genre and reminds you of why these movies started...(hint: it's not just about zombies...there's a message) Also, upon watching this movie, thousands of references and parodies will suddenly make sense.

Shaun of the Dead
-Continuing the zombie movie for a reason theme this movie is nearly perfect. It nails the combination of funny and creepy in a consummate celebration of the genre, but is not just an also has a reason to exist in and of itself (please pay attention to that last bit, Hollywood (if for some reason you're reading this)). It's actually a completely convincing romantic comedy at the same time which is no easy feat. Throw in the so far without any hint of failing writing/directing/acting team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (see Hot Fuzz and Spaced for further proof) and there is no reason not to see this (unless you are against gore..then see above....but Night of the Living Dead is not funny.)

The Shining
-Stanley Kubrick revels in the details of why people react the way the do to things like few others have or can. This movie expertly tweaks your emotions and senses to create an all-encompassing feeling of dread, but, at the same time, is so solidly and effectively constructed in a cinematic that one finds themselves one the edge of their seat but loving every minute of it...or at least I do. Plus, Jack Nicholson gives such a deliriously menacing performance as the possessed father that he more than makes up for any of the less effective moments from Shelley Duvall, and really makes Danny's terror justified and genuine. Another one that explains a lot of parodies and references.

The Haunting (again, the one should ever see the remake with Liam Neeson)
-I don't like making "favorites" lists because I have a hard time separating things out like that (that's why this list is not a ranking), but The Haunting easily makes my list of favorite movies of all time without hesitation. The first time I saw it on TCM by myself (in the afternoon, no less) when I was younger it terrified me (at the time, the first black and white film to do so) and it made a huge impression on me from that day forward. The greatness of this film lies in the fact that you never, ever see anything. All suspense comes solely from noises and weirdness and the characters' reactions to it. Everyone who ever has it in their head that they want to make a horror film should see this movie first. I don't know that it's ever been done better or more effectively. This is the pinnacle of a film knowing why we are scared of the unknown and that momentary shocks scare us but do not last.

Drag Me to Hell
I have yet to watch this on DVD yet (that's for Halloween!) so I don't know if it will be as effective on the small screen, but seeing this movie in the theater was one of the best cinematic experiences of 2009 for me. Sam Raimi mixes the zealous love for horror and ichor of his early work (see Evil Dead II) with his genuine talent for storytelling and character (see A Simple Plan) and the higher production values and effects of his last few the films (the Spiderman Trilogy) to create a movie far greater and more effective than any of his previous efforts (equal credit in this an his previous films must also be given to his brother and long-time writing partner, Ivan Raimi). This film combines the creepy joy of demons and seances, the subtle terror of the unknown through sound and light, and the out and out shocks that let you never quite know what's coming other words, this movie combines the best parts of the other nine film in this list. Its great fun and completely embodies the spirit of Halloween...creepy, sometimes scary, sometimes gross, but always fun.


no song this time...the blog took a long time to put together and is essentially all just commenting on media...don't want to overload.

No comments:

Post a Comment