Halloween is rapidly approaching and, if you’re as much as a geek like myself, it’s an opportunity to catch a half decent Horror film (one that either creeps you the fuck out or has the ‘jump’ factor to it) over this much loved festive period. However, what Halloween can also become is an opportunity to buy into the dross remakes and sequels often spewed out around this time each year which is why I’ve decided to compile a list of films to check out over the Halloween season. They’re a varied bunch with some of the films being funny and some being unbelievably bleak and nasty. I feel that all of them are pretty damn good films and would be well worth a view over this next week or so of Halloween festivities.
Videodrome is one of the films I watched as a teen that scared the living hell out of me. Whilst I was too young to pick up on the deeply complex theories on our relationship with television to the film’s full extent, the grotesque body horror and headfuck imagery stuck with me for a long, long time. The journey that Max Renn, owner of a low-rent sleazy television network “Civic-Tv” (the one you take to bed with you) takes after he is exposed to the sinister ‘Videodrome’ broadcast is both disturbing and entrancing; strange things begin to happen to him before he is eventually enveloped by Videodrome and his life spirals out of control. I don’t want to give much in the way of spoilers as to what happens or what you witness onscreen, but by the time the film reaches it’s gruesome ending, you’ll be looking at your relationship television in a whole different way.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
I came across this film by mistake. In his infinite wisdom, my dad had recorded over the VHS copy of “Night of the Living Dead” (which, by the way, was the dreadful colour version) with this gem of a zombie movie. As a 14 year old who wanted to watch NOTLD, I was originally disappointed and repulsed that my dad had replaced such a classic with this putrid and silly film. Fast-Forward a few years, I revisited this film when I was in my first year of university and what was once a lame un-scary film was in fact a very funny and incredibly 80s zombie film. It takes place in the “real world” with the events of the Living Dead series being entirely fictional…well, apart from the fact that the character Ernie claims that the events of Night were loosely based on a military cover-up. The real joy of this film is the campy nature of the whole series; they don’t take themselves seriously whilst providing the audience with a great mixture of hilarity and scares to a punk soundtrack. A little trivia note, the reason that everyone thinks that a zombie would say “Braaaaaiiiiiiinnnns” is all thanks to this film.
Before Peter Jackson made that series of films for which he will probably be remembered by the masses for, he made three…unique low budget films; Bad Taste (his debut film made with his friends), Meet the Feebles (his twisted version of The Muppets) and Braindead which is generally regarded as one of the goriest films ever made. It’s another horror film that’s silly, but it’s also one that turns everything up to 11 in terms of the disgusting imagery you see throughout the film. It honestly gets to the point where what you’re seeing is so gross that it you feel kind of ill whilst at the same time you’re crying with laughter at the absurdity of what’s going on (case in point, zombie baby in a blender). The film comes to a head with the “Party’s Over” scene which includes a house full of zombies and a lawnmower and is as disgusting as you’d expect whilst keeping a light hearted approach to the events occurring. After watching Braindead, I’m often left wondering if Jackson will one day go back to making masterpieces built on blood and guts instead of making somewhat homoerotic films about hobbits.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981) / THE EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)
Above all others, the first two Evil Dead films are quintessential viewing around Halloween. They encompass everything that’s right with horror; they’re fun, incredibly gory, genuinely terrifying at points and feature a fair amount of tension throughout. Whilst the original film features a large degree of black humour and is typically seen as the more ‘serious’ of the series with a stronger emphasis on creepiness than comedy, it’s still an entertaining watch (although the “tree” scene, a scene Raimi deeply regrets including, is a little on the misogynistic side). The second film is one of the funniest films of all time with the black humour giving way to slapstick comedy and general wackiness, with the hero Ash having to constantly deal with his possessed right that keeps trying to kill him. Depending on the form of comedy you want, these two films (and potentially the third) will accommodate for you as well as showing you what the combination of a low budget and ingenuity can achieve.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)
While the rest of the films I’ve recommended thus far (sans Videodrome) are light hearted affairs that can be construed as ‘horror’ films, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is neither, yet it would still not be out of place in your Halloween viewing. It’s a dark and perplexing tale of two individuals; bright-eyed and optimistic Betty who is chasing a Hollywood career and amnesiac Rita who is attempting to piece together who she is again. Over the first part of the film the two try to uncover who Rita is and what happened to her and along the way, discover that Hollywood isn’t exactly the place of dreams Betty had hoped for. The second half of the film is hard to explain without spoiling a lot of the film’s narrative, I’ll put it this way; characters and character’s situations change, making it an interesting watch up until the genuinely scarring climax. There are several sinister sub-plots and characters that pop up once in a while rather enigmatically, all of which makes Mulholland Drive one of the more challenging and intriguing films of recent years. The reason it’d make for a great Halloween film (if you want a film with more intellectual content) is that it really is a surreal and often disturbing experience; it has less “jumpy” moments and more that make you feel slightly uncomfortable.
THE SHINING (1980)
The Shining is still one of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen. The image of Danny meeting the two twins stuck with me since I was a young, stupid kid watching this film way after my bedtime. I think this will be the film I revisit on Halloween in HD for the first time.
THE SIMPSONS “TREEHOUSE OF HORROR” SERIES
The Simpsons’ Halloween send-ups of horror films and literature (as well as the bizarre stuff they come up with i.e. dolphins taking over) are always a treat to watch. Thankfully, with all of the coverage the show still gets on Channel 4 and Sky One, you’re almost guaranteed to stumble across these over the next few days. Hopefully they see sense and show the earlier offerings…especially T.O.H V where Grounds keeper Willie is killed repeatedly throughout the episode.
Well there’s just a few suggestions of films that wouldn’t be a bad watch over the Halloween period instead of say, Paranormal Activity 3. I’m sure whatever you choose will be a good choice (after all, you’re smart enough to be reading this brilliant blog, surely you can pick a film to watch!). In the next few days there will be an accompanying piece in helping you choose the right decision which will focus on films/subgenres to avoid; expect the likes of Last House on the Left, Cannibal Holocaust and The Exorcist to pop up on this list. Until then, in the famous words dying words of Captain Rhodes…