Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Picks For Halloween Viewing 2014

October really crept up on me this year. Crept up like a ninja Micheal Myers. Before I knew it it was jack-o'-lanterns, dead leaves and lots of horror films. This year I took a sabbatical from horror films during the months of August and September. It made the horror all the sweeter. I could also build up a nice little stockpile of horror films to watch for the first time. Every October I try to mix  up the entire month of horror film watching with a bunch of new stuff, old favorites and at least a couple horror franchises thrown in for good measure. So here are my picks for Halloween 2014.

10. Scream In The Dark

This CD by director  Dante Tomaselli is the perfect soundtrack for Halloween parties or your nightmares. A sonic descent into madness. The perfect blend of creepy sounds and macabre music, All most all the tracks are over five minutes, perfect for putting the CD on repeat grooving to on Halloween night.

9. 13 Ghosts (1960)

Eccentric geezer Dr. Plato Zorba has croaked and left his spooky mansion to his broke nephew Cyrus Zorba and his family. The family has also inherited the 12 ghosts old Doc Zorba has collected. not really having any money the family decide to stay in the house because ghosts or not, free is fucking free. There's also a housekeeper who may or may not be a witch. The young son Buck starts nosing around and discovers that Doc Zorba might have a hidden fortune somewhere in the house. But it seems someone else is after that money as well. And if that wasn't a big enough pain in the ass, the ghosts warn that one of them will soon die and join them as number 13. 13 Ghosts is an old fashioned haunted house fun. Perfect for late night viewing. Now granted the effects are dated and the characters seem hokey, but therein lies it's charm. If your in the mood for a horror film that doesn't hit you over the head with tons of gore or people needlessly getting tortured and relive those days when Famous Monsters ruled then 13 Ghosts will hit the spot.

8. Raw Meat (1972)

"Mind the doors!"

The disappearance of a prominent British official leads Police Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) to investigate the London subway were he disappeared. He discovers theres been more then one strange disappearance there. As he digs deeper into the case Calhoun is warned by a MI5 agent (Dracula...Christopher Lee) not to investigate further. Three tunnel workers are attacked, two are found dead and the other missing. Caught in the middle of all this are the last two people to see the official alive in the subway. An american student and his British girlfriend. It has that 70's horror feel. That down and dirty feel. Your never sure who's going to survive to the end. The message of the film reminded me of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes . The "Man" as he's called it the credits, is an innocent really, even though he murders and eats flesh. This is the only way he knows how to survive. Having been raised underground by people who's only means of food was to eat the flesh of their own dead. He was separate from and knows nothing of the outside world  For the most part the film plays out as a sort of police procedural. With Inspector Calhoun and Sergeant Rogers looking for the missing official. But what saves it from being tedious is Pleasence's great performance. He's really enjoying himself here and he's got some great lines. As for the horror, there's a great scene involving the attack one the three workers. It's quick, brutal and very effective. American director Gary Sherman makes a very effective British horror film.

7. Saw (2004)

Wow. Saw is ten years old. I feel freaking old. I can remember the Halloween when Saw came out. The local theater at a special midnight showing that Halloween night. Since then there has been sis sequels, two video games and countless knock offs. For the first time last year I watched the complete Saw franchise for the first time, besides playing both of the games. I went in expecting to be disappointed. To my great surprise I generally liked the series. Part Two and Three are my favorites. Four and Five mostly suck. Six is good and Seven is fun. The first Saw falls somewhere in the middle of all that.

6. Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968) 

 A weird little film with lots of great shots and unique characters. I've aways had a soft spot for Lon Chaney Jr. and I think this is one of his best performances. His unconditional love for the three "children" is truly touching. There's plenty of spooky atmosphere on hand. Spider Baby has a black comedic heart. This dark humor fits the film perfectly. I challenge you not to fall in love with the winsome Jill Banner as Virginia.

5. The Black Cat (1981).

Lucio Fulci's beautiful looking adaptation of Poe's story.  I've read that both Fulci and star David Warbeck were none to fond of this film. Supposedly Fulci made it as a favor to the producer. By no means terrible, it is somewhat lacking in gore. Though the foggy streets and cemetery looked beautiful. This is a more restrained piece compared to say The Beyond or City of the Living Dead. There was none of his infamous eyeball ripping. But there was sure as hell an over abundance of eye close-ups. The film was lacking in Catriona MacColl, who would have been a better female lead then Mimsy Farmer and had better chemistry with Warbeck. Farmer is okay, but she never seems to click with the material. But there's a few things this cat does right. The prowling cat opening credits sequence by Sergio Salvati is a visual treat. Pino Donaggio's score is another plus. Fulci victim du jour Daniela Doria shows up and does what she does best, gets killed. Not bad. If you don't go in expecting The Beyond you shouldn't be disappointed.

4. Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

It's not Halloween without some Werewolf action. A satanic cult/werewolf/biker flick this is a strange one. This film feels like one of those horror comics Marvel used to do in the 70's. there's a wild drive-in vibe in this baby. Although there's not much werewolf action till the end except for some shadowy night time attacks the film is still a blast and running a brisk 79 minutes, it never out lives it's welcome. My favorite character has to be the leader of the satanic monks, known only to us as One (Severn Darden). He's tons of great lines during the crazy black mass. By the time the ending comes round things have taken a turn for the surreal. and the ending makes zero sense. There is a werewolf on a motorcycle so that alone makes it worth it.

3. V/H/S (2012) and  V/H/S/2 (2013)

Like werewolves Halloween needs some horror anthology films. The V/H/S films mix the classic horror anthology with found footage horror. The first film is a little uneven at times but when it's on it's on. The story Amateur Night is my favorite story in the first film. The phrase "I like you." will never be the same after seeing that story. The second film ups the monsters, the gore and the crazy. I enjoyed every segment of part 2. Phase I Clinical Trials and Safe Haven are my favorite tales here. But all five tales are fun in part 2.

2. Girls Nite Out (1984)

"Yummy, yummy, yummy I got love in my tummy and I feel like a-lovin' you"

One heck of a guilty pleasure. I'm not sure what it is I love about this one. It's got to be because of the killer in the bear costume and that strange creepy ending. Staring Hal Holbrook (Creepshow), Rutanya Alda (Mommie Dearest)and Julia Montgomery (Revenge of the Nerds), Holbrook filmed all his scenes in one day and his son has a small role in it. People tend to hate the coed shenanigans in the film, but I think there's a certain charm to it. I'm also a sucker for slashers set on collage campuses.

1. Halloween II (1981)

This film will always have special place in my heart. It was the first Halloween film I saw. My first intro to Laurie Strode, Dr. Sam Loomis and of course Michael Myers. Thanks to the recap at the beginning of the film I was caught up a little bit anyway on what had transpired in the first film. For the next hour and thirty minutes I watched as The Shape tracked down his barely coherent surviving victim and as later reveled sister Laurie. Hacking his way through a very understaffed hospital (Budget cuts methinks.). While across town Dr. Loomis told everyone and anyone in earshot that Mr. Myers was evil personified and it wasn't his fault Myers escaped. It was a great time and as a kid the late night viewing was good for creeping me out. There's something eerie about seeing Michael Myers stalk down those empty darkened corridors and the fleeting glimpses of him on CTV monitors. Reportedly Carpenter came up the whole sister angle over many a six pack of beer when trying to come up with a sequel idea. At one time the film was to be made in 3-D, but the process was too expensive for the film's budget. The film was originally written to take place in a high rise apartment building, a few years after the first film. It involved Myers tracking Laurie Strode to her new home in the high rise. Later in script meetings, however, the setting was changed to Haddonfield Hospital. The first Halloween was a trend setter the sequel is a direct continuation and a early 80's slasher classic. Sure it can't compare to the original, but I love it just as much. Halloween II is everything that was good about the 80's slasher craze distilled into it's purist form. 

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