Eric Walkuski's Top 5 Must-Watch Halloween flicks!
As is the case with most everyone who reads this site, I celebrate Halloween starting on October 1st - hell, sometimes even a few days earlier - because I just hold the holiday so dear. I have a handful of "go to" horror flicks that must be popped in during this joyous time; some are unknown gems, some are cheesy guilty pleasures. Yes, titles like HALLOWEEN and THE EXORCIST will be viewed inevitably, but those are obvious choices, and get round-the-clock play on the boob tube. Here are five movies that, for one reason or another, have become traditional favorites of mine; I never celebrate October without them. PS: If you missed The Arrow's list, see it HERE!
Certainly John Carpenter is most closely associated with a certain October-set slasher pic, but for my money - and I find I'm in the minority on this - his best, most atmospheric film is THE FOG. The opening moments of kids surrounding a campfire while spooky old John Houseman tells them a tale, the film sets a tone of eerie dread, accentuated by Carpenter's spare score and Dean Cundey's shadowy cinematography. Plus, it's an old-fashioned ghost story, as spirits from the sea come back to haunt the town where they met an unjust end. Just try to watch this one without getting the shivers.
This movie is actually the most "recent" for me; I caught it for the first time about four years ago. And this sick, thoroughly creepy anthology from director Jeff Burr (who went on to take a big step down with LEATHERFACE) made a big impression on me. From the lurid content of the tales - which involve necrophilia, immortality, carnies and even the Civil War - to the dark, grim mood each piece carries, this is definitely an experience that is NOT your typical "just for fun" Halloween watch, because it leaves you feeling disturbed and in dire need of a shower.
I made mention of my love for this one back in 2008
, but it's worth noting again because an October hasn't gone by without my revisiting it. What is it about this dark, dark
comedy about a psychopathic family who will do anything to keep their rotting old home away from their relatives? Is it the totally nutso performances? The stark black & white cinematography and inspired set design? The splendid presence of Lon Chaney Jr. as a harried old butler (in one of his final performances)? Or is it the sneaking suspicion that this movie really was
made by lunatics? All of the above - and more!
Don't ask me why. Everything in my brain tells me that GRAVEYARD SHIFT is not a "good" movie by traditional standards, and of course there are plenty of Stephen King adaptations that ought to fit the bill quite nicely, but this grimy little number about a New England mill terrorized by a giant bat-monster has always had a place close to my heart. From the eccentric performances (try to not be absolutely mesmerized by Stephen Macht's over-the-top foreman or Brad Dourif's crazed exterminator) to the plentiful blood and guts, GRAVEYARD SHIFT is the epitome of a guilty pleasure from start to finish - and perfect viewing for a rowdy crowd looking to have a blast on Halloween.
Yes, another anthology, perhaps the ultimate one at that (sorry CREEPSHOW); I've loved this movie since I first saw it, and that was when I was about eight-years-old. Made by the wonderful British production company Amicus, which churned out morbid movies regularly, TALES FROM THE CRYPT features stories inspired by the classic EC Comics of the 50s, which almost always revolved around very bad people getting their just desserts in the most gruesome way possible. Zombies, killer Santas, cursed antiques - even vengeful blind people - are the instruments of twisted justice in this creepy masterpiece. If you want an old-school freakout this Halloween, you cannot go wrong with TALES FROM THE CRYPT, directed by the late, great Freddie Francis (the brilliant cinematographer of GLORY, CAPE FEAR and many others).