Monday, October 29, 2012

My Top Ten Halloween Movies

People like reading lists, right? I mean, they have websites dedicated to lists, so FINE! Here's my attempt at a top ten list! Since it is Halloween and all, I'm going to do a top ten list of my favorite Halloween type movies. I was considering calling it my top ten favorite scary movies, but there were too many that were funny movies that just happened to be about ghosts or zombies. Go figure! So, I have changed it to Halloween, because I love being vague. Enjoy!

10. Shadow of the Vampire

I am a sucker for movies about making movies. They just appeal to me. So it would make sense that Shadow of the Vampire would be my kind of movie. I didn't hear about this movie until last year, but it's been out since 2000. Chances are that you haven't heard about it either, since it kind of flew under everyone's radar only making $11 million in theaters. The plot centers around the making of the silent movie, Nosferatu. Anyone familiar with Nosferatu knows that it was just a ripoff of Dracula since they couldn't get the rights at that time. Anyway, John Malkovich's character, the director of said film, wants his production to be as close as possible to the real thing, so much so that he finds a real vampire to play Nosferatu's vampire, Count Orlok. I won't go anymore into the movie, but just know that it is definitely worth a watch, if only for Willem Dafoe's magnificent recreation of Nosferatu's Count Orlok. 

9. Beetlejuice

If I remember correctly, I watched the TV show version of Beetlejuice many times before I finally saw the movie version. I'll just say that the dynamic was a little bit different. Nevertheless, I love this movie. It definitely has that Tim Burton flair. The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple who are having trouble with the people that have moved into their old house. They unwittingly unleash the devious "bio-exorcist" Betelguese (that's how is name is actually spelled, like the star. The movie title is the phonetic spelling.) on the new owners and chaos ensues. The highlight of the movie is Betelguese, played by Micheal "I'm Batman" Keaton. Keaton literally has a little less than 18 minutes on screen, but believe me when I say that he utilizes every minute of it. It's a twisted comedy from the mind of Tim Burton, and one of his better films. 

8. Halloween

Halloween in my mind is the slasher film. It's not the first slasher film, but it's probably one of the more well known ones. People who have seen other slasher movies, especially newer ones, and then watch this for the first time may find it a little predictable and cliche, but that's because every slasher film has copied this movie. The movie follows Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, a high school babysitter, who, along with her friends, are terrorized by a speechless and seemingly indestructible killer named Micheal Myers. This confused me at first when I was a child, since there was the scary Micheal Myers, and the funny one from SNL. This is another movie that I didn't watch until a few years ago when it randomly came on TV during October. This is a classic slasher film that hits all the right notes. It just feels real, and it does a great job of building up the suspense as the movie goes on. Random fun fact about this movie: the Micheal Myers mask is just a William Shatner mask that had the hair removed and the whole thing spray painted white. 

7. 28 Days Later

Just another zombie movie? I think not. Danny Boyle decided to turn the zombie genre on its head by making the zombies a little bit different from the ones that people were used to seeing. Instead of radioactivity from a space probe like in Night of the Living Dead, or a mysterious gas like Return of the Living Dead, the zombies in this movie are made from a virus called "Rage." Oh, and these zombies aren't slow like the ones you may be used to seeing, they are fast as hell. The beginning is probably the best part of this movie. Just watching Cillian Murphy's Jim walk around an abandoned London makes me shiver. The mood is perfect. I don't know how else to put it. I don't know what else to say about the movie, except that I like the first half a bit better than the second. Don't get me wrong, its a great film, but some parts in the second act just seem out of place. 

6. Psycho

From this point on, you can basically lump all these movies together, because they are all basically perfect in my book. They are all different kinds of scary stories though. Psycho is under the old classic category. But I also find it the scariest out of all the entries. Everything about this Hitchcock tale is extremely terrifying to me. An out of the way motel, a strange motel manager, tons of taxidermy on the walls, a mysteriously absent mother. I won't spoil anything here, unlike in my Psycho review. You should already know the shower scene, and if you don't, then you must be living under a rock. Actually, you are fortunate for not seeing it, because after I saw it for the first time I basically had to have my bathroom on lock-down in order to feel safe inside a shower. If you want an older horror movie for the Halloween season, this is the perfect choice. Suspense, mystery, and murder!

5. Shaun of the Dead

This "Zom-Com" can be watched any time of the year, but why not during the Halloween season. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play best friends trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse. It parodies all the Romero zombie movies, even in the title which is an obvious homage to Romero's Dawn of the Dead. This was my first Pegg/Frost film and it is in my opinion the best one. It's a funny movie that knows when to throw in a bit of heart, but also when to throw in a literal heart. Just because its a comedy doesn't mean its not gory. It's a zombie pic! What do you expect!? If you want something for the season, but want to laugh, look no further than this British comedy classic. 

4. Ghostbusters

Yeah, yeah, another comedy. I was torn which to put at 4, and which to put at 5, but Ghostbusters is too much of a classic. This movie will never not be funny to me. This is another one that you can watch anytime and it's good. It fits the season because of the whole ghost thing, but it's truly a comedy for all seasons. You all know the plot: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd, and Ernie Hudson are the Ghostbusters, and they do just that. This is probably Bill Murray's funniest movie, but I'm sure someone will argue with me on that. As funny as the movie is, it still has some legitimately scary parts. I was super scared of the ghost librarian as a child. And I'm sure I had nightmares about the beast versions of the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster. I could go on and on about this movie, so I'll just stop here and offer this movie up as another alternative to any truly scary movie for Halloween. 

3. Alien

Alien is a masterpiece. It freaks me out every time I watch it, and I love it. The whole movie is so claustrophobic and suspenseful that it makes me antsy. They are literally trapped on this ship in the middle of space with a hostile alien. Alien movies aren't typically thought of as Halloween type movies, but I would say that this movie is just as worthy as any movie. There's a killer, it's in a secluded area, people get picked off one-by-one. Sounds like a classic slasher-like movie, minus the slash. Like Halloween, Alien's protagonist is a woman, played by Sigourney Weaver. It's refreshing to see a female lead in a horror movie, especially one that kicks so much ass. Well, not as much in this movie as in the sequels, but she does her fair share. One of the greatest horror movies of all time, and one of the best movies period. 

2. The Thing

Another John Carpenter film, the other being Halloween, this dealt with scientists in the Antarctic. That's not so scary, right? Oh, I forgot to mention the part about the extraterrestrial parasite that assimilates other organisms and is in turn able to imitate them. That's right, these researchers are stuck at a ice station with an alien that can look like any one of them. As you can imagine, this causes mass paranoia among the group and things escalate quickly. The movie is actually a remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World, which is the movie everyone is watching in Halloween. This is one of my favorite scary movies because it's premise is just that good. Who can you trust? The alien could be anybody. The suspense is unbearable. I love it, though. I'll warn you though, this is kind of an intense movie. Lots of gore, mutations, and scary images, so if you aren't into those things, I would go for a lighter Halloween movie. 

1. Evil Dead II

OK, so this was a hard one. Not between this and The Thing, but between this movie and its predecessor, The Evil Dead. I really want to put both of them, because I love them both so much, but there can be only one! The Evil Dead is a low-budget masterpiece that was straight horror. It's got great makeup, gore effects, and camera work. What it doesn't have that II has is comedy, well intentional comedy at least. I heard a ton of laughs at a midnight showing of The Evil Dead last year. I don't know, I just have a harder time recommending the first film to people because it's just so different. The tree part also has a little bit to do with it. II has a bigger budget, better acting, and a bigger role for the greatest B-movie actor of all time, Bruce Campbell. Campbell's Ash was the hero in the first film, but he's kind of a woos. He got stuck under bookcases a lot. In the second film, he has attitude and he's not gonna go down without a fight. The second film literally rewrites the first film in the first ten minutes. So, it's kind of a remake of the first film, but not really. Anyway, Ash is tormented by The Book of the Dead. He plays a tape player of an archaeology professor reciting passages from said book and it unleashes an evil force. This evil possesses his friends and it's up to Ash to banish the evil once and for all. The humor in the movie definitely has a Three Stooges vibe to it. That's the best way to describe it. The movie can be just plain silly sometimes, than the next second, something completely messed up happens. That's Evil Dead II. Funny and messed up. This is another film I could go on and on about but I'll save that for another post. If I had to label this under any specific horror genre, I guess it would have to be the zombie genre. This movie is too hard to define, you'll just have to check it out for yourself. Have a great Halloween!

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Halloween

Anyone that knows me pretty well knows that I love Halloween. Always have, always will. When I was a kid, it wasn't about the candy so much as it was about the experience of it all. Being able to go out one night a year and dress up as something spooky was good enough for me. The candy was just an added bonus. Where did my love of Halloween come from? Well, I don't really remember, but I kind of associate it with my father. My dad has always enjoyed all the spookiness of Halloween too, so I'm sure his enthusiasm just rubbed off on me. My parents always decorated the house for Halloween, with paper cutouts of ghosts, witches, and other assorted spooks. So, I basically grew up around it. It's not just the night of Halloween either, but the whole month of October, and basically anything spooky. I could ride The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World a million times and not get sick of it. I love scary stories, and every once in a while, a good scary movie. So this is basically just going to be a little walk through of my obsession with Halloween.

The best tradition as a kid always is going out trick-or-treating. Like I said, I loved the candy and everything, but it was the night itself that was exciting for me. What other night could I walk around a strange neighborhood in the dark while being dressed up? No other, because I'm pretty sure you'd get picked up by the cops. There was a certain magic to it. Halloween night is always a special one, and I can't rightly say why at the moment. It's out of the ordinary is all I can say. I could dress up, be something scary like a ghost, or harmless like a clown (I know some of you find clowns terrifying so I'm sorry), and pretend for a while that the neighborhood I was in was inhabited by all these other mystifying creatures that you could see no other time. It was always best when it was not too cold, as my mother would often make me wear a coat over my costume if it was too cold, and not raining. Rain did not make everything spookier, just wetter. The neighborhoods we visited would change from year to year, but we always went to my Great Aunt and Uncle's house in Highland to get some candy and visit. I didn't have that much of a sweet tooth as a child and I still don't. That being said, I still loved having a haul of candy at the end of the night. My parents, like everybody's, stole some of the good stuff, but there were enough goodies left to consider the night a success. The best houses were the ones that gave out actual full sized candy bars. Those were the rich people who just wanted to do something nice for the kids. God bless em'! Another rare treat was a can of pop. That only happened a few times in my childhood, but oh man was it ever awesome. Thanks to that, I could walk around for an extra hour and not feel tired! But for the most part it was fun size candy bars, licorice, hard candy, pennies (I hated this), and popcorn balls. And there was always that one nut-job that gave you a toothbrush. Every neighborhood has to have a dentist. Jerks. I would thank you kindly to let me rot my teeth. The modes for carrying around the loot changed throughout the years, and is oddly specific to my generation. McDonald's came out with these trick-or-treat buckets in the late eighties, early nineties that had a ghost, a witch, and a pumpkin. Man I loved these things, and almost every kid had one. The problem was they were too darn small and you'd fill it up with candy too fast. We used to have to run back to the car to dump out our full pails. As I became older, I had to resort to a pillow case. Not as spooky or fun, but hey, it held a ton of candy.

My parents were great not only because they took us trick-or-treating, or that they decorated the house, but also because they taped a bunch of awesome Halloween specials. Every Halloween we would watch these specials, and they were probably the best things ever. You have the classic Garfield's Halloween Adventure. Garfield and Odie go out trick-or-treating, only to run into a bunch of pirate ghosts...or is it ghost pirates? The Real Ghostbusters had an episode called "The Halloween Door" and it dealt with this old dude trying to get rid of Halloween. He went even as far as creating a device that makes Halloween associated things disappear. Geez, someone's a killjoy. Well it turns out that he releases a bunch of demons in the process and the Ghostbusters have to stop them and bring peace back to Halloween night. Fun episode, and it has a lot of little bits of history on Halloween. Everybody watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as it is a classic alongside the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The whole episode is genius, but I love anything that had to do with Snoopy. My all time favorite thing to watch though was Disney's Halloween Treat. It was a TV special that came out in 1982, I believe, and all it was was a bunch of old Disney cartoons that had to do with Halloween. It was all narrated by this jack-o-lantern puppet too, which had this kind of creepy voice. My favorite part of the whole special was the headless horseman chase from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. That story creeps me out, but is still one of my favorite Halloween stories. Oh, and Night on Bald Mountain. So awesome. I'm unusual because I've basically watched those specials every single year. I literally just watched the Ghostbusters one today. It's a stupid tradition, but I love these old videos.

I'm pretty serious about Halloween. I've decorated for it ever since I was old enough, except for this one year back in middle school. I'm not sure what my deal was. I think it was in that transition where I thought Halloween could only be enjoyed by kids, and since I was a little older, I wasn't supposed to like Halloween. I must have gotten over that, because my love for the holiday is going strong! I've even had a Halloween party every single year since the beginning of high school. I like to get the most out of the whole month by trying to watch some scary movies, maybe play a creepy game like Castlevania or Zombies Ate my Nieghbors, and read a few scary stories. I don't think I'll ever recapture the wonder I had as a child during this season, but it's still fun to try and get into the festivities. I see people that put a lot of emphasis on Christmas, and I get it, it's a fun holiday. However, I put as much energy into Halloween. I may not fully decorate my house and the outside, but I like to live the season. Yes, I realize that I am a crazy person, as Halloween is not typically one of the holidays that people go all out for, but that's just who I am. The one thing that I have never been able to do on Halloween is hand out candy. My parents house, and all the previous places I lived in weren't conducive to handing out treats to kids. I don't know why I want to do it so badly, but I think it has to do with just being able to see all the kids in their costumes and seeing how much fun everyone is having on the holiday. Plus it gives my wife and I an excuse for buying tons of candy! Now that we have a house in a subdivision, my dream will finally be realized!

So please enjoy the month, as I always have. Go out and see a scary movie, or watch one at home. Go to a haunted attraction, or a corn maze. Just do something fall related! It's the best season of all, so you might as well go enjoy it at an apple orchard or something! Hope I've given some of you some holiday cheer, or at least brought back some Halloween memories.