Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten Halloween Movies

Welcome to the list of my Top Ten Favorite Halloween Movies. As you'll no doubt deduce from the word “favorite,” this means that the movies on the list are not judged based on quality or theme, but rather based on what I personally prefer to watch every Halloween. I do prefer to watch movies themed after the spirit of the holiday, but a lot of movies like that just aren't any good to begin with. As such, while most of the movies on the list will be themed after the season, some will just be horror that I like to watch around Halloween. With that in mind, lets jump right in with number ten on the list.

10. Jeepers Creepers

Now I know a lot of you are going to wonder why I would choose this movie, but to be honest I just like to watch it around Halloween. I consider Jeepers Creepers to be a highly underrated movie with a lot going for it. You've got a movie monster which borrows from just about every known movie monster under the sun, and as such he appropriately survives by “borrowing” body parts from others. The storyline is just unique enough to be interesting, and there are plenty of “stand off” style scenes which give the film a very creepy, almost western feel. I liked the second film as well, but it was nowhere near as good as the first. Is it corny? Hell yeah. Is the acting suspect? Sometimes. Is it scary? Well, just enough to keep me happy.

9. Nightmare Before Christmas

If you'd have talked to me a little earlier in my life, you might have found this higher on my list. Sadly, this modern classic just doesn't stand the test of time for me. When I first saw it as a kid, I wasn't that impressed. Upon watching it a second and third time, I slowly grew to love and appreciate the movie a lot more. Now I feel like I've seen it so many times that the plot, the music, and the characters start to wear on my nerves fairly easily. I still tend to watch it around the Halloween season, but something tells me that tradition won't last forever. Give it a few years and it probably won't even make the list. Nightmare Before Christmas is certainly a charming and entertaining film to watch, but if you've seen too much of it you'll just grow tired of it. I'm sure there are fans out there crying foul while reading this, but while you can force me to respect the film, you can't make me enjoy it over and over again ad nauseum.

8. Spaced Invaders

I'm sure some of you don't even know about this movie, and others don't remember it at all. This movie never was very popular, and although it has a small following, not that many people really liked it. For the life of me, I can't understand why. I know it's corny, stupid, and childish, but it's also funny as hell. The movie pokes fun at several well established sci-fi/horror themes of its era, and also manages to weave a somewhat interesting story. Spaced Invaders is about a group of Martians who come down to earth after hearing the perennial classic retelling of The War of the Worlds via radio broadcast on Halloween night, mistaking the broadcast for a distress signal from their comrades. They end up crash landing in a barn on the outskirts of a small town, and instead of being discovered immediately, most of the townspeople end up mistaking them for trick or treaters in costume. I won't spoil the incredibly nonsensical middle and end of the film, but suffice it to say that it's good cheesy fun with a lot of memorable voice acting. After a synopsis like that, you can't tell me that you aren't at least interested in checking this one out.

7. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

To be honest, I finally saw this movie for the first time recently in the last few years, but I can already tell it's going to be a perennial favorite. I don't know if you can tell from the list so far, but I tend to prefer the really cheesy stuff for Halloween. Even though this movie has nothing to do with the Halloween franchise, it's actually kind of cool. It really should just be called “Season of the Witch”, but even that doesn't really make much sense out of the plot. Essentially, the movie follows the attempts of two people trying to stop a big corporation from killing children on Halloween. I'd explain it further, but then you'd miss out on the cheesy goodness. If you haven't seen this movie and you don't mind watching bad movies for the cheese factor, you really should give it a try. Even though I find myself laughing at the ridiculousness of the plot and acting, I still like what they were trying to do with the movie. Obviously they failed, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining.
6. Trick 'r Treat

Yes, I know the movie just recently came out, but let's be honest: This is going to be a Halloween classic for years to come. With a sequel already in the works and a format that could lead to dozens more, this is pretty much the embodiment of what I look for in a movie for Halloween. Taking a page out of films like Creepshow and shows like Tales from the Crypt, Trick 'r Treat is an episodic movie featuring four separate, yet interwoven stories. All of these creepy tales take place in one small town (as most horror films do) on Halloween Night under the watchful gaze of Sam, who always seems to be involved somehow. Who is Sam? Well, you get more information about that at the end of the film, but you could consider him the living embodiment of Halloween in a way. This movie is cheesy as hell, and although it's violent, it isn't necessarily scary. With Trick 'r Treat you're getting more of a nostalgia trip than a scary story, as the elements that make up the foundation of the film all hearken back to a day and age when Halloween meant something more and cheesy horror movies were well crafted. Nowadays if a horror movie is bad, it's just flat out bad and not even enjoyable. With Trick 'r Treat you get a return to the “so bad it's good” days, and the Halloween theme makes it perfect for the season.

5. Evil Dead

I doubt anyone needs me to fill them in on this one. If you don't know what Evil Dead is, just stop reading now. You've at least seen this advertised and sold on many different formats in every capacity imaginable. Nowadays it's simply impossible to get away with being completely ignorant to the brilliance of this cheesefest. This is the movie that put director Sam Raimi on the map. With its over the top portrayal of zombies and a plot that disregards all established clichés, Evil Dead goes for the throat keeps you laughing on the edge of your seat. What I find most memorable and enjoyable about this movie after all these years is just how disgusting the practical effects look even now. These zombies don't just look dead, they look like fuckin' hell. While the series became much more campy with Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, this is the one I enjoy watching the most for Halloween. It's got all the good and proper Halloween feel to it with a secluded setting and monsters that only come out at night. What I like the most about this movie is that the surviving character isn't even originally intended to be a main character, he's just a guy that came along for the trip. While this happens a lot nowadays, Ash really was one of the first heroes of the horror genre to go from being “that guy” to being a total badass. Definitely a good one for Halloween!

4. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Based on Washington Irving's legendary tale, this Disney short has become a classic. I remember seeing this on television when I was younger and having the feeling that my imagination was running wild. Obviously this is a classic tale, and in particular it is a very American tale, so I'm sure that in other countries it might not be as big of a deal. Personally, I couldn't imagine Halloween without it. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the embodiment of everything that I expect from a proper Halloween movie. As I've grown older and wiser, I can better appreciate those aspects of the animated short that are truly fantastic. For instance, what strikes me now more than ever is that Ichabod is portrayed in a very cartoony manner, but The Headless Horseman is very tightly drawn and detailed in comparison. This isn't exactly new for Disney, as this was their animation style for several decades. In fact, in many respects you can still see this animation style in some of their work today, as well. However, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was produced in 1949, right smack dab in the middle of their golden era of animation. As such, it is memorable not just because it is a faithful adaptation of Irving's story, but because it is in the classic animation style of Disney. I know that technically it isn't a movie, but I really don't care. The short does in about 30 minutes what most films fail to do in two hours. You just have to give it the proper respect for that.

3. Halloween

Well, obviously. Halloween is the major influence for the majority of independent horror films nowadays. John Carpenter proved that you could take a simple concept and a shoestring budget and, through the process of making the project your own, you could create something special. I don't know an aspiring filmmaker or film buff who doesn't look up to Carpenter in some way. Obviously he isn't nearly as influential now as he was when he was in his prime, but his prime alone will make him influential for years to come. With Halloween you get a movie that doesn't have a definitive conclusion, and in a way you could say that this was the over arching theme of the entire series. I'm going to assume that by now you know I'm not talking about the remakes, because I could give a crap less about how well they are done, they just can't compare to the simple and extremely effective direction of the film that started it all. One could say that in a way this film launched a movement that to this day continues to thrive in one aspect or another. With all of that in mind, how can you deny that this is one of the most obvious choices for a Halloween themed movie? Of course it ranks in the top 3. It's fuckin' Halloween.

2. The 'Burbs

I just know I'm going to get some strange responses to this one. The Burbs? At number TWO? Well, keep in mind that this is my list of my personal favorites to watch around Halloween. I know it doesn't take place on Halloween, and it isn't in any way centered around Halloween, but it's just a great movie. The 'Burbs spoofs pretty much every classic horror cliché in the book and manages to pull off a rather creepy feel to it as well. The first time I actually watched this was in black and white on a 13 inch TV at my friend's house when I was a kid. I know that's going to sound weird, because the movie was never in black and white and it wasn't really intended to be, but I swear that this was my fondest memory of the movie. Every time I watch it I remember bringing my VCR over to his house and hooking it up to that tiny little B&W and just going at it with as many movies as we could rent. Keeping that in mind, consider that this movie rips on the classic horror films of the B&W age, and as a result I think it actually does look better in B&W. Because of the creepy feel and the homage to the classics, The 'Burbs is a movie I always find myself watching at this time of year. I couldn't tell you exactly why, all I know is that I like it, and it's one of my Halloween favorites.

...and now for my number one movie to watch for Halloween....

1. Poltergeist

This has got to be my favorite horror movie of all time. I realize it's more of a modern classic, but it manages to maintain its ability to scare the shit out of me every time I watch it. I don't run away in terror, but I do still find myself breathless before some of the creepier scenes. In particular the scene when the mother falls into the unfinished pool that's filled with rotting corpses has always left me extremely unsettled. I never understood why until I read a bit more into the making of the movie. Apparently they used real corpses in that scene, and from what I understand they didn't even tell the actress about that. When I found out about that I was just blown away. No wonder they looked so authentic, they fuckin' WERE authentic. It seems like a lot of movies today and even some in the 80's attempted to copy the success of Poltergeist in a way, because you end up seeing a lot of the same tricks that started with Poltergeist in other horror films concerning ghosts. For instance, in Ghostbusters we see Dana Barrett's food start to come to life in front of her, much like what happened to one of the paranormal investigators in Poltergeist. In Paranormal Activity 2 we see a baby being dragged up the side of a crib, just as in Poltergeist the mother is dragged up the side of the wall. For pete's sake, there's even an entire episode of Family Guy devoted to the film. To my knowledge they only did that for one other movie, and they've managed to turn that into a successful franchise. Of course, Poltergeist is no Star Wars, as you could hardly call the sequels a worthy addition to the legacy of the first film. The point is, this is a classic for a reason. I watch this movie every year around Halloween without fail, and it is the only horror movie that still manages to scare me. As such, Poltergeist is my number one Halloween movie.

Thanks for reading my Top 10. I hope you enjoyed it, but if you didn't, let me know in the comments. Let me know what your favorite Halloween movies are as well, because who knows? Maybe I'll come back next year and revise this puppy. Or maybe I'll just make a viewers choice? Either way, I'm always up for suggestions, and I love a good discussion about movies! If you haven't heard of one of the titles on this list, do yourself a favor and check it out. They're all good movies for different reasons, and they're all perfect for the Halloween season. Whatever you do, make sure to be safe and have lots of fun. Happy Halloween!
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