Fright Night at the Movies
Halloween is better than Christmas. Saying it right now. Nothing against the celebration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s birth, but the Day of the Dead is just more fun. The weather is way better, the decorations are awesome, and the movies based on Halloween blow most Christmas movies out of the water. I used to watch the month long October celebration on the Disney Channel back in the 80’s and 90’s before the network changed to its more safe and non-pay format. As I grew older AMC held the annual Fear Fest, too. But that has also had some of the bite taken out of it. Instead of the entire month, it now runs for 13 days and often features the same flicks on repeat.
But with as many viewing options as exist, there are still plenty of places to give yourself a fright if not from a film in your personal collection. Here are some of the Halloween movies that I hold near and dear. Just to clarify, a good Halloween movie doesn’t have to mean a horror film. We would end up in a semantic debate about what constitutes a horror film and whether or not many people’s favorite Halloween movies are actually horror or not. A Halloween movie could be a thriller, suspense, horror, or even a family film. So here a just a FEW of my personal favorites (cause I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting) and in no particular order.
The first R-rated movie I saw in theaters. Up to then I’d sneaked peeks at Jason and Freddy and Stephen King adaptations on USA Network when they, too, showed Halloween movies. I was 15 and Scream blew my mind. Sure it gave rise to several sequels of varying degrees of quality (Part 2? Yay. Part 4? Nay), but the original was just that. For about a decade prior to this flick, horror/slasher movies had been…lacking. This changed the genre from a quick money maker with cringe worthy scripts and effects to something first class. Which lasted for probably about five years before people crapped up horror again.
Shaun of the Dead
I didn’t see SotD until it was on DVD. I rented it from one of those establishments that existed before streaming became a norm, and ended up sitting through three viewings of it in the same day. It blends every element it attempts together into one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve ever had with a movie. Being scared and laughing are basically the same, physiologically speaking, and SotD gives both in abundance.
Ernest Scared Stupid
For many years, the exploits of one Ernest P. Worrell were a hot topic for a good portion of the world. Knowwhatimean, Vern? He went to jail (wrongly accused), was a camp counselor (who sang to a turtle), saved mother loving Christmas, and then battled an evil troll who turned kids into wooden dolls in an effort to give birth to a legion of creatures. Ernest Scared Stupid might not be the greatest movie, but thanks to this flick I still call milk ‘miak,’ refer to people as ‘booger lips’ on occasion, and recommend it for annual viewing.
Unfortunately this Bette Midler vehicle is in danger of overload as ABC Family shows this about twenty times a week around Halloween. But it still holds a certain charm, and I’m definitely a fan of movies in which a town or group seems cut off and isolated from the rest to deal with a supernatural antagonist. There are witches, a zombie, talking cat, and songs! Plus I have to admit Sarah Jessica Parker never looked better.
I’m not so sure this isn’t blasphemous to Stephen King or horror fans, but this is my favorite horror movie of all time, and my favorite Stephen King film (didn’t say adaptation because I haven’t read his books. Bad me, I know). I really like the cast in Pet Semetary and it deals with the greatest dilemma of all in an interesting way- life and death and what we might do in response to our grief and loss. No matter how many times I watch it, this flick still creeps the hell out of me.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
The first movie rightly gets all the credit being it’s the original, but The New Batch is more in line for Halloween (the original is a CHRISTMAS flick, don’t let anyone tell ya different). First of all, the fact this movie exists is amazing. Going from part one to this is one of the biggest leaps a franchise could make. But how would anyone even begin to craft a sequel without rehashing the first one? The writers for Gremlins 2 answered that with making everything bigger and WAY insane. And it’s awesome.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Wes Craven had the idea for a movie within a movie long before his Scream partner in crime Kevin Williams with this not a sequel sequel to the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Craven’s involvement in the series was all but void since the third entry, and he came back with a vengeance to inject new life (or death, I suppose) into his own creation. New Nightmare takes place in our reality where the Nightmare movies are just that, and now that no more are being made Freddy Krueger has been unleashed. The only way to put him back is to produce a new movie with original star Heather Langenkamp.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t
This was one of those Disney aired television movies I relished so much. Credit goes to RiffTrax for reminding me of this movie (though, it’s called The Night Dracula Saved the World, now). All I remember is Judd Hirsch playing the titular role, a crazy mummy character who may or may not have danced, a fun monster chase, and a witch whose heart is softened by a little girl who idolizes her, thus convincing the witch to fly over the moon which results in Halloween continuing per usual and staying off the destruction of the planet. Good stuff.
Now for some honorable mention:
And the scariest movie of them all? Honey starring Jessica Alba. So bad it chills you to the bone. But not too bad if you’re drunk and watch it in French.