Top 5 Movies To Watch This Halloween
Aaahh… Halloween. No one knows for sure what we celebrate today, but it doesn’t matter, it’s our chance to officially revel in everything horror and engage in marathon movie viewings without the looks of accusation from our parents, lovers or boring friends. Today we’re entitled to do this. Many horror movies will do just fine for tonight but some are better suited because they fully embrace the spirit of Halloween, whatever that’s supposed to be. There is a long list of movies that have something to do with this day, but when you narrow it to movies where Halloween becomes a central theme, the list becomes surprisingly short. I was able to pick five for you today with this simple premise. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all great but I do believe these are the most perfectly suited movies for a fun and moody Halloween night. Without further ado…
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Halloween is, of course, a masterfully crafted horror movie and remains one of the topnotch references in the genre. While it wouldn’t be accurate to call it the first slasher flick (the roots can be traced back to several early 70’s offerings such as Italian giallos, and there’s also Black Christmas) but it’s safe to say that it’s the one which popularized it. It’s become a template for the slasher formula: the atmosphere, the pacing, the killer’s perspective, the final chase. In fact, it may very well have been the first horror movie that gave the killer such a well-defined personality, period. After all, who hasn’t rooted for Michael Myers? Halloween is also the movie that catapulted Jamie Lee Curtis and her assets to fame. And I mean her screams, duh, which have become THE standard to beat if you want to become a professional scream queen. Combined with the moody soundtrack (John Carpenter was just beginning with his most creative period) and original killings after many Halloween traditions, this is an all-time classic that deserves to be in your Bluray, DVD or (why not) VHS player tonight for the ultimate Halloween party.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
A somewhat lesser flick alright but it does take place in Halloween, which is a major plot device. Not to be confused with the “plain” Demons which came out a few years earlier and it’s definitely much better. In this one, kids go to an abandoned funeral parlor to have a Halloween party and things go awry when one of them is possessed by an ancient spirit (sounds familiar?). It’s a very entertaining film, you have plenty of “you can’t be THAT dumb” moments and the gore is pretty good. However, the single most redeeming value of Night Of The Demons is a jaw-dropping scene starring Linnea Quigley who was already famous for the naked dance in Return Of The Living Dead (admit you know that one by heart if you were a teenage boy during the 80’s). These could have been some of the most idiotic seconds ever filmed, but they are so damn well achieved that the movie deserved an Oscar nod for best makeup effects. Basically, the already possessed Linnea Quigley is half-naked in a bathroom (apparently she doesn’t like to wear clothes that much) as she slowly smears her breasts with a lipstick. When she gets to the center of a nipple, she INSERTS the lipstick completely inside, so deep that she has to introduce her fingers and all while the tit still looks perfectly normal. Then she removes the hand and the tit is back as it was, with no marks whatsoever to be seen. All done in one shot, no camera tricks, no CGI, just good ol’ makeup and an impressive technique. It’s one of the most random and astounding moments I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, so impressively well achieved that it always gets you every time you see it. All in all, Night Of The Demons was good enough to warrant two sequels and a recent remake, although the movie deserves its inclusion into the Horror Hall Of Fame for the bizarre nipple scene alone.
SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER
Here’s another lesser one, but very underrated and definitely deserves more recognition. It’s one hour and a half of pure mindless fun and some truly deranged scenes. This was the last work from Jeff Lieberman (at least until now since the guy is still alive) who has a short but strong number of movies under his belt. True, true, he did Squirm, which is a dumbfest from the mid-70’s, but then went to film Blue Sunshine, a fantastic thriller that was featured here in the blog, and the seminal Just Before Dawn, the absolute BEST backwoods slasher ever made. We’ve come a long way since then and Satan’s Little Helper is very low budget with lousy acting, but that was never a problem, right? Here you got the most awfully annoying kid since House By The Cemetery confusing a serial killer in a disguise that he meets around the neighborhood as someone who just wants to play fun games in Halloween. “Dougie”, as the stupid brat is called, is obsessed with becoming Satan’s Little Helper after a popular game he plays a lot. He doesn’t get along with her sister’s Jenna (Katheryn Winnick) new boyfriend, so he persuades “Satan” to get rid of the poor guy. Of course, then the kid’s family believes the serial killer is actually the boyfriend in disguise, even though he’s suddenly more aggressive and becomes fond of knives. You see, the mother (played by Amanda Plummer who once had a career) insists that he’s into “character”. The movie manages to get away with this formula for two thirds, and even after everybody has already realized about the killer, the kid is deceived TWICE again. It’s all very silly and you need to have your suspension of disbelief checked right before you hit the Play button, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a riot.
Is it worth it? Hell, yeah! Satan’s Little Helper is funny but it’s also very dark and twisted. The killer never talks (obviously) so he tends to nod maniacally, give a thumbs up or make very exaggerated gestures, always to great effect. You end up liking the guy, and his disguise is awesome too. In one truly demented scene, he grabs a black cat, smashes it on a wall and then paints “BOO” with its bloody head. That’s the Halloween spirit we all like. Another highlight is Katheryn Winnick, who has worked in a few B-movies, and here is by far the one who shines through and through. She’s gorgeous and the director wants to make you very aware of it, so I guess that must be the reason why we are exposed to long, lingering shots of her boobs every 5 minutes or so. In fact, Katheryn’s boobs should have gotten separate credits. No matter what your gender or sexual orientation is, you will come to appreciate them. As if the uncomfortable excess of skin wasn’t enough, we must also endure some disturbingly homoerotic moments between the mother and daughter. I don’t know what the heck is up with that – I don’t think anyone does except Jeff Lieberman – but you can swear that they’re on the verge of making out in one or two moments in the movie.
As if I didn’t make myself clear already, Satan’s Little Helper is a really entertaining and deranged flick, and the perfect companion for a Halloween night. I consider it one of the better horror movies released in the new millennium.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
What? Another movie from the Halloween series? Well, yeah, the list would have been a copout if I included the entire series, but this one is sufficiently different and, dare I say it, unique enough to warrant its inclusion. It’s quite possibly the most misunderstood horror movie right up there with Friday The 13th. Part V. Yes, it’s a fairly average movie, quite tame when compared to the rest of this list, but in no way the travesty that audiences claimed it to be. You see, folks were expecting more Michael Myers and they may have a point, after all this is supposed to be another chapter in the franchise, but in truth John Carpenter wanted to do an experiment with the third part – I don’t believe he wanted to turn Halloween into another eternal slasher saga. It did become one in the end, but hey, at least he tried and for that you have to cut him some slack. Halloween III was meant to be the beginning of Halloween-related movies that had nothing to do with the original Michael Myers storyline. Had it succeeded, we would have seen several more movies like this, but the reaction was so negative with enraged fans and all, that those plans were abandoned. The movie was never judged in its own terms. Rather, the reasoning was “no Myers, then crap!”, but Season Of The Witch is actually a very apt movie with an incredible mood and enough chilling scenes. The plot of an evil modern Irish warlock (yeah) who wants to wreak havoc on children was a bit over-the-top, and Tom Atkins maybe wasn’t the best choice for the main role, but still, it should have fared better. It has attained cult status for the quirky and whimsical Silver Shamrock commercials, which appear, oh I dunno, a billion times through the movie. It doesn’t matter because you already want to punch the TV the second time you see them. Also, one particularly nasty scene where a kid’s head is turned into a nest of snakes, roaches, and other ungodly insects is enough to give Season Of The Witch the seal of approval, if only by a tiny margin.
TRICK ‘R TREAT
I was already excited the very first time I heard about this movie. I can’t put my finger why, maybe it was the style, that strange little character, the promise of back-to-the-roots Creepshow-style of horror, but for whatever reason I was seriously anticipating Trick ‘r Treat. It had been shelved for a few years, which didn’t bode well, but the hype was still strong. When was the last time that you can honestly say a movie blew your expectations? It’s a tough one, I know. For me it’s definitely Trick ‘r Treat. Excellent production, pace, acting, stories, gore and just an overall damn good movie. It’s relentless too, with some genuinely cringe-inducing scenes. These are four short stories which are intertwined a la Pulp Fiction and it’s honestly the last horror offering that managed to surprise me at every turn. Just when you think “right, I know what happens next”, Trick ‘r Treat dumbfounds you and shoves its cleverness in your face. There is simply no way you can anticipate all the surprises this movie has in store. The script is fantastic and many scenes are revisited from the perspective of different characters providing many of those “aha, so that’s why…” moments. The story comes full circle in the end with a revelatory insight on the first killing, and one final lasting message: the spirit of Halloween is to be taken very, very seriously. Easily one of the top horror movies released in the past decade, if you somehow missed Trick ‘r Treat then stop whatever you’re doing and get a hold of it, even if that means killing someone, because this is THE movie to watch tonight.