So you want to get into the Halloween spirit? Then step right here as Zechs shows you his top fifteen favorite movies to watch during Halloween.
*For Genetic Freak.
Everybody loves a scary movie. Even more so during this time of the year. Given that the whole 13 Weeks of Friday the 13th reviewing of all the movies are on hold (until Greg gets some free time) I gotta a ton of free time. Given I get bored so easily, and the hunger to write and gab so very much. I decided to do this top 15 look for a great person who's not with us anymore. So this is for you GF, since we where both children of the night. So here's what I just enjoy to death in watching during this ghoulish season.
Though a warning this isn't the greatest horror movies ever made, though there are some great ones in here. So those wondering why I didn't list Phantom of the Opera (1925) or the Evil Dead Trilogy, well it's just they're so damn awesome, I watch them so much it be unfair to the rest. As for where's Freddy or Hellraiser? They're not bad, but not my cup of tea to get me into the Halloween spirit. As for SAW franchise. Um no, that series isn't for me. I was born and bread in the slasher era with my dad showing me the glory of old Universal Horror when I was a child. Yet, recently (last year) I finally got into Hammer Horror, which was amazing to watch and I'm so glad I finally watched a ton of it.
#1 - Blade 2 (2002)
Before vampires went all sparkly in Hollywood and forever detoothfied there was this film which totally smashes vampire rule book with the introduction of a new type of vampire that fed off the blood of anything that moved.
Add the bad assery of Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristophersen, Ron Perlman, Donnie Yen, and you get the makings of a great film sequel which knocks the original out of the park. About the only problems I have are the fakey fight Blade has with two ninja vampires and really the bad guys at the end just utterly fall apart under the might of Nomak and Blade wailing on them. Still, this is a very fun movie and I just truly enjoy Wesley Snipes as Blade and just opening a can of whoop ass on vampires. I mean how can you not go wrong with this:
#2 - The Wolfman (1941)
Probably for me the last great Universal Horror film before it got really out of control and just lost that spark that all others previously had. Lon Chaney Jr. as Laurence Talbot is a great protagonist for this tragic story of him being bitten by a werewolf and forced into this transformation. Likely good in supporting roles are Claude Rains as his father, Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva, and the iconic Béla Lugosi as Bela the cursed gypsy who likewise dooms Laurence to the same fate. The direction is top notch as well done by George Waggner. There's just an iconic look that fits all Universal Horror in this film classically and it is a worthy end.
The Top 15 (why 15? CAUSE IT MAKES THINGS EASIER TO LIST!)
15.) Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust -
The only anime found on my list, but it's a damn good one. Yeah the original D is a classic tale, but the art alas is somewhat dated. This however is not. The art in this just rules with the characters and the world around them just rules.
About the only negative for me is D is but one dimensional in this and really he's but a background character compared to the Marcus sister and the two lovers who're trying to escape both sides.
Still, the film is just so damn satisfying to me, plus Dwight Schultz (aka Murdoch from the A-Team) is a hoot as Benge and the old man of Barbarois. Also the opening is just so damned great with the atmospheric it creates and the utter awesome entrance, you could tell the people behind this had a love for the past horror films.
14.) Phantom of the Opera (1989) -
The immortal Lon Chaney version is the best, yet I have a heart for this version. Surprisingly, this adaptation though it doesn't look it at first is probably one of the most loyal to the actual book. Well save for the skin carving, two deaths, and a modern New York setting. Still, it's superior than a lot of the other versions of Phantom (the Hammer one is also good but it just falls flat at the end with no true climax, Claude Rains' version is alright, but forgettable, Charles Dance's take on the Phantom was just too damn nice, and let's just stop there not comparing it to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical versions (movie and play) or the lesser versions *cough* Argento, the other slasher phantom who habited the mall, and the 80s mini with the Bond Villain from Moonraker as the Phantom. And really nothing beats Phantom of the Paradise.
What I love about this one is pretty much the same reason I love another entry above, the direction by Dwight H. Little just rules. I love the camera angles and atmosphere he creates in his horror films. It's truly a pity this and another film of his are about the only horror entries he's ever done. The man truly captures moody settings and tension quite well. Also while Robert England is an iconic figure as Freddy, I honestly prefer him in this film more. He's just so awesome in this film. The lines he has are damn good and you could tell he was having a kick with this film since it's so different than the usual horror fare he's given.
Also what good is a Phantom film without the music being memorable? Seriously, the music by Misha Segal is quite exquisite. The violin and organ scene (which no Phantom film can be without) are all done quite well. I mean just take a gander at the graveyard scene which is only featured here, the all time greatest adaptation with Lon Chaney, and of course the musical (and even then this is just far superior to that):
Seriously this is a very under-rated film that came out at the wrong time (at the height of the musical and the year when just about every frigging horror film was released ie. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween sequels all came out during 1989). Yes, there are flaws and plot holes. But damn is the ride this film gives still fun as hell. Plus even with the gore and modern setting during the beginning and end, this film is actually quite loyal to the book. Other than the silent film version, this is probably the best version in almost the eighty years this work having been adapted to film and television.
13.) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) -
Some fans say that Halloween: H20 (1998) was the best sequel of the series (not a real hard task really), though I disagree. Director Dwight H. Little strikes again with the Shape returning to the franchise after being absent in the third film (which had a nice catchy toon plus the CEO of Robocop hamming it up was somewhat amusing). Anyway, Mikey is back and this time stalking his niece played by Danielle Harris. Of course with all these hijinks that means Donald Pleasense as Dr. Loomis is right behind as well.
Yes, I can see why this film gets a bad rap ( a lot of errors and acting is all over the place), but of all the Halloween sequels this was the best one. It just has all the elements the original had and carries with it. What am I saying?
Well, Michael Myers isn't just a being in this, much like the original he's just a shape, a presence. He's everywhere and you cannot escape him. The addition to this one is, he's utterly evil and even if you survive an encounter with him, you'll be forever touched by his evil.
Again, like Phantom before it the music and direction of this sequel are again top notch. The opening is just kick ass showing all the stuff related to Halloween related, before getting to where Michael is currently up too and we get that classic John Carpenter theme. The creepy factor is just so damn good. Here's a gander at it:
Also the pieces in this throughout are just so thrillingly directed by Little. My personal favorite moments is when Loomis confronts Michael in the diner, our heroes surrounded by numerous people dressed as Michael, and the siege at the Sheriff's house. All and all for me this was the best of the sequels to Halloween. It's a damn shame that the franchise is all but a joke to me now. Still, this film brings back some of the magic the original had.
12.) Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives! (1986) -
Oh I want to review this film, DAMNIT GREG! *cracks whip* Get on the boat and review this with me! Of all the Friday the 13th films this is my all time favorite one of the lot. It's the film that all the haters of the Friday film love and it's probably the last shot one that feels like a Friday film as well. It just gets everything right about a horror franchise and expands on it amping everything up.
The film's beginning beats every opening in the series ever. It just continues to build and build starting with an almost Universal horror-like tone. Then just climaxing perfectly with Jason putting on his hockey mask ready to unleash hell on hormonal teens then switching to an iconic James Bond-esque shot. God this was epic introduction.
About the only negatives this film has against it is that there are no boobs bouncing around in this (I guess the previous film's glorious ones marked the quota for this one) and the kills are held back (thank you MPAA stupid bastards!). Still, the kills that are implied are brutal and befitting of the series. The other problem is Thom Matthews is alright as Tommy Jarvis. It's just he's nothing compared to the previous actors who played the character (Shepard and the Feldman).
We also get one of the best Jason's of the series, C.J. Graham terrorizing anything to cross his path. My favorite part with him is the uberly creepy scene of Jason coming upon awake child and leaning forward. Plus there's just a brutality that was to Graham's Jason when he dispatches one teen then dragging her back in for more. All and all, I really think this was the best of the all Friday/Jason films. Not to mention the trailer to this film was just kick ass:
11.) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) -
Not real Universal Horror classic in that it's spooky, but it does have enough yucks and some callbacks that are good. Still, it has Béla reprising his role as Dracula for the second time, Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolfman, and a special surprise cameo at the end with another A List Horror Icon. So you got the best of the best save for Boris Karloff himself (who said no, but then went on to do two Abbott and Costello movies with the duo).
Again, there are some great callbacks here to the greater days of Universal Horror. But really the best thing about this is the jokes. The best one would be the moving candle gag when the poor Lou Costello is near Dracula's coffin. But there's another good jokes all around.
Really the only bad about this film is we don't get all the horror icons in one scene together (just them in pairs). Also the secondary characters namely the Doctor and the female cop are kinda stale. Plus Frankenstein's Monster is a wuss in this. But I do love Glenn Strange's snarl right before the flames get him. Still, Lugosi, Chaney, and the comedic duo are damn good here in carrying the film. And that's the reason to see this.
10.) Night of the Creeps (1986) -
This film has everything. Sci-Fi action, a B Movie Alien Invasion, a slasher, teen romance, comedy, tits, and oh yeah the best zombies ever! The pacing is just insane yet it totally works. Everything about this film just rules from beginning to end. It's just such a fun little treat with everything else enhancing it. Though above all else this film has two things going for it.
One the performance of Tom Atkins as Ray Cameron, a cop caught up in the alien slug zombies who's just utterly bad ass yet horribly flawed. My favorite scene with him is when he confesses to Chris, aka "spanky" what of his tragic past and what happened to his high school sweet heart. The way Atkins delivers it is utterly chilling and crazy as hell.
Then there's the ax wielding zombie. His entrance into the movie when he's a human is awesome, but whens he's a zombie? Goddamn is it utterly creepy. It's only doubled when we see what the ax wielding zombie looks like. When he snarls at Cameron you literally have to say to yourself, "Aw fuck. KEEP SHOOTING HIM! DON'T STOP!" before he starts swinging that ax cause you know he will. Seriously this is one of the best looking zombies ever. I think the only zombie looking better would be the cake-fetish one in Creep Show (1982).
Also the gags in this are also great. From the way a poor character deals with the recent zombiefication of someone. To the chilling way one of our protagonists had to deal with being effected by the slugs. This film is just utterly awesome and at times gripping. It really is starting to become one of my favorite films.
9.) Frankenstein (1931) -
Ah, the iconic classic. Some say it's sequel is the best. But really I think of it lesser than this and the third entry. The opening with Edward Van Sloan is probably one of the best introductions to a horror film ever. It's so out of place and yet given the time period I can totally buy why it was put there. Also the atmosphere is just awing here. Watching Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his lackey (Dwight Frye) dig up corpses is just a joy to watch. As is the iconic scene with the birth of the Monster.
Honestly, the only parts that bore me is the middle of the film with the Monster under Frankenstein's care. There's more an anticipation for me just waiting for this to explode in Henry's face. When it happens the film goes back to the mood previously started and doesn't let up. Again, the only downside is the ending as well with it being just too damn Hollywood. But still, it's a damn good climax and what the hell it does provide a damn good laugh out of me too.
Karloff as the monster is quite good. But what more can I say that hasn't been already said about him via other people. For me what I enjoy most about this film is Clive's Frankenstein. For it was his portrayal is the main reason I love this movie and the only reason I can stomach watching Bride (I um... think it's alright. It's way too campy than actual horror save for some moments with Karloff). Afterall, as Karloff was the inspiration for the monster, Clive was for Frankenstein and the mad scientist.
8.) Dracula (1931) -
Yeah this film hasn't aged well when comparing to other adaptations. It feels restricted near the climax after we get so much from the beginning and middle. Still, there's a reason why this film is so damn high and that's by the performance of Béla Lugosi alone. I do have a fondness for Dwight Frye being Renfield as well. He totally captures the character's madness during the later half, and yet you totally feel sorry for the dude for the hand he was dealt. He never really had any choice at all but to be Dracula's unwilling slave. Still the raving lunatic has about one of the creepiest (or hilarious? You decide) scenes when people discover him in the cargo hold of a ship that's crew has been utterly slaughtered.
But back to Lugosi. The dude just nails the character fully. From the looks, gestures, and tone you can fully buy this dude is just not from this world but another darker one. My favorite Lugosi moments in this are of course the opening when he exits from the coffin with his hand opening it. Then the shot of him just staring is awesome. The other shouldn't come as any surprise as not soon after he gives this iconic line:
Okay maybe somethings still have aged well and are still good then as they are now.
The other people in the cast are alright, but they just play their roles well, just nothing more. Other than Lugosi and Frye, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing is about the only other good performance. But still Sloan's Van Helsing you feel just gets lucky due to Renfield's stupidity, not Dracula's. You never buy he's a true match for the count here. That's where one other actor in another Dracula series corrects this and takes the character to a whole new level. But more on that later.
7.) The Black Cat (1934) -
Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff at their spookiest best or is that worst? Though really in this particular film, Lugosi gets the better performance here. Even more he has the rare turn of good guy here. Though I can't help but at times get utterly terrified at the man cause he is after all Béla Lugosi. There's a lot of good stuff Lugosi gets to play here, tut that's not to say Karloff gets to flaunt his horror muscles here. My favorite part of the movie is watching Karloff's character walk past the various "chambers" where his wives are housed.
About the only negative I can say about the film is that it has nothing to do with the Edgar Allan Poe story. All it has to go with it would be Karloff's pet black cat that scares the living hell out of Lugosi's character. That's about all the association it has with it.
Both actors are at the top of their form here. The scene where Karloff takes Lugosi to where his wife is at is just a great scene showcasing both actors at their best. Particularlly I don't think I've ever seen Lugosi so fragile and actual somber ever than he was in that scene. Even more so I even forgot this was Dracula and more the character he was playing, a good guy.
Still this film is seriously a very under-rated and probably off the radar horror film nowadays for some folk. Seriously if you're ever a fan of Universal horror you need to check this film out. It's kinda the reason why Universal got all tame for awhile before striking out two more hits before camping it up forever.
6.) Halloween (1978) -
The one that started off the slasher craze in the 80s. And no matter how many came after it, or even it's remake this movie still is the best of them all. This is the perfect slasher film from it's victims, to it's sole survivor girl (well save for idiocy in dropping the damn knife twice), and it's unending menace.
I just love the simplicity of it. Taking all the elements that one finds comfort in. Namely the fun of the holiday and the safeness of being at home. Then totally shakes it the hell up by unleashing a highly disturbed mental patient. There's partly a realness to it, yet you have to even question just how inhuman this man Michael Myers could be?
Sure it made Jaime Lee Curtis, but for me the reason I watch this film over and over again is Donald Pleasence as Doctor Loomis. Every scene he's in is utter gold. He sets up the whole supernatural angle that makes you question just what the hell Michael truly is. When he talks to Sheriff Brackett and delivering his "Blackest Eyes" dialog it gives me chills everytime I watch it:
Add to the soundtrack which just completes the film with the iconic score. It does the same with Jaws just amping the suspense making you want to scream at the screen. The only Carpenter film that only eclipses the ride I get out of this would be Big Trouble In Little China (1986). But alas that's not a Halloween movie, that's a movie to be watched every month or two to cheer you the hell up.
5.) The Horror of Dracula (1958) -
Remember when I said another Dracula taking everything that was blah and amping everything up to the tenth degree? That's this film. Everyone is PERFECT in this film. You get the iconic duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing. You get a plot reminiscent of previous and future Dracula stories, yet this one is it's own beast by itself.
Though Lee doesn't get to much in the role (he only gets two scenes where he has lines) the presence he just breaths is astonishing. The scene where he stands fully revealed as a vampire is still quite scary even to today's standards. About the only negative is that he just isn't given much to sink his teeth into the role (until the fifth time he played the role did he get a ton of lines). Still, even the way he gestures and glares is enough to create quite a character.
Likewise, Cushing delivers as definitive Van Helsing. Unlike Van Sloan's version, Cushing's you can totally buy as someone who's studies the darker arts to understand and beat them. Even more, when he and Dracula go toe to toe you get a clearer and much more satisfied victory here than the 1931 version. It's Van Helsing vs. Dracula with only one of them coming out of this movie.
The cast around them is also quite very good with Michael Gough playing the non-believer before forced into side-kicking with Van Helsing to stop Dracula and his vendetta against his family. Same goes for the direction via Terence Fisher and the iconic music.
4.) The Brides of Dracula (1960) -
Hammer Horror strikes again! Even though the lead vampire, Baron Mienster has a heck of a lot to work with (more than Lee did in the original). I honestly, didn't care for the villain in this. He's no Christopher Lee, but he does I'll admit give off an angelic charm you can almost buy before the twist in that he's a vampire. So why do I love this film more than the original? Because this film is all about the awesomeness of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Of all horrordom's best protagonists, Cushing's Van Helsing just delivers the epic bad assery that still hasn't been matched by anyone who's played the role. You can always see the gears turning in his mind when he knows something that's going bump in the night is a foot and he's always game to quell them.
The scenery and atmosphere in the film are great to boot. From the Baron's two faced looking castle that dominates the film (seriously it looks all nice in the beginning but once the cat is out of the bag notice how dreary the place becomes after it), to the climax's windmill. The set pieces here are just awesome and so damn beautiful to look at.
Though the reason this film stakes it claim to this spot would be the truly creepy un-earthing scene when the crazy old hag talks a newly turned vampire into coming out of the grave. Seriously, after all this time the scene still retains it's nasty factor with the actor who plays the old hag just nailing the insanity perfectly.
Still, the best reason to see this is Cushing as Van Helsing. Just watching him utterly smash the vampires' fun is just pleasure of film to watch. Even more so when he does an act to wipe out the approaching vamprism that's effecting him. Again, Cushing as Van Helsing still is the definition of a pure hero against the utter darkness that is vampire in these Hammer Horror films or any horror series in general. I mean come on, can any hero of horror top this?
3.) Son of Frankenstein (1939) -
More Karloff and Lugosi antics though this time with the former's last appearance as the Monster and the later making his first appearance as Ygor (he reprised the role for the lesser Ghost of Frankenstein movie). Adding to the fun is Sherlock Holmes himself, Basil Rathbone, as Wolf Von Frankenstein and as Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh.
To me this is the best out of all Universal Horror. Why is this film more superior than the previous two Frankenstein films and other films of Universal? Well, for one I think the atmosphere is upped to the tenth power here. From the house of Frankenstein to the ruins of the laboratory it's all here and it's all damn fun to take in. Also I just love the performances here from the vocal cast. Karloff kinda doesn't do much here but just give the same performance he did in the original. Yeah, it isn't superior compared to what he did in Bride, but he's still fun to watch one more time just strike fear into everyone in the movie. Plus the way he reacts to the death of a main character is quite good. Also the more unique look to the character in this (a fur coat draped over the classic black suit) is quite a good look for the creature.
The trio of Rathbone, Lugosi, and Atwill carry this film above the other Frankenstein films. Each has a scene in this movie that are burned into my mind. For Rathbone it's watching this man who totally hates his family name and yet slowly succumbs to the urge of attempting what his past kin have tried. Then there's Lugosi as Ygor in my favorite Lugosi role. There's a scene with him where how the people explains how he got his broken neck and how he can't be hanged ever again. That just sends me chills.
Then there's Atwill's spotlight where his character confesses to Rathbone's Frankenstein how he met the Monster and what the creature did to him. Everytime Atwill tells the story, there's just a chill that goes down my spine when he slams his prosthetic hand down hard. It's just the imagery he builds making your mind wander and picture the story in all it's horrific glory.
2.) Monster Squad (1987) -
A film that teaches many horror fans numerous facts. Also I was on this bandwagon LONG before it finally got it's due a few years ago. I remember watching this film for the first time at my aunt's house in Texas when I was eight and my eyes turned wide in utter fascination at what I was watching. One moment I was laughing my ass off, the next I was quivering with fear, and then jumping out saying hell yeah at "My name.. IS HORACE!". After seeing it the first chance I had I recorded it to VHS and kept watching it until I broke the darn tape every Halloween.
Why is this film so enjoyable? It's because the film truly gives us what any kid who's saw Universal Horror always wanted but never got. All the classic monsters together ready to unleash all sorts of hell. Well this film delivers it and more so combining another thing I loved when I was a kid. Watching the hell out of Little Rascals.
It also helps this movie was done by the imaginative minds that gave us Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker), and two people from Predator (Shane Black aka the nerdy soldier and Stan Winston the dude that made the Predator suit). They delivered just everything you want in this film to hit. From the thrills, to the sights, and the chucks. Everything about this film just utterly rules.
The performances also just make the films. Duncan Regher as Dracula just leaves a huge impression with you. Every scene he's in you can't just help but be glued to the screen at the man's presence. He's a worthy Dracula and I have to confess he's probably my favorite version. Though he has a human appearance, of all the monsters he's the scariest. I have a ton of my favorite scenes of the dude but my all time favorite moment is when he appears out of nowhere and even though electricity is just pulsating from his form. You just know by the look Regher gives off to STAY THE HELL AWAY and GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. That's all capped off with one of the best out of nowhere Vampire moments and best set-ups of all time that'll get anyone cheering. Again Regher is a ball here.
Same goes for Tom Noonan as Frankenstein's Monster. Unlike Regher, Noonan been all over the place in films and yet everytime he's in a role you just never see him as the actor but the character (him as the Ripper in Last Action Hero for example). I admit that his take on the monster is the most likable of all film versions, but I still would loved to see the other aspect of him of him doing some damage. More the gray area.
Also minor note but Jon Gries is brilliant as well playing the tortured human half of the Wolfman. I just wish at times we could seen more of him. He's so awesome in this. The way he delivers his plea to the cop about what Dracula is up too is chilling. Even more so when he transforms and it looks painful as hell. When I heard the remake I kinda hope he reprises the role or has a part in it (same with Regher and Noonan).
1.) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) -
Okay while the first part of this double feature really has nothing Halloween related at all (well other than it's narrated by Wolf Von Frankenstein). It's the second part of this movie that truly is worth the price of admission alone all narrated and voiced mostly by Bing Crosby, a VERY loyal adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
How can you not get in the mood after that? Then the story just keeps getting darker and darker before hitting it's opus with the chilling debut of the Headless Horseman. I mean seriously, the character just embodies the holiday with appearance and presence. Some might say the Devil in Fantasia or even the Horn King are the scariest Disney villains. Well, they got NOTHING on the Headless Horseman. All the dude does is laugh in this demonic tone and just try to remove Ichabod's head from his body.
This half of the movie just covers everything Halloween related. From the fun of it to the sickening chills once Ichabod makes that march home trying to avoid the Horseman. Everytime I watch it, the movie totally puts me in a Halloween spirit. Even more it's so damn un-Disney at the end too. I mean how many Disney films end on a downer? I mean seriously? Can you name any? That's another reason to love the film.
Every Halloween this is the must watch for me EVERY Halloween. Why you ask? Well, at first the movie looks totally non Halloweenish, yet the moment we get to Katrina's Halloween ball the animated tale begins to go into it's holiday theme. Though it takes a more twisted side when Brom Bones tells the ghost story of ghost stories. Seriously, just look at the way Bing Crosby as Brom tells it:
I just find it humorous that a movie entirely narrated and mostly voiced by Bing Crosby is my favorite Halloween treat of all. When you think of his name, about 99% of the time people will relate him to Christmas. For me it's this film and he has much to do with Halloween besides the other holiday approuching. Again, as above he just delivers the singing chops with a song that'll leave anyone looking over their shoulder if they're alone on Halloween night.
Everything about this movie I love and I could watch it marathon style every week or day and never get old from watching it. There's just something always lush in the animated details of this film that's awesome. It's still my all time Disney favorite movie even if the first part I barely even watch. Once that film goes to the Sleepy Hollow adaptation it grabs a hold of you and never ever lets go until you hear Bing get the hell out of dodge too.
So there you have it. My favorite top fifteen Halloween movies that I adore to no end. Let the bitching and moaning plus nit-picking BEGIN!
Written or Contributed by: Zechs