Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lavender's Top Ten Halloween Movies

Writer's Note: This was initially the script to an elaborate video I wanted to put together, but recently, the editing program I have just kept corrupting files and just refused to work properly. After three solid attempts, I just gave up on it for now, until I find a better program. So here's the script I wrote out for the segment -- enjoy!

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Mwahahaha! It’s that time of year again! Halloween, or as I like to call it, Goth Christmas, is just around the corner: the one holiday out of the year devoted to embracing and embellishing the very things we otherwise would gladly banish from our minds.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s were the prime of the horror genre, bringing us classics such as Dawn of the Dead, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Evil Dead – and of course the king pins: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm St. Unfortunately, since the mid ‘90s, and especially, I find, into this past decade, the horror genre hasn’t been the same: littered with un-needed remakes, pathetic jump scares, and the PG-13 rating. Though don’t get me wrong, there have been diamonds in the rough.

"Smile for the camera, Hexen Dethshadow!"

Anyway, I thought it would be a great and appropriate opportunity to peg off some of my favourite horror movies, in no particular order. Naturally, there are more than a fistful of fright-filled films out there, and admittedly, I’m not as well versed as other horror movie buffs, so don’t get all nasty on me when movies you hate or like do or don’t appear on this list – that’s the beauty of the internet – if you don’t agree with me, you can make a list of your own.

Well, without further ado, this is my personal top 10 halloween movies.


#10


This one’s for the kiddies. While the title is actually pretty misleading, it’s still one of my favourite Halloween-orientated movies. The movie is based off a novel written by RL Stine, the king of children’s horror literature back in the ‘90s, with book series like Goosebumps and Fear Street.
When Good Ghouls Go Bad is about this kid named Danny, who moves to the sleepy town of Walker Falls, a municipality named after Danny’s namesake lineage. The town hasn’t celebrated Halloween in over twenty years, due to the Curse of Curtis Danko, a kid who was burned alive in the school’s kiln and swore revenge over the town if the holiday was ever celebrated again.

But Danny’s negligent father is obsessed with reopening the family Chocolate factory and using Halloween as a means to do so. Unfortunately, Danny’s grandfather, simply known as “Uncle Fred” and played by Christopher Lloyd, is killed after he is crushed by a mountain of pumpkins.

But Uncle Fred's love for Halloween unleashes a magic that brings him back as a zombie, as well as giving unlife to the entire deceased population of Walker Falls – including the cursed Curtis Danko. Awesome.

While it’s really not scary by any means, it’s a great movie about the importance of family and being true to yourself, all wrapped up in the spirit of Halloween. It’s cheesy and funny, and just a blast to watch. Christopher Lloyd easily steals the show as undead Uncle Fred. Check it out.


#9


All right, so I realize the Grudge movies aren’t really all that great. They jump from story to story too much, they’re incoherent, and overall just confusing – and that partly has to do with the crossing of a Japanese story and film crew working with an American film company and business men who really don’t “get it”. Let me just say that while yes, the theatrical version of The Grudge was total garbage, the extended director’s cut is worth every penny. It’s chilling, it’s well done, and most important, the story makes sense.

But why bother talking about the watered down remake when you can talk about the far superior original? If you’ve seen the original, you’re basically in for the same plot – but conveyed a whole lot better: A mother and her son are brutally murdered by a jealous husband when he discovers his wife may be cheating on him – raising the question if their son is actually his.

In Japan, there’s a legend that states if you are murdered by someone consumed by a blinding rage, you are doomed in the spiritual world to relive the horrific events over and over – affecting those who come into contact in the physical world. So basically – this house where the family died is a death trap for unwitting visitors.

It’s a very suspenseful and effective story-within-a-story, and what makes Ju-On so frightening are the special effects. Most modern J-Horror still relies on organic effects, stuff we used to use prevalently in the ‘80s and ‘90s by such Masters of the Craft as Tom Savini, before the advent of CGI. And what can I say? Ghosts scare the crap out of me -- especially wide-eyed Asian ghosts.

;_;

#8


This is easily the best entry in the Friday series next to the original, but unfortunately gets so overlooked, mashed in between the clashing horns of the abrasive hatred raged into A New Beginning, and the absolute adoration showered upon The New Blood.

Jason Lives is the third in what many fans refer to as “The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy”, offering a fresh look into the Camp Blood experience, providing a dark sense of humour, an awesome ‘80s hair-metal soundtrack -- primarily provided by the man himself, Alice Cooper -- and even changing Camp Crystal Lake’s name to Camp Forest Green for a breath of fresh air.

Tommy Jarvis, the protagonist from The Final Chapter and A New Beginning, digs up Jason’s long-since rotting corpse, and inadvertently brings him back to life when a bolt of lightning strikes in the middle of a rage-ensued beatdown. Now awake as a soldier of the undead, Jason lays waste to anyone in his way back to Camp Blood, now reopened and active for the first time in years.

This movie is balls-to-the-wall. It goes so far and beyond, it even throws out the rules of surviving a horror movie. Even the squeaky-clean virgin who you'd expect to be the Final Girl ends up getting completely massacred!

Jason Lives is fantastic; The characters are great, the twisted one-liners are perfectly timed, the deaths are just complete eye-candy, and seeing Tommy Jarvis make a return as a bit of a bad-ass, instead of a whiny introvert like in A New Beginning, really makes this movie worth while.

Man, It’s totally great to see Jason have an ongoing rivalry with Tommy, much like Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis. It’s a shame they didn’t go any farther with it outside of the sixth installment. Hey, Corey Feldman! If you could do it with Edgar Frog, you can do it with Tommy Jarvis!

#7


Ahh, childhood: Is there any better outlet for nostalgic memories? Awesome cartoons, classic cereal mascots … AND POSSESSED DOLLS THAT FRIGGIN' TRY TO MURDER YOUR ASS! Child’s Play tells the timeless tale of that one creepy-looking stuffed toy or doll you owned as a kid that you were pretty sure was watching you sleep.

It tells the tale of Charles Lee Ray, or Chucky, the notorious “Lakeshore Strangler”. When Chucky is shot during a getaway heist, he uses voodoo magic to transfer his soul into a popular kids toy, a Good Guys doll. He comes to the realization that if his soul remains in the doll for a certain amount of time, the transfer will become permanent, unless he uses a child as a host sacrifice.

Child’s Play is an interesting story of revenge from the Charles Lee Ray character, and the whole “wild imagination” aspect a lot of adults see in kids, which occurs between the various grown-ups in the film, and the child character of Andy Barclay, played by Alex Vincent.

Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the sequels, and I’ve heard mixed things, but as the story goes, the original has always been said to be the best – and to be honest, with the ending of Child’s Play, the topic of a sequel shouldn’t have even been brought up. You just know that the studios were simply pining for more money, as with what happens with most horror movie franchises. I dunno, that's just my opinion.

Interestingly enough, Catherine Hicks, who plays Andy’s mom, appeared in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – as did Stephen Collins in the original Star Trek movie. Then the both of them wound up in the lead parental roles in the long-running family show, 7th Heaven. I dunno, I just that that was pretty interesting. Anyway, moving on.

#6


What makes a mad man tick? Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, to me, as well as the more recent Mr. Brooks, is the perfect window. The movie is based off of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas – whoa – Charles Lee Ray? Henry Lee Lucas? Coincidence? Maybe. Anyway -- the movie is based around real-life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, who made claim to murdering over six hundred people, declaring to have done so roughly once a week, between the years of 1975 and 1983. Truthfully he was only guilty of eleven murders, including twelve-year-old Frieda Powell: Lucas’s lover and niece to crime-partner Ottis Toole.

As with most film biographies, the plot is exaggerated and embellished, but Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer makes interesting use of this by focusing on Lucas’s reported violent fantasies as opposed to the actual crimes he was found guilty of.

An effective, gripping, and most of all, disturbing movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is definitely one to check out. If you’re into the Horror genre, especially biographies of serial killers, and you haven’t seen Henry, you definitely owe it to yourself.


#5


Next up is The Changeling. No, not that other movie starring Angelina Jolie. I mean the unsung Genie Award-winning Canadian horror classic, starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere, his real-life spouse.

The movie is based around events experienced by screenwriter, Russell Hunter, while living at the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion in Denver, Colorado. Simply put, The Changeling is about a university music professor and composer, named Dr. John Russel, who loses his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident. To get away from the probing demons of the past, he moves into this abandoned mansion, which ends up being haunted by the ghost of an invalid boy named Joseph, who just wants the truth of how and why he died to be known.

While the average horror buff may think the movie suffers from taking too long to establish the characters and relying too much on jump scares, I can’t help but think that this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The relationship between John and the ghost character are a great contrast, as John wants to help the ghost, so he can finally have closure for the deaths of his wife and daughter, and the ghost simply wants to use John as a means of revenge.

The twist in the plot near the end is just so diabolical and priceless; you seriously want to see the ghost of Joseph get his just deserts. And if you thought kids threw nasty temper tantrums when they were alive, you ain’t seen nothing from the wrath of the afterlife.

#4


-Say what you will about the absolute tripe that the Final Destination franchise has turned out to be, but you can’t argue that most people are afraid of dying – to the point that there are a lot of folks who literally live day-to-day, not thinking about what the future brings, because it scares them so much. What can I say? Death is a scary topic, especially when we don’t know what’s waiting for us in the afterlife. And I think the first Final Destination exploits the fear the best.

There’s no point in summarizing the film outside of what it is, because if you’ve seen 2, 3, and the trailer for 4, you already know what you’re in for -- it’s literally the same basic plot over, and over again but with different characters and more graphic deaths. But if you’ve lived under a rock these past ten years well … a kid dreams people are going to die in some huge accident, warns everyone around him, his dream comes true, and all the survivors are picked off one-by-one by a fate worse than what they would have initially experienced. That's all four movies in a nutshell.

The first movie was interesting, because it delved into a theory no one had ever considered before: Death having a kill pattern. But if the survivors somehow skipped their time to die, they could figure out the loop and keep on living.

Though let’s be honest, how long did the screenwriters think the characters could pull this off for? I mean, who thinks of that idea, anyway? Death having an all-encompassing pattern that just looped until everyone was dead? As a kid, I always thought Death was just this guy with a clock, and when your time was up, that was it, no ifs, ands, or buts – you’re gonna die. Oh well.

#3


Of course. How can you have a Top Ten Halloween Movies without Halloween slated somewhere? But why just pay tribute to the first one, when you can pay tribute to part 2, as well? The first Halloween is absolutely classic, and I go out of my way to watch it every October thirty-first. Seriously, what more can you say about John Carpenter’s Halloween that already hasn’t been said? It’s a complex story of family ties, Satanic power, and best of all, babysitter murders.

While most horror movies now rely on excessive profanity and gore, Halloween is a fine testament that less is more. Seriously, despite all the death and chaos, I can’t recall a single drop of blood ever being spilt. John Carpenter truly made a statement by doing that: You don’t need to be over the top to make an effective cinematic experience.

Halloween II picks up literally just as Halloween ends providing a bit of a recap -- which to me, kind of makes it an obligation to watch both movies in a single sitting – much like Kill Bill. Micheal Myers is back with a vengeance, slaughtering anyone while on the search for Laurie Strode.

The most notable parts of this movie belong to Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis, and Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Bracket during their chaotic search for Myers, and uncovering what kind of evil he truly is. Personally, it just feels like The Shape is just killing people just for the sake of racking up the body count. Not only that, but the deaths are all elaborate and bloody, compared to the first film, where people were just strangled to death and stabbed.

I also find the pacing of the film drags a lot compared to the first film, which I find can make watching Halloween II all the way through just a bit of a chore. While not as great and cinematically important as the original Halloween, it’s still worth a watch.

#2


Of all the more recent independent horror movies to actually bring “scary” back into the genre, I think writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo S├ínchez succeeded with The Blair Witch Project. If you thought Cloverfield had copious amounts of hype and viral marketing surrounding it, 1998 was absolutely bombarded – which would eventually make the film itself one of the most known, as well as one of the most-spoofed horror movies to date.

Taking cues from controversial Itallian horror classic, Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project made it seem like the film you were watching could have actually been lost footage found years after the presented events. To further drive the point, a false documentary on The Blair Witch and the missing film students -- which the actual movie focuses around -- was aired before the film’s release. Many people seriously found themselves asking the question, “Is this real? Did this actually happen?”

A lot of criticism that stems from the movie comes from the fact that not a lot actually happens during the film, other than the crumbling sanity and rising mutiny between the three characters as they wander aimlessly through the woods, trying to find their way back to civilization. But the main thing people complain about? The fact that you never see the Blair Witch. But unfortunately, the people who make those claims, while valid, are missing the point of the whole movie: which is that the power of the imagination is much more twisted and frightening than anything that can be shown to you on-screen.

Coupled with the documentary, The Curse of the Blair Witch – which you can easily find on Youtube and come with the DVD release – The Blair Witch Project can prove to be an effectively scary experience that will leave you begging for more.

#1


Whether you’ve seen it or not, whether you’re young or you’re old, everyone’s been exposed to The Exorcist in some way, shape or form. I mean, everybody knows what The Exorcist is! Ask anyone! “Hey, you know The Exorcist?” “Oh yeah, that movie where the girl’s head spins around and she pukes green stuff everywhere, right?” William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist is a universal phenomenon, tested by time, infamous as being THE scariest movie of all time.

But what few people come to realize was that there were actually sequels; Exorcist II: Heretic -- which was critically panned and completely destroyed Linda Blair's acting carreer outside of hosting Sci Fi Channel specials and parodies of the very film that made her famous -- and even more obscure, The Exorcist III, directed by the man himself, William Peter Blatty, and adapted from his own novelized sequel, titled Legion.

The Exorcist III, or The Exorcist III: Legion, as I like to call it, takes place fifteen years after the original, and slates the bumbling, yet philosophical Detective Kinderman in the role of protagonist – this time starring George C. Scott, instead of a reprising Lee J. Cobb, who died years after the first film’s release. Detective Kinderman, who still hasn’t come to terms with the death of Fr. Karras, a victim of the first Exorcist, gets thrown into a case involving Satanic murders, and a long-deceased serial killer named The Gemini, a guy who possesses people and goes around decapitating everyone with a huge pair of scissors. It’s great.

It’s a really intense and frightening movie, and I wouldn’t feel right giving anything away, but George C. Scott as Kinderman and Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer give fantastic performances – and there’s even a great cameo that is overall surprising and satisfying, while helping to tie up the plot. Even William Peter Blatty has been known to say that he’s quite proud of this film, and honestly believes it far surpasses the first Exorcist in both quality and horror. I agree.

...Well, that's it, and ss I said before, there are just way too many great horror movies to just pick ten. And though I’m leaving out quite a few notables, like the Evil Dead Trilogy and the Hellraiser movies, that doesn’t mean I like them any less. There’s a great horror resource site that I frequent at times, called The House of Horrors. It’s a fantastic site run by a truly dedicated fan of the genre. Check it out – and have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone.