Friday, October 31, 2014

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13 Flicks for Halloween

Happy Halloween! 

I haven't ranked my favorite fright flicks in years -- and I won't be tonight, either! Instead, here are thirteen movies on my mind this Halloween, all after the jump. Feel free to take these as recommendations, and enjoy...

Three Halloweens ago I saw Dead & Buried for the first and only time -- yet I often go back to it. A slow burn chiller of a thriller about a quiet seaside town suddenly littered with dead strangers. Jack Albertson plays the undertaker, in one of his final film roles.

The Black Cat is one of my all-time favorite movies -- Top Five, even. Where else can you get a heroic Bela Lugosi fighting Karloff (surname only!) and his legion of Satanists, as they trap honeymooners in an art deco palace built on the ruins of a prison camp? It's also the film that started my long fascination with devil-worship and Satanic cults.

God bless American Horror Story: Freak Show, for reviving interest in another all-time favorite, Freaks. It plays more as a big-top melodrama with some thriller elements -- indeed, it probably wouldn't be considered horror at all were it not for the physical peculiarities of its ensemble. Well, that and the chilling finale. And, like Black Cat above, it tells its whole story in just 60 minutes!

The first revival screening I ever caught was in 1997, when my dad took me to the local playhouse to see the original The Phantom of the Opera, with live accompaniment from an organist. My dad worried that I would regret missing out on trick-or-treating, but I knew then I was the luckiest third grader in Broward County.

Regular readers may recall my love for Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem, the most recent entry in his filmography, and the only one I don't flat out hate (note: I've never seen House of 1000 Corpses). In fact, I downright adore it -- in my recent Hollmann Awards for 2013, it came in second for Best Picture!

Messiah of Evil is horrifying, and a sneaky influence on the aforementioned films The Lords of Salem and Dead & Buried. It's in the public domain, so it's easy to find on YouTube and DVD -- the shoddy quality only adds to the horror, playing like the last found footage of a society run amok with evil. And no other film makes movie theaters and grocery stores equally terrifying.

The Devil Rides Out is another film, like Messiah and Dead & Buried, that I saw just once but haven't forgotten. And like The Black Cat, it stars a classic screen Dracula (Christopher Lee) in a rare heroic turn as a man looking to bring down a secret society of Satanists, led by future Blofeld Charles Grey. It's all about that finale, where the Devil tries to break a sacred circle by -- but no. You must see it to believe it.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on the big-screen -- I'm talking the original Tobe Hooper flick. I forgot how quickly the ensemble is whittled down, so that we spend much more time with Leatherface and the family sweating, cackling, and torturing poor Sally (the late Marilyn Burns). A nasty bit of goods.

As far as Halloween parties go, there is surely no better on-screen representation than in the classic horror-comedy House II: The Second Story. I'm talking drunk-driving cowboy zombies. I'm talking Aztec warriors stealing crystal skulls. I'm talking Bill Maher and Amy Yasbeck, grooving to "You're No Good". Unforgettable.

My favorite Vincent Price movies are Theatre of Blood and The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but since I've already watched them this year, today my thoughts are with the Roger Corman classic The Haunted Palace, where the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft meet for a tale of witchcraft, revenge, and deformed children. Price plays both a wicked warlock and his decent descendant. And a tip o' the hat to Ronald Stein's score, please.

Young Frankenstein is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. Many consider it the best adaptation of Mary Shelley's work, thanks in no small part to the screenplay written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks. You'll be surprised at how much romance, genuine pathos, and intelligent debate about science and creation can be packed alongside dick jokes.

I realize that, with the exception of The Lords of Salem, this is a very male-centric list. For the femme fans out there, might I suggest The Craft? Oh, yes. While not a horror flick, this supernatural teen thriller has other bewitching qualities -- not least of which is the iconic turn by Fairuza Balk, equally terrifying and pathetic.

And, of course, there's Halloween. The original John Carpenter, please. Accept no substitutes.

What's your favorite scary movie? What movies comes to your mind on this day?

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