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Horror Reviews - Top Ten: Halloween Picks 2013

Top Ten: Halloween Picks 2013

Author: OTH Staff
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-10-17 18:42
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10. Halloween 5 (1989)

    Here's something we haven't seen in five years: a Halloween film in our lists. Much maligned sequel and followup The Revenge of Michael Myers is like Halloween III in that its faults lie more in the fact that it comes after solidified formulas rather than on its own merits. Clown music cops and series continuity aside, Dominique Othenin-Girard's entry is almost European in its approach, my personal theme for 2013 as you see, a sort of dress-up for America to step outside of its conventions. Danielle Harris' performance is a cut above, acting superb for someone her age through the miming that her muteness demands of her. While Halloween 4 brought back the blue tints, its January feel is traded in for an undeniable warm autumn look with more costumes and frolicking teens an October 31st slasher desires. Tina, love or hate her, is a multidimensional wrench thrown into the gears of typical fodder, at times wacky while also sentimental and reflective. What works so well in 5 is its cruelness towards cast members old and new, where Michael is no longer intrinsically evil but corrupted by darkness and rage. His humanity is masked, while we ask the question, is there room for redemption? Pitchforks, scythes, garden harrows and scissors, Michael has for better or worse become Jason-like in his approach, but while kills with such intensity possibly contradict some previous methods, this is a stand-alone interpretation of a story that sits next to the first three as one of the best directed and favorably paced. (Josh G.)

9. Tales From the Hood (1995)

    The coolest thing about Tales from the Hood is it somehow manages to capture the essence of the classic horror anthology, yet its urban spin on the formula made it feel hip and fresh in 1995, when I was just a little kid who didn’t have the wherewithal to understand just how good the Hood really was. This racial take on a Tales From the Cryptish EC comic film that doesn’t take its own rather serious matters too seriously and still proves effective, lettings the monsters and devils be the stars of the show as they should be. As a 10 year old, the movie scared me, but I just couldn’t turn away with the voodoo, zombies and brutal, leg-snapping violence on the screen before me. The last tale loses slight momentum, but luckily the badass wraparound story swiftly takes us back to hell, hammering that one final spike in the coffin! (Brett H.)

8. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

    Not all Halloween viewings have to be works of serious horror. October is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of macabre humor with the right horror comedy. For my money, there’s no better horror comedy for the entire family than the 1966 Don Knotts vehicle, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Wanting to be a reporter for the local paper, Luther Heggs (Knotts) is asked to cover a big story by spending the night…alone… in the town’s most notorious (and possibly haunted) house. What he experiences there, of course, leaves no room for doubt that the place is haunted by a shocking murder-suicide that happened 20 years before. Knotts is known for his everyman charm and his goofy mugging, and you get both of that in spades here. If you liked him as Barney Fife on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, you’ll love seeing him in what is basically a live-action Scooby-Doo episode… complete with a spooky house filled with cobwebs, creepy paintings, and a blood-stained organ that plays all by itself. I was introduced to this great flick by my grandmother around Halloween when I was 8 years old, and have loved it ever since. Do yourself or someone in your family a favor and introduce them to this horror comedy classic this Halloween. Attaboy, Luther! (Wes R.)

7. Messiah of Evil (1973)

    You'd be excused for thinking this was European considering its artistic take on zombie-like antagonists. Vibrant colors and imagery help to exaggerate the story of Arletty, daughter of a painter who has gone missing from his gorgeously creepy seaside home. As with many of the greatest horror films common in circulation, the unsettling yet inviting beach house is just another character, perhaps aiding in Arletty's psychosis as she too slowly develops a condition that her father had. Maybe even the same disease haunting the cult that waits for her and her hippy-ish on-the-road acquaintances to separate. Dreamlike actors that sort of just drift into the scenes, as how the characters themselves just float into the story of which already owns its background. "No one will hear you scream!" The theater and grocers kill scenes are iconic of the film, built up with great suspense and a sense of place. The wild ramblings of an old man that are bathed in truth and an unclear resolution perk up the bizarre nature of Messiah, as if it's looking in on you as you watch. Make this a late night Halloween feature for when everybody has vacated the streets for added effect. (Josh G.)


6. The Black Cat (1934)

    Before Roger Corman and Vincent Price tackled the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Universal started the tradition of attaching horror icons to the legendary author’s work (however loose the adaptations may be). Karloff and Lugsoi had already attained thoroughbred status in the studio’s stable by 1934, so their first horror pairing (the two also cameoed in 1934’s Gift of Gab—a musical comedy!) may well have been the genre event of the century at that point. Thankfully, The Black Cat lived up to its billing—and then some. One of the more bizarre offerings from the Universal Golden Age, the film is a subversive dance with the devil wrapped up in the gothic trappings of the age, from Jack Pierce’s fiendish make-up to Edgar G. Ulmer’s Expressionist-flavored visuals. Set inside a stunning (and somewhat disorienting), futuristic abode (complete with an anachronistic dungeon, of course), a devilish game of chess unfolds between the two titans, whose later collaborations rarely did both men justice (Lugosi especially faded into bit roles as their careers entered the 40s). A truly nasty and daring film, The Black Cat tackles Satanism, necrophilia, incest, and ritual sacrifice; indeed, it may not capture the particulars of Poe’s story at all, but it certainly reflects the disturbingly morbid and pulpy heart beating at its center. (Brett Gallman)

5. Tourist Trap (1979)

    Part of the allure of Halloween is being able to wear a mask and pretend, just for one night, that you’re somebody else. Well, if there’s one thing Tourist Trap has plenty of, it’s creepy masks. Tourist Trap is a slasher-esque tale of a group of friends who are terrorized by the demented owner of a roadside attraction (Chuck Connors). The twist here being that the terrorizing is done by a collection of mannequins that come to life at the attraction owner’s will. Tourist Trap is a work of B-movie horror genius. It plays strongly on the fact that many people consider mannequins to be unsettling. Even its iconic theatrical poster (featuring a close-up of an emotionless mannequin face) is a work of beautiful, disturbing art. Originally rated PG in 1979, the film would likely garner a PG-13 or lite R today. It’s not terribly bloody, but its disturbing atmosphere is probably a little too intense for young ones. If you’ve forgotten this one over the years, or have never stopped by ‘Slausen’s Lost Oasis’ before, it’s time you let this horror tourist trap you with its charms. (Wes R.)

4. Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1966)

    When Hammer took up the horror reins from Universal, it obviously echoed its predecessor’s preoccupation with iconic monsters; however, they also picked up the Satanic thread (which Universal all but abandoned after The Black Cat), and they did so with gusto. Hammer essentially charted the course for British horror’s obsession with the occult during the next decade-plus. One of its first excursions into this territory took an unlikely cue from history, as Christopher Lee inhabited the role of the infamous Rasputin, here re-imagined as a wild-eyed Satanist who barely tries to hide his sinister plot, which includes causing injury to infants and royally fucking up anyone who gets in his way. Between his penchant for hypnotizing and bedding Hammer babes, Lee gives us a peek into an alternate history where Rasputin was essentially a Dracula figure (and indeed, The Mad Monk is a better Dracula movie than 1966’s Prince of Darkness). A brooding, violent, and sinister outlier from mid-era Hammer, Rasputin also provides ghoulish, visceral grace notes that accentuate the studio's signature style. (Brett Gallman)

3. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

    One of the best things about being a kid was the cavalcade of fun and spooky scares on Halloween night. With a child’s imagination and a little help from costumes and décor, the world changed for one evening. One of the best things about being a horror fan is that one never quite outgrows that sensibility, especially when a creepy old house is involved. William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, while not my absolute favorite effort by the legendary B-movie maven, is classic horror camp that suits October 31st perfectly. The film delivers seminal cheese (wording I refuse to reconsider) along with a Vincent Price performance that is at times both genuinely ominous and gleefully self-aware. A bevy of effects compliment Price and the house, and while many of them seem silly by today’s standards, they sit well in the atmosphere Castle has crafted (additionally, the theatrical run’s “Emergo” gimmick flew a plastic skeleton over moviegoers). No doubt nearly all of you reading this have watched House on Haunted Hill, perhaps when you were a bit younger...I encourage you to sit down for a holiday screening and see how the thrills and chills hold up. (Dave Dunwoody)

2. Demons (1985)

    Nobody had more fun raising hell than the Italians did back in the 70s and 80s, and 1985’s Demons is one of the country’s most purely entertaining conjurings from the era. Joining two famous names behind the camera in Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava (here inching away from his father’s shadow), this splatter-fest provides two Euro-horror flavors for the price of one, as life begins to imitate art when a silly, demonic-themed horror movie leaps off the screen and begins to terrorize a theater audience. Full of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, Demons is a purely 80s response to the previous decade’s cult hysteria; not only is hell real, but it’s completely unloosed, with the tearing and ripping of the flesh now serving as a gore-soaked formality—that is, unless Bobby Rhodes (as a pimp, no less) has something to say about it. Bloody, hilarious, and riotously entertaining, Demons is a nice, gruesome treat after a night of devilish tricks on All Hallow’s Eve. (Brett Gallman)

1. School of the Holy Beast (1974)

    Have you ever seen a topless Japanese nun being cruelly flagellated with rose thorns by a demonic sect in beautiful slow motion? If not, you obviously haven’t witnessed School of the Holy Beast, the most stylish and pretty film on this year’s list by a landslide, one certain to have borrowed from Japanese films before it, but undeniably still influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Dario Argento and all the modern day grindhouse auteurs. Set inside a gothic church somewhere out of a Mario Bava film, Beast has it all; torture, blasphemy, lesbianism, revenge, murder and ultimately redemption, taking every possible twisted, unholy nunsploitation staple and doing it better than any other in its genre could likely ever aspire to. It’s a shame conventional witch hunt films like Mark of the Devil lack School of the Beast’s artistic framework. If one day such paths were to cross, we’d likely find ourselves viewing the ultimate movie to watch on Halloween, Carp’s classic notwithstanding. (Brett H.)


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