OTH!'s Top 10 Halloween Picks! (2009)

Author: Bretts, Josh, Dave & Wes
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2009-10-07 10:01

10. City of the Living Dead (1980)

    Although not quite as breathtaking as Fulci's pinnacle achievements, The Beyond or Zombie, City of the Living Dead is his most appropriate film to watch on Halloween. Backed by a dread-filled, apocalyptic Fabio Frizzi score, all stops are pulled as Fulci laces the screen with excessive carnage including head drillings and possessed gut spewing. Not a one trick pony in the least, Fulci paints a gloomy, gothic portrait in motion with dank crypts, creepy funeral homes and inexplicable icky maggot showers. This one ranks in at the appropriate last spot on our list because the climax kicks into full force on All Saints Day, making it a perfect, timely finale to your Halloween horror marathon. (Brett H.)
9. Trilogy of Terror (1975)

    Last year in the Halloween 2008 picks, my choices were based around the costumes and outfits that adorned Hell Night or Terror Train. This year my decisions are based off of that October feeling, whether the movie in question is set in the fall or not. With Trilogy of Terror, we have an anthology with a set of three sci-fi (and in the case of the third, horror) shorts. All set mostly in a house or building, it is a wonderful relation for when you are sitting at home in front of the tube. Trilogy brings back those autumn school days with the first story’s opening school conflicts, where the date may not be clear, but the sense of new beginnings just like long ago when you were in school is present. And of course it is the last tale Amelia which truly pushes this onto the list with its spooky demon-looking Zuni Fetish Doll terrorizing the poor title character; a face that immediately brings you back to those ornaments and shrunken head designs a trick-or-treated house may have been decorated with. Made for TV, it maintains innocence with the thrills, another great reminder that as a kid, you did not need much to be entertained. Neither does this to be effective. (Josh G.)
8. Candyman (1992)

    For me, the Halloween season is a time for scary stories. When I was younger, my hometown hosted an annual weekend-long storytelling festival each fall. Friday night was always reserved for scary stories, and storytellers from all over the region would come to tell tales of monstrous creatures, spooky houses, and ghastly ghosts. The latter tales were always my favorite, as nothing sent a shiver up my spine like a good ghost story. For whatever reason, 1992's Candyman has always been a perfect cinematic equivalent of such a tale; sure, it's not as conventional as something like Ghost Story, but it truly captures the "urban legend" aspect of such a tale. Dripping with gothic imagery and marking the debut of one of the genres more memorable characters, Candyman makes for perfect Halloween night viewing. Plus, WGN used to play the film on or around the 31st on an annual basis during the 90s, which cemented its Halloween-night status for me personally. (Brett G.)
7. Carrie (1976)

    That October school feeling was already mentioned, but here in the original Carrie it is probably more present than nearly any other horror flick. Though set later on in the year towards prom, DePalma’s classic keeps the fall tone as if you had just moved to a new school and were trying to make new buddies. As if Carrie White, the shy telekinetic offbeat daughter of a religious fanatic, was entering a playground where the social rules have already been laid out, and you’ll be chewed up for even looking at somebody the wrong way. Yet nobody can forget the other highlights of this shining achievement: the blood soaked stage; bright red and blue lights; hundreds of candles lighting up the finale scene. And to top it all off, a startling ending! Starting off as a sort of drama in the daytime, like the day of October 31, and moving into the crimson night of Hallow’s Eve, it is one of the best King adaptations. With Spacek, Laurie, Irving, Allen and Travolta, the show is brought to life and makes for one of the best night watches with the unholy massacre of dozens in seconds. (Josh G.)
6. Beetlejuice (1988)

    Unable to scare the loathsome yuppie invaders from their former home, the Maitlands, husband-and-wife spooks, tap a “bio-exorcist” from the other side to do the job. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed “ghost with the most” has other ideas. Michael Keaton’s unforgettable Beetlejuice is only one part of the often quaint, more often insane world shaped by the mind of Tim Burton. Along with writers from the “Crypt” and “Darkside” anthology shows, Burton brings us a world where purgatory is a take-a-number waiting room and Hell is the stomach of a Saturnian sandworm. As a seven-year-old, I was inspired by many of the bizarre little bits throughout Beetlejuice to write my first horror story. Because, while in terms of tone this cult gem might be closer to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure than Sweeney Todd – the view through Burton’s eyes is always shaded with something just a little sinister...just a little off. And this horror geek loves it to no end. (Dave Dunwoody)
5. Black Christmas (1974)

    No need to adjust your monitors. While my Canadian counterpart has his mind turned towards All Saints day as the calendar turns to November, I'm already beginning to focus on the next holiday season. Sure, it seems way too early to some, but if there's one holiday I enjoy even more than Halloween, it's Christmas. For the past few years, my annual viewing of Bob Clark's classic slasher has capped off my Halloween viewing season and represented a transition into the next and final phase of the year. Of course, the film's unnerving tone and masterful suspense works extremely well on Halloween or any other night; however, it's perhaps a bit more appropriate for October 31st, considering it supposedly inspired another little film set on the same date. (Brett G.)
4. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

    When it comes to Halloween, it's no secret that I generally prefer "old horror". There's just a certain atmosphere when it comes to good, old black and white flicks and even 50s and 60s color films that screams for them to be watched during the month of October. One of my all time favorites is none other than Robert Wise's psycho shocker, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? No fog-covered moors or spooky castles on display here, but instead, Joan Crawford's nerve-jarring reality of having a relative (Bette Davis) who is dangerously nursing a broken mind. Most likely, if this movie were ever to be re-made today by the likes of someone like Platinum Dunes, they would probably cast two well known older actresses to literally "face off" in an epic catfight for the ages and completely miss the point of the film. Director Wise (The Haunting) instead goes for more cerebral, disturbing, and subtle scares here, and the result is a true classic not only of its era, but for all times. Due to this film's success, Crawford and Davis would go on to star in a few more horror flicks (Strait-Jacket, Dead Ringers, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte) but nothing could ever quite top their memorable pairing here. A supposed real life rivalry between the two actresses is allegedly the reason for their amazing on-set chemistry. Highly recommended if you've never seen it before. Good viewing for the whole family, especially if you have an older relative who is a fan of either of the featured actresses. (Wes R.)
3. The Mask (1961)

    Keeping in tune with last year's choice of Terror Train to represent some Maple Leaf Macabre is the first surviving Canadian horror film, The Mask. With 3-D horrors being all the rage once again, go back in time and show your friends a true, yet almost completely unknown 3-D classics that uses the "gimmick" to near perfection. Truly startling and eerie, the psychedelic, eye-popping 3-D visions stand out amongst the surreal black and white cinematography. And, for a change, the 3-D actually works quite well for home viewing and plays an integral part in not only the story, but audience interaction. To top it off, only four sequences in the film require glasses, so you'll get your fun 3-D fix without having to down an Advil to sooth your headache. "Put the mask on now!" (Brett H.)
2. An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972)

    Largely unknown before its Midnite Movies DVD release, this AIP gem could very well be Vincent Price's shining hour. While AIP understandably took numerous liberties transitioning certain Poe works for the silver screen, the company pays his macabre legacy back in full by featuring four of his best known tales being recited line for line by Velvet-Voiced Vinnie himself before a live studio audience. The tales, The Tell-Tale Heart, Cask of Amontillado, The Sphinx and The Pit and the Pendulum are covered with minimal sets, but an unbeatable, grand enthusiasm. With Price seamlessly weaving between characters and narration, this is the horror aficionado's definitive way to experience the literature of the most inspirational madman of terror. If An Evening of Poe doesn't put you in the mood to scare off some trick or treaters... in pace requiscat! (Brett H.)
1. White Zombie (1932)

    If you think the zombie genre began in 1968, then think again. 36 years earlier, Victor and Edward Halperin independently produced this horror classic. If there's one era of horror that gets a lot of play from me throughout October, it's definitely the golden age of the 30s and 40s. The vintage quality of these old black and white tales emote an indescribable quality that makes me nostalgic for an era that preceded me by over 50 years. Of course, one of the kings of this era was the indomitable Bela Lugosi, and he's in full force here as Murder Legendre, a mysterious mill-owner with the power to turn people into mindless zombies. Though zombies usually imply the shambling undead that Romero created, White Zombie is a good old fashioned witch story at its core. Voodoo rituals, ghoulish zombies, and a dark, haunting Hatian landscape are the order of the day in this unsung gem that creates the perfect late night, spooky atmosphere that Halloween night demands. Hell, it's so good that even Rob Zombie was wise enough to prominently feature it in his remake of Halloween. And, best of all, most horror aficionados likely own this one and don't even know it due to its public domain status. If that's the case, don't hesitate to dust this one off on All Hallow's Eve. (Brett G.)

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