OTH!'s Top 10 Halloween Picks! (2010)

Author: OTH Staff
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2010-09-22 00:37

10. Bay of Blood (1971)

    Last year we kicked things off with an Italian zombie film from 1980. Why not keep the nationality alive? In 1971, Mario Bava brought to life one of the most influential horror movies of all time, having been an obvious inspiration for Halloween and even more so, Friday the 13th Part I and II. Gory and high on thrills, Bay was still in the class of the other gialli at the time, though it's far more of a slasher when you get down to the core. But what makes it such a good candidate for an October film fest is the scenery, from the stylishly lit opening scene with the murder of the bay owner, to the warm autumn colors of the teenagers' car and yellow leaves, to the limited amount of people occupying the area (which leaves us with that feeling of independence; few people to depend on - and the list keeps getting thinner). The orange 70s bedspread and designs definitely compliment the pumpkins in the patches near our homes. One of the strongest powers of the movie remain with the killer, or killers, who often keep themselves offscreen when their terror strikes, and leaving the viewer with a sense of mystery and senseless evil. Even upon multiple viewings, this classic keeps its sense of ruthlessness intact. A bloody good time! (Josh G.)
9. Screams of a Winter Night (1979)

    As I write this, it is 7 degrees Celsius (that'd be 45 degrees Fahrenheit) and as of last year I've finally decided to embrace the fact that at least every couple years, Halloween is gonna be a cold one here in the Great White North. The perfect film for this type of weather would be the obscure, low budget campfire-tale anthology, Screams of a Winter Night, which sounds Goddamn cold, but in reality equates to a chilly fall evening at best. While the first two installments involving a yeti-like beast and a mysterious light (although it seems silly as hell, it really works) are appropriately chilling, the third murder revenge episode is rather dull. Against all odds, the premiere attraction to the film is the simple, spooky wraparound story involving Indian wind spirits that sparks an awesome twist. Really, How do you think these stories get started? (Brett H.)
8. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

    I bring to thee, at this year's eighth spot, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. One of the most popular and successful of the 20s German expressionism films, it can also be credited as perhaps one of the movies to bring out the realization of twist endings and horror stories in a feature length running time. But putting its legacy aside, Caligari still stands strong, with its nightmarish atmosphere, exaggerated pointy landscape, and dark shadows casting a sense of mystery in the town of Holstenwall. The fact that this is a silent movie strengthens its power in maintaining the dream-like state that has been presented, making the odd movements that much more hard to explain reasonably. It's Halloween, and all the makeup used to create getups for the night parties and treating are unavoidable if you go outside. Beyond the purpose of this 90 year old entity being a fantastic film, for then and even today, Caligari's murderous somnambulist Cesare undoubtedly looks as if he's a man that ought to be giving out candy at a shady house, dark filled around his eyes and mouth. Yeesh! What a creeper! The illustrated scenery makes for a must-see this time of year, as every question of what could be lurking between the streets of the German village could correlate with the bushes or unseen pathways on a frosty late October night. Yes, even madmen and their mute foreseers. (Josh G.)
7. The City of the Dead (1960)

    Witches and witchcraft are some of our most enduring Halloween imagery; why is it, then, that there have been so few quality films about them? This 1960 creepshow is one of the more unsung efforts on that particular subject. Featuring a uniquely British style and gothic trappings, The City of the Dead refers to one of horror’s spookiest settings: the quaint New England town of Whitewood, which houses a bevy of sinister secrets. It’s essentially the “old, spooky, abandoned house” motif writ large--every neighborhood has that one house that’s avoided while trick or treating. In this case, Whitewood is to be avoided at all costs unless you’re looking for black mass rituals and virgin sacrifices set in fog-drenched cemeteries. If that’s the case, then Christopher Lee makes for an unusually comforting but typically charming tour guide through the madness, and he’s especially good Halloween company. Set aside a reservation for this Horror Hotel in October. (Brett G.)
6. House of Wax (1953)

    As I've said before, in my household, it just isn't Halloween unless there's a Vincent Price flick on TV at some point during the month of October. Simply put, you won't find a finer Vincent Price flick than the 1953 classic, House of Wax. Screwed over and left disfigured by his business partner in an insurance scheme gone horribly wrong, Professor Henry Jarrod (Price), soon discovers a murderous new inspiration for the attractions in his wax museum. There's just something natural about putting Vincent Price in a horror flick with a period setting. While not quite as iconic as his work in the Poe films of Roger Corman, Price turns in an amazingly twisted and obsessed performance as only he can deliver. 3D horror flicks are currently rage in Hollywood, but many forget that House of Wax was one of the very first ones to utilize the gimmick. Based loosely on the 1933 chiller, Mystery of the Wax Museum, House of Wax could also be considered one of Hollywood's earliest remakes (though House of Wax itself was remade in 2005, starring socialite Paris Hilton of all people). With a cloaked and disfigured madman prowling fog-laden cobblestone streets for victims, eerily lifelike wax figures, and a commanding performance by the all-time master of fright Mr. Vincent Price himself, House of Wax is guaranteed to put you in the Halloween mood. And did I forget to mention that 70s and 80s action movie icon Charles Bronson stars as Price's creepy assistant Igor? (Wes R.)
5. The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

    If you’re the type who prefers to spend Halloween with good friends, serviceable booze and schlocky horror fare, you could do a hell of a lot worse than T.L.P. Swicegood’s (I wonder if that’s his real name?) first and last directorial effort. The undertaker (Ray Dannis) and his restauranteur buddies have come up with a novel way to help both their suffering businesses: tear around town on motorcycles, torturing and killing random women. The meat goes into the greasy spoon’s grinder (or, on occasion, the conveniently-placed enormous vat of acid). Intentionally-cheesy dialogue, gratuitous - if not always gory - violence, gorgeous dames and perplexing interludes of slapstick make this flick a hoot - I don't know if it's actually brilliant satire, I just know it's worth seeing. I got it from a dollar store and I’ll tell you what, it was worth every penny. I found myself oddly tickled by the undertaker’s adventures and have never missed an opportunity to subject others to them. (Dave Dunwoody)
4. Black Sabbath (1963)

    Halloween is synonymous with candy; lucky trick or treaters everywhere will be treated to a grab bag of confections because each house has different sweets in store. The horror film equivalent of this would undoubtedly be the anthology film. Just like a neighborhood block on October 31st, anthologies offer a variety of ghoulish sights and sounds. One of the crowning achievements in this sub-genre, Bava’s triplet of terrors features jealous lovers, bloodthirsty vampires, and vengeful mediums who strike from beyond the grave. The film is appropriately drenched in gothic dressings, and the vibrant photography is a visual treat. Our host for the festivities is horror legend Boris Karloff, who has been with generations of horror viewers every October for eight decades now. Everyone likes a good scary story (or three) for Halloween, and they’re made all the more devilish when one of the all time greats of horror reminds you to “look around you and behind you," and “to be careful when you open the door.” And, most importantly, “don’t go in without turning on the lights” after a long night of Halloween celebrations, whether your fancy be sugary sweets or macabre tales of horror. (Brett G.)
3. Jigoku (1960)

    For years, I considered Blood Feast to be the debut gore film, but it turns out the Japanese did it just as disgusting and a whole hell of a lot more effectively three years prior. Jigoku was Lucio Fulci's The Beyond before there was a Beyond and it is safe to say from the imagery to the intense violence that Fulci borrowed a lot from this relatively undiscovered classic. The plot is simple; two men are damned to hell and must face the tortures not only in death, but life through their own remorse. But when they sink down to the lake of fire, piss and blood (with every torture and torment imaginable along the way), this nightmare of a movie erupts and never looks back, exhibiting highs very few films reach. Terrifying, surreal and beautiful all at the same time, Jigoku is all the way Criterion and the best film on the 2010 list. (Brett H.)
2. Lady in White (1988)

    If you think there’s a dearth of witchcraft movies out there, you might be even more surprised when you consider the utter lack of Halloween-themed horror flicks. I suppose Carpenter ruined it for everyone after 1978 when he made the definitive film bearing the holiday’s name, but that didn’t stop this 1988 effort from featuring Halloween as an early setting. In fact, it’s one of the few films that can give Carpenter’s film a run for its money with its Rockwellian portrait of the holiday. A layer of wistful nostalgia is painted on thickly to create an idyllic and innocent portrayal that’s full of falling leaves, jack o’lanterns, and dime store costumes. Though the film moves on from Halloween (and even moves into Christmas), it never quite escapes its All Hallows Eve trappings by taking a good old fashioned ghost story as its subject. The titular character haunts our young protagonist, Frankie, and her old, not-so-abandoned house is the stuff of local legend (I told you--every town has one). The movie is also an incidental reminder of how much of a bummer it could be when Halloween fell on a school day…but at least you were never locked in overnight like poor Frankie! (Brett G.)
1. Terror on Tape (1983)

    What could possibly be more perfect on Halloween than to see all the good parts of 30 horror movies in a mere two hours? Continental Video's Terror on Tape promotional mixtape is the best of its kind, featuring violent outburst after violent outburst and naked lass after naked lass. Showing off scenes from Nightmare, Blood Feast, The Slayer, Scalps, Nightmare City and Vampire Hookers just to name a few, pretty much every aspect of the genre (except maybe an actual good movie) is covered from top to bottom. The coolest part is it is set in a fictional video store where everyone from the customers to the clerk (Cameron Mitchell, dressed up like a TV horror host) is a horror hound. The wraparound between clips involves Mitchell suggesting tapes to renters on Halloween night. Packed with vintage horror posters and big boxed VHS tapes, this nostalgia trip will allow you to experience countless different terrors in the blink of an eye. While Brett G.'s Black Sabbath selection may be more than one house to trick or treat from, the grand ole company of gore's Terror on Tape is the entire block. (Brett H.)

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