Geekery: Five Movies You Need to Watch to Make it Halloween
October is all about binge watching of our favorite horror movies before the streaming services dump them. Start your marathon with these classics.
Top 5 lists aren’t overdone, right? Top 5 lists talking about the author’s favorite subject – horror movies – even more fresh and entertaining, right guys? Guys?
Anyway… in my mind, there’s at least five movies that I want – no, scratch that – NEED to see in order for October to officially turn into “Halloween”. There really isn’t much of an order, and there doesn’t need to be. That’s the beauty of a Top 5 – it’s just my opinion. You could think I’m crazy for including a movie I love, or for not including a movie you love (“seriously, how do you make a Top 5 scariest movies list and not include “Batteries Not Included”!?! JESSICA TANDY WAS TERRIFYING!!!”). I’d try to give the rational person’s perspective of what to do here, but, let’s face it, you’re purposely reading a list about horror movies. Rational thought isn’t high on our list of skilled traits.
Seriously – how is this not a horror movie?!
I’ll preface my list this way, though: these are movies I, personally, relate to Halloween. Some for more obvious reasons than others. There’s plenty of super popular films I’m not putting on this list. Do you really need someone to say “Wow, you should totally watch Friday the 13th Part 2 again!” like I’m going to add some great insight? Of course not. You’ll watch it because it’s Tuesday, and you watched Part 1 yesterday in hopes of making it through that awful remake before bed on Saturday night. So, back to the point: my picks. A little off the beaten path, I’ll grant you. But, I’ll explain them, then you can just sit back and watch them.
Note: There are spoilers.
You can’t go wrong with a film about a haunted house, and The Legend of Hell House gives you exactly that. A crew is assembled to go try to prove once and for all if life after death exists in The Belasco House, which is apparently the most haunted mansion that was home to a crazed former millionaire serial killer in all of England. Because, you know, there’s a few knocking around. The twist to this film, to me, is how they tell the story. There’s a lot less of the jump scares and cheesy effects you’d expect from a 1970s ghost story, and a lot more attention to the plot itself. Instead it focuses on characters and uses some 1970s pseudoscience to move us along to an ending that you might not see coming.
Ok, I know what you’re going to say. “The Crow wasn’t a horror movie!” I know, I’ve heard it a million times.
Well, let me phrase it this way: imagine, if you would, a story set in Detroit – only not Detroit as the fine, upstanding and not at all violent metropolis we know it as today, but a Detroit that’s so entrenched in crime and absolute chaos that the criminals have literally burned parts of the city down – more than once (prompting the use of “Devil’s Night” rather than the “Mischief Night” that my suburban youth taught me). In the middle of all this, one particular gang of lowlifes decide to go a little heavy on a young couple, murdering the boyfriend and then the four of them take turns raping the woman, leaving her so brutally hurt that she passes away many agonizing hours later. Fast forward a year, and we get to the meat of the story – a zombie comes to town who somehow gets special powers from a crow looking to avenge the deaths of the couple, and will stop at nothing to kill the four men who were involved.
Now, you sure you want to say it’s not horror?
Just like every other kid growing up in the 1980s watching what could only be considered the golden age of horror, I loved everything about it. The slasher movies, the huge icons that came out of it, the different sub-genres. But one thing that I still think doesn’t get enough praise? The horror anthology film. Sure, everyone loves Creepshow (and how could you not when you got a character as great as Jordy Verill, am I right?) and a few years ago we had a couple bigger names released in V/H/S and the ABCs of Death, but, for a large part horror anthologies have been mostly overlooked, which to me is just short of criminal.
Trick R Treat is one that somehow got ignored during its theatrical run but simultaneously shunned by a lot of the horror fans I know. So many have said to me over the years “oh yeah, I totally skipped it when it came out, I thought it looked like studio garbage. Then someone talked me into watching it, and now I have to see it for Halloween every year.”. The basic premise is simple, but so great: it’s Halloween, and around this one town, evil’s afoot. Each story holds a sort of lightheartedness to it, like you’re not supposed to be completely scared out of your wits while watching Sam, our guide of sorts, killing an old man with a lollipop. Seriously, if you’ve skipped it up until now, watch it.
“Oh my god! Another not actually a horror movie listing, and this time it’s a Denzel Washington vehicle!” Oh, I’m sorry! Demonic possession isn’t horror? The whole concept of angels vs. devils? I mean, I’ve heard of this little film – you might know it, it did ok in the box office – called “The Exorcist”? Yeah, that would prove you wrong. Not only is Fallen horror, but it’s a horror movie that goes for the jugular.
At no point in this movie does it look for even a second like Denzel’s going to save the day. Every terrible thing that can happen, simply put, does. He’s got a brother who’s…well, Wikipedia calls him “intellectually disabled”, which I guess works. Anyway, think Denzel’s going to protect him from the demons that are killing half of Philadelphia just in an attempt to ruin Denzel’s life? Ha, no. Think he’s going to save James Gandolphini or John Goodman? Wrong again. Think that since it’s Denzel it’s at least going to get a happy ending? Boy, you’re so wrong. Fallen couldn’t care less if you walk away feeling worse about yourself. It’s a realistic ending – evil doesn’t die, it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t even slow down. It’s just going to always be here, killing “intellectually disabled” people for absolutely no good reason.
OK. I’ll admit it. I said I wasn’t going to put anything obvious on the list, and it really doesn’t get more obvious than this. It’s a Halloween movie based around a killer who’s killing BECAUSE IT’S HALLOWEEN. I mean, this is just writing itself, here, people. But, more than just an excellent Halloween movie, John Carpenter created an excellent horror film and more importantly the template for what makes slasher films great.
Why does Michael kill? Um… something involving sex? I think? Asking why Michael Myers kills is like asking why fish are in water. It doesn’t matter why, it’s just how it is.
Why does the Sheriff basically blow Dr. Loomis off until bodies start stacking up? As a plot device, of course! Imagine this: Loomis shows up – “Sheriff! there’s a murderer in town!” Sheriff rolls up on Mike’s old house, finds him, shoots him or finds some other way to lock him back up – probably on Mischief Night. The whole movie wraps in under 30 minutes.
Add to that the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis gave a career making performance AND essentially defined the idea of a “Final Girl”, which would become a horror mainstay for going on thirty years after this film.
Really, like I said at the beginning of this whole article, though – did you need me to tell you to watch the original Halloween for the holiday it’s named after? It’s a classic. This should be mandatory viewing!
I’ll send this message out to everyone, though, this Halloween. As a fan of horror movies – do yourself a favor. Take a night or two, grab a cold beer, and sit down a out a few of your favorites on. Maybe try one off my list. I’d like to think you won’t be disappointed.
What are your must see movies for Halloween?