Come October, my spare time is packed to the brim with all things horror. Movies, books, comics, games, music, whatever else. If it’s spooky, you better believe I’m getting into it, cause’ I’m one of the most festive SOB’s on the planet. With that in mind, I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s a list of solid horror flicks I recommend to anyone looking to celebrate Halloween this week.
“The Fog” (1980)
John Carpenter is a name you’ll hear dropped a time or two on this list. If you ask me, he’s the best horror film creator of all time. For this entry, we’re gonna take a look at Carpenter’s follow-up to “Halloween.” “The Fog” is a classic ghost story served up in the fashion of a campfire story. Essentially, a female-led ensemble film
with no true leading character, the film follows the residents of the small coastal town of Antionio Bay as they are besieged by the vengeful specters of Captain Blake and the crew of The Elizabeth Dane decending on the town in an impenetrable fog.
Featuring the likes of Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis and her legendary mother, Janet Leigh, it’s got a great cast and some of the creepiest ghosts ever put on celluloid (provided by effects maestro Rob Bottin, another name you’ll see later).
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a film that will give you the distinct feeling you’re not supposed to be watching it. One of my close friends describes it as “something you would find covered in mold and hidden under the floorboards of your creepy uncle’s house.” It could be the grainy, realistic aesthetic. It could be the fact that the cast is made up of virtual unknowns who could just as easily be real people rather than actors. But more than likely, it’s because the contents of the film and the images seen on screen are just flat out violating.
Tobe Hopper’s depraved story about a group of unsuspecting friends who find themselves in the clutches of a clan of cannibalistic maniacs, is low-budget filmmaking at its very best. It’s a technical marvel that has stood the test of time as one of the finest films in the horror genre. Fun fact, Chainsaw is also riddled with social commentary.
“The Haunted Mansion” (2003)
I haven’t seen this movie since it first came out. Didn’t really care for it then either. My girlfriend said I should include something on this list for people who don’t care for traditional horror flicks. Because “Hocus Pocus” is something everyone’s seen a hundred times, I went with this. I remember it being based off a ride at Disney World and that Eddy Murphy was in it. And Jennifer Tilly was a head in a crystal ball. Anyway, I’m sure it’s got some cool set designs or effects or something.
“The Thing” (1982)
If we’re being totally honest, I think “The Thing” is the best horror film ever made. It’s John Carpenter’s masterpiece, an unpredictable and infinitely intense sci-fi horror mashup. Set in a remote research station in Antarctica, a group of researchers fall prey to a shapeshifting extraterrestrial to gruesome and terrifying effect.
There’s a sense of harshness in the film on almost every level, from the frigid setting to the mania that befalls the characters within the film. A bearded, flamethrower-wielding Kurt Russell stars in the film where he finds himself in a paranoid game of cat and mouse to find out who’s human and who’s not. Like the people within the research station, you’ll be asking yourself the same question throughout the runtime of the film.
Carpenter brought Rob Bottin back to do the effects on the film, and if there was ever a testament to the effectiveness of practical effects, it’s “The Thing.” Seeing the film’s transformations from man or canine into alien remain some of the most visceral sequences in all of film.
“Trick ‘r Treat” (2007)
A love letter to all things Halloween, Michael Dougherty’s “Trick ‘r Treat” is quite simply the most festive scary movie ever made. An anthology of sorts, the film depicts a series of seamlessly interconnected vignettes set in a small town on Halloween night. They’re each a new take on well-tread stories or myths and legends of Halloween.
Viewers can expect to see razor blades in candy, a group of kids prodding around an old town ghost story, a miserly old man getting a visit from a vengeful specter and more. Sam (or Samhain) is the most prominent figure in the film. Seemingly a small child in a pair of footie pajamas with a burlap sack on his head, he’s really some sort of malicious holiday sprite.
Sam is a mascot who does for Halloween what Santa Clause does for Christmas. He appears in all of the vignettes in the film as a bystander or as a vicious judge to punish those who have broken the rules of Halloween. It’s macabre, charming, mean-spirited and goofy. “Trick ‘r Treat” is a cult classic in the truest sense of the word, and it nails the spirit of Halloween better than anything I’ve ever seen.