Here we are on the last Friday in October. The month went flying by, but it’s not quite over yet, which means there’s still time to enjoy more seasonal favorites. Once all the candy has been given out, or consumed, what better way to celebrate Halloween than curling up on the couch with a good scary movie? Or perhaps a cheesy movie? Or something with style, a touch of humor, and a dash of darkness? I have you covered, my friend…
On Halloween, you can’t go wrong with Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent Price, or Roger Corman. If you’re feeling really saucy, why not combine all three with a triple-header Poe-stravaganza of The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher, and The Raven. The movies were released more or less back-to-back in 1960, 61, and 63, so why not watch them the way nature intended? I used to make a ritual of watching some combination of these three movies around Halloween every year. They’re full of glorious scenery-chewing, over the top colors, cheap sets, and for some reason, instead of a melancholy and haunting meditation on loss and death, The Raven now features a wizard’s duel and Peter Lorre transformed into the titular bird. Really, what’s not to love? And if you haven’t had enough after those three, rest easy knowing that there are in fact five more films in Roger Corman’s Poe cycle. You’re welcome.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show likely needs no introduction or talking-up from me. It’s a cult classic, and perfect for Halloween. Glitter, leather, fishnets, and murder. Singing, dancing, mad science, and references to other classics such as Frankenstein and King Kong. If you’re up for it, Rocky Horror can even be a participatory experience. Catch a midnight showing at your local theater, recite the lines along with the cast, and come prepared to throw toast at the screen. Don’t forget your corset.
Beetlejuice is another another classic that likely needs no introduction. This year, the movie is celebrating its 30th Anniversary, and dagnabit if it doesn’t still hold up. The movie hovers between comedy (the dinner party scene) and true darkness (Beetlejuice trying to force Lydia into being his child-bride, anyone?), and does so with tons of style. It may possibly be the most Tim Burton-y Tim Burton movie ever, and Michael Keaton does a fantastic job as the un-dead exorcist who specializes in ridding houses of the pesky living so ghosts can spend their eternities happily resting in peace. While the movie is more comedy than horror, there are horrific elements, and certain bits of the movie are disturbing the longer you think about it – like the aforementioned attempt at forced marriage – not to mention the fact that it opens with the death of a lovely young couple, and things go downhill for them from there. For the most part though, it’s good Halloween fun, mostly appropriate for the whole family, and you are pretty much guaranteed to have “Jump in the Line” stuck in your head for days afterward, and be happy about it.
In the realm of true horror films, it’s hard to go wrong with The Exorcist. Unless, you know, you enjoy sleeping, or whatever. It’s a classic story – girl meets demon, girl gets possessed by demon, girl ends up spider-walking down the stairs, vomiting pea soup, and levitating while priests try to save her. The best-known scenes aren’t even the scariest ones, though. The most effective parts of the movie come in the quiet moments of carefully built tension – the ragged sound of breathing, the knowledge that something terrible is about to happen, but hasn’t happened yet. That’s not to discount the spider-walk though. That scene is creepy as fuck.
To round things out, I offer up a recent watch, which I’m still thinking about – Hereditary. It’s hard to talk about the movie without giving too much away. Suffice it to say, the trailers for the film set up expectations for a very different kind of movie. The movie that was actually delivered is far more unsettling and haunting in multiple senses of the word. Reality and truth are slippery concepts throughout much of the film, building to a climax that cements the supernatural, but in a way that doesn’t undercut everything that came before. Again, the quiet moments are some of the most effective here, not so much in building tension, but depicting raw grief, loss, and pain more horrifying than anything otherworldly that happens. The otherworldly elements, however, are horrifying too, and images from the film are likely to stick with you for days afterward.
What are your favorite Halloween watches, scary, funny, silly, or otherwise?