Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Movie Picks: They Came From Outer Space... and Your Own Backyard

As Halloween week kicks into gear at American Frankenstein, we've invited some friends to check in with a movie recommendation for Halloween night. So pay attention, folks -- these writers, editors, and publishers work in the shadows every day and know the good stuff when they see it.

And while I'm at it, here's a recommendation of my own -- if you don't have yourself a Genuine Whirley-Pop popcorn maker, you don't have the necessary equipment to cook up a bowl of corn that's several notches past magnificent. So grab one now, boys and ghouls. You'll want to pop yourselves a Kong-sized bowl on Halloween night before watching these fine selections:

Kealan-Patrick Burke (author of The Turtle Boy) on TRICK 'R TREAT (2009): File this one under studio neglect, the same neglect that saw limited theatrical releases for quality movies like The Road and Buried, and I'm sure, many other films the studio execs had no idea what to do with. It's a downright shame that Trick 'R Treat never saw wide release, as there's not a doubt in my mind that horror fans would have absolutely adored it. Originally slated for an October 2007 release, and despite almost unanimously positive reviews, the film didn't see the light of day until it appeared as a direct-to-DVD title in 2009. Even then, most chain stores didn't carry it, which made finding the damn thing akin to begging for candy in a dark neighborhood on Halloween.

The thing about Trick 'R Treat is that it's a good movie, not a great one, but what elevates it above most horror anthologies of its ilk is the clear love on the part of the filmmakers for the season in which it's set. From the E.C. Comics-style opening to the outstanding production design, and the presence of "Sam Hain" -- who I imagine despite the limited release will still take his place right alongside Chucky as one of the creepiest little mass murderers to come along in some time -- to the clever way in which the whole thing is tied together, Trick 'R Treat is the best Halloween movie to come along since... well, Halloween. Add in some gratuitous nudity, gore aplenty, terrific makeup effects, and outstanding turns by Dylan Baker (as a gleefully malevolent principal) and Brian Cox (as an asthmatic shotgun-wielding curmudgeon) and you have all the makings of a cult classic.

The good news is, despite the way in which the original film was treated, a sequel is already in the works.

So cue this one up, light the lanterns, and dig into the candy bowl, folks. You'll thank me later.

Ellen Datlow (editor of Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror and Haunted Legends) on ALIEN (1979): Alien directed by Ridley Scott is the movie that continues to give me chills no matter how often I see it, and I still jump at the alien erupting from Kane's (John Hurt's) chest. It's one of the most suspenseful movies I've ever seen and it plays right into my deep rooted fear of bodily mutilation (another movie like that is John Carpenter's The Thing, but I've never been able to watch it again).

Brian Keene on THE THING (1982): Perhaps my generation's quintessential horror film, this movie stands the test of time. As delightfully shocking and creepy on the 100th viewing as it was on the first viewing, it never fails to satisfy.

John Skipp (editor of Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within) on CREEPSHOW (1982) (with Skipp-a-licious bonus picks!): I gotta be honest. My family's screened some awfully fucked-up movies on Halloween, as part of a decades-long tradition. Big favorites have come and gone, from the sublime (Jacob's Ladder, Rosemary's Baby, The Haunting) to the ridiculous (2,000 Maniacs, Desperate Living, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies).

Because it's a party night, we tend toward more festive horrors. Musicals like Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone and Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise are almost guaranteed to play. The spookier Berry Boop cartoons are frequent Halloween faves. I could go on and on.

But our #1 most-oft-played Halloween movie is Creepshow (1982): to my mind, the greatest comic book horror movie every made. Working from Stephen King's most purely enjoyable script, director George Romero hands in his zestiest entertainment, full of joyful performances, copious gore, thousands of live cockroaches, and meteor shit.

Is it Romero's best? Not even close. But it is the one I'll be watching this Sunday night, no matter what.

Okay. Norm here again -- thanks to Kealan, Ellen, Brian, and John for some great selections. Tune in tomorrow for more Halloween movie picks from Joe Hill, Joe Nazare, Tom Piccirilli, and David J. Schow. See you then!