Here in Southern California, it’s getting darker earlier, leaves are falling, and sunsets are prettier, because half the state is on fire, and you know what that means? It must be fall and Halloween is right around the corner!
Halloween as a child was the one time us kids could run around the neighborhood unsupervised and raise some hell. I remember coming home with a pillowcase full of candy and on a school night even. All that changed in ‘81 with the Tylenol poisoning scare. There was no traditional Halloween that year and it seems like it never really came back. I was a bit disappointed because that probably would have been my final Halloween as I was now 13 and getting to old for screaming “Tricks or Treats!” as The Peanuts gang says. But there was something new, for me anyway, VHS machine rentals!
Machines were still expensive, around 400 smackers. Tapes were few, and also expensive. That ‘Tylenol Halloween’ would be my first horror movie watching Halloween, and thus the Halloween horror movie marathon became the new tradition.
Halloween Movie Suggestions
Now over the years, certain films have become a tradition and not just regulated to one night but a good chunk of the month. I tend to like atmosphere over gore, though atmospheric gore is always welcome. So here are some suggestions for Halloween Horrorthons. Ones you can watch with the kiddies or kitties, and ones after they’re put to rest. This is not my top horror films but rather a list of films I would actually like to watch right now.
It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
A lot has been written about The Great Pumpkin. It’s a holiday classic that I’ve watched my whole life now and it never gets old it wouldn’t be Halloween without it. I do miss having to wait for it to be shown on CBS and running into the house and sliding across the floor to the TV, like a baseball player to home plate, to change the channels! It’s just been re-issued in 4K from Warner Bros Home Video.
Rankin and Bass’ The Mad Monster Party (1967)
The Mad Monster Party was originally released in theaters after Rankin and Bass scored big on TV with Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer. Mad Monster Party hoped to cash in on the then-recent monster craze with a script written by Mad Magazines Harvey Kurtzman and with character designs by EC Comics and Mad artist Jack Davis. Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller lend their voices in this fun monster romp.
My favorite part is the party where a The 60s punk band called ‘Little Tibia and The Fibians’ sing “The Mummy.” (Above)
Monsters Crash The Pajama Party
A 1965 American short horror film about a group of teenagers in a haunted house that happens to be the headquarters of a laboratory used by a mad doctor who attempts to transform them all into gorillas. During its original theatrical release, actors would venture out into the seats in costumes as though they were the monsters coming out of the movie screen. (Wiki)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
d. Jack Clayton
I first saw this in its original release and it’s hard to believe I was the same age as the two kids in the film. This Disney produced film of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel is always fun to watch and is suitable for the whole family. Two boys discover something strange is happening at a traveling carnival and must warn the town folks, but it’s mostly about an aging father (Jason Robards) overcoming his guilt about not being able to overcome his fear and protect his son several years earlier.
d. Andy Musshietti
Mama is a modern film that proves you don’t need gore and torture for scares. Argentinian filmmaker Andy Musshietti proves just that and studio executives agree as well since they hired him to direct this season’s monster hit, IT. This suspenseful supernatural PG13 picture is about two little girls who are being haunted/cared for by a ghost they refer to as Mama. Plenty of suspense and scares, I jumped a couple of times, that is bothering frightening and touching.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
d. Terrance Fisher
One must watch at least one Hammer picture for Halloween and what’s the holiday without Peter Cushing? Others could be Hound of The Baskervilles or Horror of Dracula
d. Alexander Ptsushko
This was once a fairly obscure Russian film based on poet Nikolai Gogol’s story, which was also the inspiration for Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath. This film is great for its production design and its fantastic theatrical style. The practical effects in this period of Russian Cinema was phenomenal!
Eyes Without A Face (1960)
D. Georges Franju
A haunting poetic tale about scientist trying to fix the face of his disfigured daughter. Music by Maurice Jarre Parisian circus music ads the atmospheric melancholy of this film that was originally called in it U.S. release The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus!
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1990)
d. Francis Ford Coppola
Despite some bad acting this film is pure eye candy with a fantastic score by Wojciech Kilar, beautiful cinematography by acclaimed cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. I never tire of this picture.
Cemetery Man (Dellamorte dellamore) 1994
d. Michele Soavi
This bizarro head trip must be seen to be believed. This was when Italian Zombie flicks went from ‘the Grindhouse’ to ‘the Art House’ and was the last of its type I saw at the movies. Based loosely on the Italian comic Dylan Dog and featuring English actor Rupert Everett (who was actually the inspiration for the comic character) as a Cemetery caretaker along with his mentally challenged sidekick Gnaghi to make sure the buried corpses stay in the ground. This features: Zombie munching, severed head rollicking, model Anna Falchi very nekkid, and one of the most poetic endings. If you like gory zombies mixed with Louis Buñuel surrealism this is for you! One of my favorites.
I hope this list might give you some movie ideas for your own horror movie night. Happy Halloween!
Phillip López Jiménez