Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Junta Juleil!

So Halloween has come, and I feel as if the season has passed me by. In addition to the October blizzard, I've been hard at work on two plays which ran concurrently for the past two weeks, not to mention rehearsals, administrative work, and all sorts of other fun stuff. That's why I'm choosing to repeat my yearly mantra that Halloween does not end until Thanksgiving. In the meantime, here are twenty of my favorite Halloween movies, perfect for a screening party, whether in the foreground or the background. Now, I'm always more for socializing than movie-watching in a Halloween party scenario, but sometimes the crowd demands a spooky movie. And you must give it to them.

In no particular order:

20. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
"It simultaneously celebrates the classic Italian disinterest in standards AND makes Dario Argento look like Eugene O'Neill.... NOTHING can prepare you for the quacking. NOTHING."

19. TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990, John Harrison)
"Rarely has the Slater Factor been captured with such gleeful, manic precision. And rarely has it been captured holding such a wicked electric knife."

18. SLUGS THE MOVIE (1988, Juan Piquer Simón)
"Now is probably a good time to get into the writing and the acting. It's not bad. It's far from bad. In fact, there's a certain perfection to it. Filmmakers couldn't duplicate this magic if they tried, and oh yes, they have tried. The lines are ridiculous, sure, and they either reveal an ignorance of basic human interaction that borders on the sociopathic, or they're satire of the highest order. I'm still not sure which."

17. THE MANITOU (1978, William Girdler)
"Burgess Meredith mutters and mumbles and improvises and holy shit- it's like watching one of the great jam bands play a set- except instead of the Allmans riffin' on a groove, it's Burgess Meredith jammin' with the English language!"

16. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981, George Mihalka)
"Beneath the original HALLOWEEN, of course, I'm prepared to bestow upon it the highest honors that one can give to a holiday slasher: in short, I suppose you could call it FOOTLOOSE with blood."

15. THE CAT (1992, Ngai Kai Lam)
"This cat is an interstellar shitkicker. Canines and blob-like aliens: beware. The infamous knock-down, drag-out duel between The Cat and Lao Pu (the bravest dog in the world) has been medically proven to enrich viewers' lives. I now can say that I have seen a cat swing on a rope like Tarzan. "

14. TALES FROM THE CRYPT– "Cutting Cards" (1990, Walter Hill)
"We begin with some rootin' tootin' synthesized horns and a ramblin' honkytonk piano courtesy of two-time Oscar-winner James Horner. Walter Hill rachets up the atmosphere- squalid neon, sticky macadam, puddles, shadows, and cowboy boots. Hill gets straight down to business, though- this episode is about one thing, and one thing only: two gamblin' men who hate each other."

13. 13 GHOSTS (1960, William Castle)

"Illusion-O so irrevocably altered the landscape of cinema, that no one has dared to work within its eerie confines since. Illusion-O, plainly speaking, is a form of film-making, that, when observed in concert with a ghost-viewing apparatus (like the one seen below), allows us to... well, view ghosts. It's extraordinarily complex, but I'll attempt to explain. By peering through the red cellophane on the upper end of the mechanism, the ghosts will appear, quite vibrantly. Using the blue end of the device, however, allows us to remove ghosts. This begs the question of 'who would choose to attend a film entitled 13 GHOSTS and then decide they'd prefer not to see any ghosts?', but this is a William Castle picture, so we oughtn't to split hairs. If you elect not to use the contraption at all, you'll see ghosts all right, but faintly. Don't worry, though, all of this is adequately explained at the picture's start by William Castle himself."

12. TWO EVIL EYES (1990, Dario Argento & George A. Romero)

"Tequila for breakfast– er make mine a Mezcal
It's merely a warm-up for Keitel's zany Grand Mal
For the Keitels tells tells
Keitel must have his say
We only do things his way
That Keitels tells tells
The Keitels tells tells..."

11. MURDER ROCK (1984, Lucio Fulci)
"Alll right...'fess up. Which one of you wags let Italy borrow our copy of FLASHDANCE? Alright, so it was you. I'm sure you thought it was funny at the time, but do you see what happens? Do you see what happens when you let Italians get a hold of stuff like this? They immediately start mimicking it. But their brains are wired funny, so it always ends up being way Eurotrashier, more visually impressive, and utterly incomprehensible. MURDER ROCK is actually an awesome movie. I laughed, I cried, I pulsated wildly."

10. HAUSU (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi)
"To avoid comparing it to other films, I would simply describe the HOUSE experience as akin to being trapped inside a kaleidoscope as a cackling madman rams and twirls and flips and submerges it with reckless abandon as upbeat music and ludicrous sound effects ricochet here and there and everywhere, dueling one other for dominance."

9. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
"She actually succeeds in turning 'Got any money?' and 'Wanna date?' into catchphrases (which were evidently part of the original gimmicky talking VHS!). Something feels wrong about labeling this a masterpiece, but I gotta go ahead and do it anyway."

8. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
"The only way the ending could be more ridiculously perfect would be if she made out with the chimp."

7. RAISING CAIN (1992, Brian De Palma)
"RAISING CAIN isn't a movie at all. It's a playground. John Lithgow's playground. And you'd better be in the right state of mind, cause Lithgow is gonna show you the labyrinthine secrets of the monkey bars; the ecstatic highs, down-to-earth lows, and endless cruelty of seesaw slamming; the dizzy thrills of tire swing spinning; the tragic bewilderment of being left behind when recess is over; and the iron-fisted, punitive detention that follows... They should have given him the Oscar that year. No- correction: they should have given him all the Oscars that year."

6. HELLO MARY LOU– PROM NIGHT 2 (1987, Bruce Pittman)
"Her character possesses none of the customary horror villain weaknesses (i.e., fear of water, being pulled out of the dream-world), and her only motivation seems to be obtaining the title of 'Prom Queen,' so, if you happen to be in her way, get out of it- or DIE. I really respect that."

5. VAMP (1986, Richard Wenk)
"The focal point of its candy-colored universe is a blood-curdling, utterly bonkers (and wordless!) performance by one Ms. Grace Jones, who is officially the scariest vampire since Max Schreck. Perched on a headless, sculpted throne, daubed in white body paint, clad in a metal wire bikini (all three by NYC street artist Keith Haring!), and donning a fiery red wig, Jones is a striking vision of avant-garde terror. 'The guys at the fraternity are gonna love her!' shouts a perennial 80's toolbar (played by Robert Rusler)...Umm...WHAAAT?!"

4. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982, Tommy Lee Wallace)
"In Carpenter films (i.e. this, THE FOG), eligible young ladies are drawn to Mr. Atkins like moths to a flame. They fight being consumed with desire for his sheer perfection, but in the end, they fall like so many waifish, smitten dominoes. Ehhhh...whaaa? Not to knock Tom Atkins. I mean, I like Tom Atkins. I like him A LOT. But I don't think he should reside in Plato's cave as the quintessence of the male specimen. Atkins even gets a bare ass shot here. I have two words for you, Carpy: 'MAN CRUSH?'"

3. ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK (1988, James Signorelli)
"ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK dares to ask the question– 'Can a movie be assembled entirely out of one-liners?'– and boldly answers with a resounding... YES!"

2. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
"The killer successfully conceals a chainsaw behind his back in an elevator, and 'BASTARRRRD!' is screamed to the heavens (three times). There's more mind-blowing police work ('Take some uppers or something-JUST GET ME A LEAD!') and suspects are deputized ('What the hell, you're practically on the force anyway'). And one scene is too ridiculous to be described, but know that an Asian's erratic behavior is blamed on 'Bad chop suey.' It builds to a mind-blowing denouement that A. makes no sense, and B. involves bloody balls-grabbing."

1. CREEPSHOW (1982, George A. Romero)
"CREEPSHOW is great. The tag-line says it all- 'The Most Fun You'll Ever Have Being Scared.' And I truly defy you not to have a hell of a time while watching this. Just talking about CREEPSHOW makes me want to watch it again. Perhaps I'll invest in a bumper sticker that says 'I'd rather be...watching CREEPSHOW.'"

Enjoy your Halloween, everyone!

–Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Nice list! Really can't add much to that except to say, dear Lord I watched HALLOWEEN III on AMC waaaaay too many times this year but it is a testimonty to Tom Atkins' and his porn star 'stache and raw animal magnetism that kept me watching even through commercial breaks.

Sean Gill said...

Ha, awesome! HALLOWEEN III does possess a kind of shockingly high rewatchability factor. One of these days I've got to work up the nerve to read and review the novelization, which supposedly delves deeply into the Atkins character's backstory and alcoholism!

J.D. said...

Yeah, I wondered about that! The film kinda hints at a real drinking problem with his character and I would imagine the novelization would expand on it a bit. Look forward to you tackling that!