Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of The 1950s

*Note – I accidentally messed up my count when writing out the mini-reviews, leaving out my number 1st time around, hence this list being eleven instead of ten. More fun for you!

Greetings, glancers! Hopefully you have all been enjoying my Top Ten Lists by each year, keeping in mind that these are more representative of personal preference than quality. Now that I have completed each year of the 1950s, I thought I would give a quick overview of my Top Ten of the decade and maybe see if any particular year stands out.

11. Marty (1955)

10. Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

9. Godzilla (1954)

8. The Thing From Another World (1951)

7. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (1956)

6. Throne Of Blood (1957)

5. Dial M For Murder (1954)

4. Vertigo (1959)

3. Rear Window (1954)

2.  Seven Samurai (1954)

  1.  North By Northwest (1959)

As if there was any doubt, Kurosawa and Hitchcock owned the 50s. They make up the top six positions, and any one of those can be shown to someone who has never seen a Hitchcock or Kurosawa film before, and they’ll be converted. Maybe Throne Of Blood doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s a great one to show Kurosawa fans who haven’t yet experienced it.

Marty I saw in my late teens, and it’s probably a film I would not have bothered with for a long time, if not at all, had it not been for my brother’s love of Airwolf. He would seek out any movies or shows featuring the stars of Airwolf and in those early Internet days it wasn’t so easy getting a hold of those. Marty was one of the easiest as it was an Oscar winning film, compared to something like Damnation Alley. Ernest Borgnine of course won an Oscar for the film, well deserved too. It’s just a very sweet, underdog romance, with an unlucky in love guy and gal meeting each other and… you know the rest. It’s like Rocky, but without the fights.

Rebel Without A Cause is James Dean’s most famous, most iconic movie – it’s one of the films you kind of know all about before you ever watch it thanks to the pop cultural imagery. It’s arguably the first, and maybe still the best film about the generation gap as seen primarily from the youth’s POV. It’s basically about three messed up kids who end up in a police station together and we get to see what they’ve done, examine why they may have done it, and then we get all these classic scenes of 50s American teen life – school, fights, car races – almost every cliche in the book comes from this movie. Only the most iconic movies get banned or create a public outcry – this one seeing concerned groups freaking about their children (or neighbour’s children) becoming juvenile delinquents. Only the most iconic films have their own unique curse – stars Dean, Mineo, and Wood all dying in excessively tragic or mysterious circumstances. Throw in Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Ray directing, and it’s a film everyone should see, preferably at the age depicted.

Godzilla is Godzilla. Again, even if you haven’t seen the original, or any of the four million sequels or remakes, you know what it is. There are a lot of iconic movies this year, but the cool thing is that people are always surprised by how good they are when they watch for the first time. Godzilla is of course Japan’s answer to King Kong, with added nuclear paranoia thanks to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and while both films look clunky now when you first see the creatures, the quality of the direction and storytelling quickly makes you forget and sucks you in. I saw this when I was young, and like many people who see Frankenstein when they are young, I sided quickly with ‘the monster’. It take a hell of a lot of skill to make you sympathize with a hundred foot city crushing dinosaur.

The Thing From Another World is not quite as iconic as others on the list, primarily due to it being overshadowed by Carpenter’s definitive version. You probably shouldn’t go showing The Thing to kids but Nyby’s version is a fantastic introduction to  sci fi and horror for kids. Again, you quickly forget the age of the film and get pulled in by the plot, the claustrophobia, and the tension.

Five years later and we get another sci-fi classic of paranoia and tension in Invasion of The Body Snatchers. It’s my least favourite of the film versions (excluding The Invasion because it is balls), but it’s still fantastic – showing how strong the 70s and 90s versions are. Cinematic sci-fi hit a peak this decade as technology began to catch up with ideas – it wouldn’t be till 1977 till the next major leap took place. In this version, which is by far the most hopeful, a Doctor keeps having patients who claim that their relatives and friends have been ‘replaced’ by someone else, even though they look the same – Capgras Delusion. What is initially dismissed as a group hysteria becomes more sinister as the evidence stacks up, and a silent invasion seemingly spreads throw the city. It’s a little on the nose at times, but it’s great fun and another fine introduction for younger viewers.

Throne Of Blood, as mentioned above, is fantastic. It’s shocking. It’s Shakespeare, but not as you know it. It takes the loose plot of Macbeth, transports it to some point in feudal Japan history, and features one of the all time great death scenes. Seriously, every single time someone who hasn’t seen that moment sees it, their mind is blown. Even though Toshiro Mifune is awesome here (he always is), it’s Izuza Yamada as his wife who steals the show – she is utterly terrifying.

Dial M For Murder is underrated. I feel like when critics and fans talk about Hitchcock’s best films, they always leave this out. Maybe because it isn’t as experimental groundbreaking as some of his other works, but few beat it on sheers thrills and tension building. It’s a familiar enough story, but wrapped around multiple double-crosses that by the end you’ll be tied in knots. In classic Sherlock style, it all takes a Wiley detective to unfurl the mess for us and it’s utterly compelling. Grace Kelly and John Williams are superb and it’s dripping with Hitchcock’s trademark wit.

Vertigo is one of the greatest films of all time. I’ve said it before, that there are four films that tick all the boxes from cultural impact to importance to money making to critical and fan acclaim that no others come close to – Star Wars, The Godfather, and this. The other just happens to be on this list too. These are, in my opinion, the four most important films ever made. Where do you begin with Vertigo? It’s probably Hitchcock’s greatest achievement, bearing in mind he also has three other films on this list, and also made the likes of Rebecca, Psycho, The Birds. The film concerns a detective (James Stewart) who retires after his fear of heights causes the death of a fellow cop. He takes on some freelance work from an old friend, tasked with following the friend’s wife around as the friend suspects she is in danger. Maddie, the wife, meanders around San Fransisco, making various deliberate stops before eventually, apparently trying to kill herself. Stewart rescues her, and falls in love with her, but love quickly becomes obsession, deception, death, rebirth, and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff happens. It’s another film which is great fun to watch with someone who knows nothing about it – like all of Hitchcock’s best movies, they keep you guessing, and second guessing – but you’ll be surprised at every turn.

Rear Window makes it three in a row for The Master. It’s a perfect film, a technical marvel, a sign of a man at the height of his powers and craft, a twisting, yet simple story laid out bodies on a slab, and stars Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter – three of the all time greats. You’ll hear people say that films from so long ago couldn’t possibly affect them, scare them, make them laugh – this will do all of those and prove them wrong.

I mentioned the four most important films ever earlier? Seven Samurai is the other one. Has there ever been a three plus hour black and white movie, in Japanese, that rattles by so quickly and holds your attention so closely? Hell, few modern 90 minute Hollywood movies can manager that today. When people are listing their favourite films, it’s easy to gush on about plot but the truth is that even the most complex plot can be boiled down into one or two sentences – Seven Samurai is as simple as it gets – a bunch of bad guys are antagonizing and hurting a bunch of peasant farmers, so the farmers group together and request that (insert title here) protect them and get rid of the bad guys. You’ve seen that movie a hundred times in a hundred different way, but never as good as this. It’s the characterization, the stylized fights which range from chaotic and fast, almost anti-cinematic and anti-Kurosawa, and therefore more realistic, to the ultra-slowed wide shots to show just how badass the Samurai are. You feel each death personally and by the end you look at the time and wonder if you can squeeze in another watch before bed.

What could possibly top all of those movies? Hitchcock doing Bond, before Bond was a thing. North By Northwest is one of those movies which has it all – drama, romance, thrills, laughs, action, suspense – every genre worth covering is covered. The plot is your standard Hitchcock ‘innocent man in wrong place at wrong time’ movie, and sees Carey Grant on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, and while the cops try to catch him and the criminals try to kill him, he just wants to clear his name and if he’s lucky, fuck Eva Marie Saint. Spoiler Alert – the train does enter the tunnel. There’s just so much to love here, mainly stemming from the script and the way the top drawer cast relishes it. You also have the iconic cornfield chase, the iconic Mt Rushmore fight, and a high octane pace that today’s action directors can only dream of.

Let me know in the comments what you think of these movies, and your reasons for not seeing any of them yet!

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Mr And Mrs Smith

*Originally written in 2003

A light-hearted Hitchcock comedy with some good performances and an interesting idea, but one which fails to stay in the memory. Hitchcock’s most notorious and memorable comedic scenes are those which appear in his most tense and thrilling films, working best because of the dark and sexually charged situations his characters find themselves in. In Mr and Mrs Smith Hitchcock spends the entire film dissecting the flaws and perks of married life – becoming overly accustomed to one another, yet knowing that no-one else could put up with each other.

After playing their usual, monthly truth telling game in which husband and wife ask each other a question which the other must answer truthfully, a game which will naturally lead to problems, Annie becomes annoyed with her husband David. She asks if he had to do it all over again, would he still have married her. He answers with a ‘no’ as he misses his freedom, but says he does not regret anything he has done, and loves her. In an odd coincidence both David and Annie hear that their marriage is void and they simply must remarry. However, both decide to play with the rule unknown to the other, and soon all hell breaks loose.

The two leads are good and the best moments, aside from the dialogue, are Hitchcock deliberately showing the monotony of both married life, the singles game, and the last few scenes in the log cabins involving husband and wife trying to make each other guilty. Unfortunately this is too soft, and does not have enough funny parts to deserve many watches, but is an interesting film nonetheless and a change of pace from what we would expect.

Lifeboat

*Crappy review originally from 2003 after my first watch – it’s now one of my favourites.

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Lifeboat is an early experimental film by Alfred Hitchcock, one mainly taking place in the limited confines of a lifeboat. A US ship has been bombed, and a number of survivors reach a lifeboat. Connie Porter is a self-interested, strong-willed reporter, Kovac is anti-German due to the war, and each of the other characters have their own problems and opinions. When a young mother kills herself after her baby dies, the crew become closer and try to find a way out of their situation, deciding to sail for Bermuda even though their compass is broken. When a German joins the boat they crew argue over what to do – some don’t trust him, others say they cannot just throw him out. The German says he knows which way Bermuda is and the others follow his course. He has another agenda though, appearing to lead them to a Nazi supply ship, keeping the water and food pills for himself. When he lets one of the group die they turn against him in typically brutal fashion. However, was he genuinely trying to help them? And how will the group escape now?

The film is of course character driven, but unfortunately many of the characters are not as interesting as the core group and no matter what happens they seem passive and unemotional. Each actor does well even if none stand out and the tension continues to build by small degrees until the last 15 minutes or so. Hitchcock would hone these elements in later films such as Rear Window and Rope, films which also center on a number of moral debates while taking place in a single set. It is interesting because we inevitably ask ourselves what we would do in such a situation, who we would trust, what prejudices would we put aside or exploit to ensure our survival.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Lifeboat!

Top Ten Tuesdays – Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock is the greatest director of all time; that is a fact. No other director can equal both the critical and commercial success he had with the cultural impact and influence on other filmmakers. While he may not be my favourite director, he has a body of work so wide and varied that it is supremely difficult to pick a top ten. However, I have selected my ten favourite Hitchcock films below, and they likely represent the most famous of his works. There are still quite a few of his early films that I haven’t been able to see, but the list below is varied enough that it covers his early Hollywood period and his later peaks. I would have loved to include a couple of his early British thrillers but I feel like he improved upon those same ideas once he crossed the Atlantic. One note on the ranking – aside from the number 1 pick, the top 6 are entirely interchangeable – all equally beloved. As ever, let the debate reign on.

The 39 Steps

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Hitchcock’s first effective chase thriller featuring a wrongly accused man on the run came in 1935 and stars a wonderful Robert Donet trying to clear his name. Even though we’re staring at the 80th anniversary of this film, there are enough thrills, action, comedy, and of course suspense to enjoy for modern viewers. As a child of the 80s, returning to films from before 1960 can be a daunting decision as we expect to see laughable effects, wooden stage acting, and amateur technical abilities. This can be true depending on your sensibilities, but they don’t call Hitchcock ‘The Master’ for nothing. One of the finest technical maestros of his time, his professional touch is clear on every shot, and even though technology has advanced beyond imagination in the last 80 years, storytelling has not. The pay off is high, there are a number of notable scenes, although the twists and plot which Hannay finds himself in seem a little silly now, what with people with photographic memories hiding military secrets along with all the misplaced identity stuff.

Rebecca

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Welcome to Hollywood, Mr Hitchcock. His first film made in the States was a major success, winning the Best Picture and Best Cinematography Oscars, and being nominated for a host more. With a central acting trio of Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson it is a brilliant, brooding portrayal of romance, betrayal, guilt, loss, and obsession. As strong as the cast is, Hitch’s touch is everywhere creating a sensation of unease and stretching out some of the more haunting scenes to nerve-wracking degrees. The film would be one of several successful adaptations of a piece of Du Maurier fiction helmed by Hitchcock.

Lifeboat

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After Rebecca, Hitchcock had a string of war era films which covered the thriller, romance, and comedy genres, some of which touched upon the war effort, themes of war, or propaganda. In Lifeboat the most overt handling with the ongoing war was given, the plot dealing with the survivors of a U-boat attack stranded in a lifeboat in the ocean. It was Hitchcock’s first effort at telling a story with a limited setting – essentially the entire film takes place on the small boat, but any problems one would expect for such a film are turned into successes. There’s certainly a lot to be said for what can be created when surrounded by barriers, self-imposed or otherwise. The crew sees a mixture of races, sexes, and countries all acting as a metaphor for the Allies versus the Axis, The film offers no easy answers, builds up the enemy in a respectable manner and shows the supposedly good guys engaging in paranoia,confusion, and indecision, eventually engaging in murderous acts. The ending, as with much of the film, is a grey area and while the evil is shown to be evil, what can be done with people like that?

Rope

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Expanding brilliantly upon the technical limitation versus technical innovation ideas presented in Lifeboat, Hitchcock’s Rope looks and feels like a one-take theatre production. The action takes place entirely within the apartment of two young suave, egotistic students who plan, plot, and execute the perfect murder and try to get away with it, all shot with long takes to give the appearance of no cuts taking place. At this point in time Hitchcock was already a major force and it is a brave and shocking move to see him take such a novel and experimental approach to his latest film. Based on the play of the same name, the movie does feel like you are sitting just below the stage watching the action, but Hitchcock makes sure that your eye follows exactly what he wants it to. From a casting perspective the two villains are convincing in both their callousness, guilt, superiority, but it is Jimmy Stewart who steals the show. Stewart is unlike his usually jolly heroic self, deftly moving between a superior intellectual, detective, and man wracked with residual guilt for possibly, in a roundabout way giving the murderers the idea. Also unusual for a Hitchcock thriller is the fact that we know who the killer is and what their motive is from the outset, and the tension comes from us watching Stewart gradually break down the case in front of the killers, and in front of the family of the departed. For a brilliant comic remake of the plot, check out the excellent British comedy Psychoville who pay homage to the film in a particularly gripping and hilarious episode.

The Birds

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A return to horror for Hitchcock after the success of his 1960 stabathon, The Birds remains an enigmatic and potent film which still unnerves and begs questioning. Like Psycho, The Birds follows a woman with a mysterious past stopping off on a journey and having that past, or some part of it, catch up to hear. Loosely based on another Du Maurier story, we follow Tippi Hedren embark on a playful flirtatious visit to Rod Taylor. Before long the visit becomes darker as Hedren’s character (Melanie) is viciously attacked by a seagull. As Melanie continues to become involved with Taylor’s family – mother Jessica Tandy and sister Veronica Cartwright – the bird attacks escalate in scale, frequency and ferocity. is it all somehow linked to Melanie’s appearance? The film certainly poses these questions directly, offers no answers, and continues to give critics and fans headaches decades on – feminist criticism is an area which this films lends itself to wonderfully, with the added bonus of what we know of Hitchcock himself giving extra dimensions. Hedren is wonderful in her debut, the cold blonde Hitchcock was so enamoured with, Taylor is the castrated hero, and everyone else involved do what is expected of them. The build up to any action can be excruciatingly slow, but once the fun starts it rarely lets up. The effects are outstanding, the bird work breathtaking, and there are many iconic, eerie moments – the birds on the park, the school attack, the attic attack, and the final shot are all noteworthy.

Rear Window

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Jimmy Stewart returns again, a character similar to the one he plays in Rope, this time with the intellect largely replaced by casual paranoia, voyeurism, and boredom. Voyeurism is the name of the game here, with Hitchcock once again controlling exactly what we should and should not see, what we need to, and what we don’t. Stewart plays a photographer is who wheelchair bound in his apartment with nothing to do all day but spy on his neighbours and put up with visits from a superb Thelma Ritter and a breathtaking Grace Kelly. Waking one night after he hears a woman screaming, Stewart begins to suspect one of his neighbours of murder – the man begins acting unusually and his wife has mysteriously vanished. Bringing us along for the ride we are left to try to work out if we agree with Stewart’s assumption based on the evidence, or if we feel he is clutching at straws – both Kelly and Ritter play along too, an interested, interesting comic duo who both spur on and try to restrain Stewart’s antics. Ritter in particular, one of the finest, most underrated actresses of all time gives a stonking performance and Kelly does not get much to do until the later stages of the film aside from being playful with Stewart. Watching the events unfold we can’t help but become wrapped up in them, make assumptions on each of the people we see, and as the film races towards its tension-filled conclusion we feel as if we are going to be caught out too. One of the best examples of how to create and build tension, and with a superb pay-off, Rear Window is an effortless masterpiece.

Dial M For Murder

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This has always felt to me like a cross between Rear Window and Rope, with the blending of those plot ideas, and with a number of similar characters popping up. We have Grace Kelly giving arguably her best performance as the wrongly accused murderer, herself the target of murder trying desperately to clear her own name. Stealing the film though is John Williams, as the almost camp detective who unravels the case in a near comic fashion. Hitchcock was at his peak from the early 50s to the early 60s, with Dial M For Murder being an essentially perfect film – thrilling, entertaining, a decent winding plot well told, acted, and directed. Hitchcock’s best thrillers often verge on the convoluted, with red herrings and maguffins thrown in to confuse, confound, distract, and engage – we fall prey to these during the course of the movie even as we watch and hope that Kelly will somehow find a way out of her mess.

Vertigo

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I’ve always said that there are only a handful of movies that truly deserve to be called the best ever – those which are entertaining for the widest possible audience, groundbreaking, influential, special – The Seven Samurai, The Godfather, A New Hope, and this are the four films I keep coming back to when anyone asks what the best film ever is. Vertigo may be the least entertaining of those four, and it isn’t my favourite Hitchcock, but it may be the most influential and the one which deserves to most critical discussion and dissection. Vertigo is a maze, a marvel, a majestic movie which drags you down and spits you out in the most gut-churning and puzzling ways.

The film open with a rooftop chase scene where a cop – Scottie (Jimmy Stewart) witnesses the death of another policeman, which gives him vertigo and acrophobia. Later, we see that he has retired, and is at a loose end, living with his ex-girlfriend. When an old friend, Gavin, asks him to follow his wife Madeline whom he believes has been possessed and is a danger to herself. Scotty and Madeline begin their own tangled web until she apparently kills herself by jumping from a Church bell-tower – when a woman who looks just like Madeline turns up a few days after the tragedy, things get even more interesting.

Convoluted even by Hitchcock’s standards, the plot jumps from place to place with dizzying speed, twisting the viewer up in knots until the final act – even then when we learn the truth, Jimmy Stewart still has to figure it out for himself. Stewart plays another character apart from what he was typically known for – he is obsessed, frightened, violent, timid, while Kim Novak takes the crown as Hitchcock’s perfect mystery blond. Throw in a spellbinding Herrmann score, a fancy title sequence, a bizarre and horrific nightmare sequence, and of course the famous Vertigo effect, and we have a film which broke new technical and storytelling ground, as well as being gripping entertainment. This is The Master’s finest film, one where everything you need to know, and ask about the man is covered, and one which will continue to enchant and confound until the oceans turn to ash.

Pyscho

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Probably still Hitchcock’s most famous film, Psycho is the first modern horror film, shocking audiences in 1960 just when a new generation born out of the Second World War were beginning to ask questions about themselves and the world. Redefining horror forever, Psycho still has the power to chill seasoned horror veterans like myself over 50 years later. Starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Jennifer Leigh as Marion Crane in a famous misdirect, and Vera Miles as Lila, the film was a stark contrast to most of Hitchcock’s globe-trotting, high budget recent works. Filmed in a handful of sets, with a low-budget (the studio refused to finance the film believing the book it was based on to be too violent for film), and in black and white – all of which add to the creep factor. Hitchcock, a master of both the set, and of light and shadow clearly relishes the return to black and white, and unleashes all manner of slithering horrors on us. Before I had seen a single Hitchcock film, I was aware of Psycho – my mum always used to speak of how she had seen it in her youth and how it had terrified her. By the age of ten I knew that Hitchcock made it, I knew the name Norman Bates, I knew Herrmann’s stabbing score, and I kind of knew the plot – without having seen a single frame of the film.

When I did see it a few years later, naturally I was enthralled. There are a number of outstanding moments, the shower scene, that jump scare at the top of the stairs, the unveiling of Norma, but it is the leading trio of performances, particularly that of Perkins, along with Hitchcock’s directing as he continues to crank up the tension that makes this memorable. The coda where we witness the interview of Bates is the main action which has led to the unending critical debate of the movie, as it opens up and makes plain all the bubbling sub-text of the previous 90 minutes, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it is explaining the nature of evil or the reasons behind the crimes to us. Though the film is tame by today’s standards in terms of visceral power, like any number of more ancient horror movies it retains an atmosphere and ability to unsettle more than modern horror movies do.

North By Northwest

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Ah ha, my number one. In 1962 a little film called Dr No appeared on the big screen, but three years before it redefined or created the modern action movie, Hitchcock had already directed the archetype – there is quite a case for arguing that North By Northwest is the best non-Bond Bond movie ever. Hitchcock’s biggest movie, his most entertaining, his most action packed, and with one of the best scripts ever written, this is the film I urge anyone who hasn’t yet seen a Hitchcock film to watch. Although there is tension, much of that is replaced by sheer exuberance, fun, comedy, and chases.

The script takes all the elements of the wrongly accused man on the run plots which Hitchcock had previously made and mashes them all together in one huge, mystifying, exhilarating film which encapsulates all the ludicrous points from those previous films and takes it all ten notches higher. Cary Grant is flawless as Roger Thornhill, a man kidnapped for no good reason by a group of elegant, eloquent thugs who believe him to be someone else. One brief drunken ride later and Grant finds himself being pursued by cops, criminals, spies, mothers, flirtatious women as he romps all over the US both trying to save himself, get the girl, and pretend to be the very people who each person chasing him believes he is. We have fist-fights, gun fights, train intrigue, plane chases, daring escapes, and a finale on the side of Mount Rushmore.

There is so much I love about this movie that crappy blog posts can never do it justice. It’s so energetic, rousing, witty, it makes you wish that you were wrapped up in your own spy mystery – outrunning certain death has never looked so fun. I haven’t even mentioned Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, or James Mason – each giving award worthy performances, or the music, or quoted any of the endlessly quotable dialogue…. just do yo’self a favour and watch it now. NOW!

What is your favourite Hitchcock film – is it covered above? Let us know in the comments!

The 31 Days Of Halloween (Part 3)

Even more Alternatively:

The Birds: Hitchcock’s thriller may not pack the punch that it used to but thanks some great ideas, strong performances, and inspired set pieces it can still work for an early Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: Tippi Hedren goes into the attic when every person watching knows she shouldn’t.

Black Christmas: The film generally believed to have started the slasher genre was fairly well critically received and features a host of well-known actors facing down a serial killer with a knife. It’s an interesting alternative to Halloween and one which follows similar lines, although the killer isn’t a superman behemoth. Not as scary today thanks to everything which has come since, but still something other than the usual fare. Classic Halloween Scene:  Any of the phone calls, or the ending- who dunnit!?

Braindead: If you’re tired of watching The Evil Dead every year, why not go Down Under for an equally fun alternative. Before Peter Jackson took off his shoes and began prancing around The Shire he enjoyed putting zombie babies into blenders and running people over with lawn-mowers. If you want laughs, vomit inducing and filled scenes of orgy, cheesy music and acting, and more blood than has been spilled in New Zealand’s history, then Braindead (also known as Dead Alive) is for you. Classic Halloween Scene: We enter sitcom mode as Lionel tries host a perfectly normal social event while his dead/dying/zombifying mother attempts to eat her own ear.

Basket Case: Another 80s cult classic now, particularly potent if your sick of Evil Dead, The Thing, and Repo Man. Basket Case has a similar vibe and wonderfully shlocky effects that you just don’t see anymore. It was low-budget but successful enough to get 2 sequels. This tale of brotherly love deserves a viewing at Halloween. Classic Halloween Scene: When Belial visits Sharon for a mouth gift.

Cat People: This old timey hit is stool highly regarded by critics as one of the few horror movies which genuine artistic merit. But what do they know, we want to see blood and freaks, right? Basically telling us that foreigners and sex are evil, and that sex with foreigners is just about the worst thing you coul inflict upon yourself, this has an innate ability to make the flesh crawl. Classic Halloween Scene: The Swimming Pool

Carnival Of Souls: A glorious mix of sphincter tightening music, terrifying ideas and scenes (which were an influence on Romero and Lynch), and low-budget desire. This has more invention than many of the bigger films of the era and has only recently garnered some cult recognition. Classic Halloween Scene: The Man’s reflection.

Cube: Before Saw came Cube, a low-budget movie which spawned a host of sequels and centered on the idea of a maniacal genius who tortures a group of seemingly unrelated people with a host of insane devices. This never got the recognition it deserved, both as a precursor, but also as an excellent film. The fact that these people wake up trapped with no reason and no knowledge of how to escape (and soon no shoes) makes for effectively scary viewing in a Kafka-esque fashion. Classic Halloween Scene: The first death- we now know that everyone else is dire straits and death could come at any second.

Curse Of The Demon: A British, non Hammer film from the mid 20th Century. Not exactly a rarity, but rare in that it’s very good. Satanic weirdos, posh weirdos, witchcraft, prophecy, and enough quotes and imagery to make up an Iron Maiden album. Glorious black and white, eerie soundtrack, and potential madness lurking in the shadows. Classic Halloween Scene: Jumping through a window has never had as much impact.

Dead Of Night: An even Earlier British horror and notable both for being one of the first horror anthologies and for being kick ass. A mad ventriloquist sets the tone and is the archetypal version of the story. Ghost golfers, haunted mirrors, and even a festive Christmas tale all add up to a film for the whole family to huddle round the fire to. Classic Halloween Scene: When everything comes together.

Dead And Buried: A twisting video nasty with shocks, surprises, and some unexpected spins on the zombie sub genre. We deal with a number of violent murders (graphically shown) in a small town, mob justice, and Robert Englund. One that has slipped from the radar and should be brought kicking ad screaming into the modern living room. Classic Halloween Scene: A photographer meets a grisly end in the opening moments.

The Eyes Of Laura Mars: Probably the finest US Giallo film, this forgotten 1970s Carpenter penned thriller is full of twists and cheats, but it is the source material which get under the skin- a photographer whose violent images seem to lead to her witnessing the brutal slayings of people she knows. It’s a B-Movie idea but one which is played straight thanks to a tight script, great casting, and a clever director. It’s definitely a product of the 70s but if you can get your hands on it is sure to raise both nostalgic giggles and the hairs on your neck. Classic Halloween scene: When we see that the killer has come for Laura.

The Hitcher: One of the great underrated cult hits from the 80s, The Hitcher has scares, thrills, ambiguities, excellent pacing acting, and writing and some of the best car stunts ever filmed. Aside from the possible supernatural undertones this is a realistic tale of what could happen if you decide to be a good Samaritan on a dark, wet night. Rutger Hauer is the man here, commanding every scene he is in, but ably backed up by Leigh and Howell. There are gripping moments and that great hallmark of horror where you put yourself in the shaking boots of the tortured characters and ask what you would do, or wonder why the hell those on-screen are doing what they do. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire truck-girlfriend-snap scene is a wonderfully tense, brilliantly acted few minutes.

Henry; Portrait Of A Serial Killer: From one portrait of a maniac to another, but this time there are no stunts, no supernatural elements, no love, no humour, and certainly no happy endings. Henry is a serial killer, rapist, and well, that’s all you need to know. Any time you think there is a glimmer of humanity, it is ripped away by another cruel scene. McNaughton’s directing is assured, Rooker gives supreme portrayal, and the whole thing is so bleak, grim, and dirty that it will not make pleasant viewing- one to show for those ‘friends’ you don’t want to see again. Classic Halloween Scene: Although the entire film will leave you feeling dirty and ill, it’s that ‘pack your suitcase’ ending which really sticks in the memory.

Halloween V: Myers, Loomis, and Harris return after the shock ending of the previous film this is as direct a sequel as you’ll find in this series so could be considered as a double feature for your party. Ostensibly it’s the same old Michael vs teens with some sort of main girl chase plot thrown in, but thanks the performance of the young Harris, this is again raised above par. Yes there are plenty of kills to keep your group happy and just for a change we get another shock ending. We also interestingly, though perhaps pointlessly get further background for why Michael is the way he is which in itself provides some interesting discussion but at the end of the night this is 80s standard stabbing fare of higher quality than most.

The Hunger: Bowie is always scary on-screen, so that is reason enough to include any of his movies on an alternative horror movie marathon. The Hunger though is exclusively in the horror genre, but at the bottom is a sensual love story between a couple of aging vampires and a mortal sleep doctor. Like all good romance stories there is betrayal, hatred, sexual tension, and reliance. As Tony Scott’s first film it is highly stylized but lacks some finesse in the plot. Few vampire films have looked so good though, and few are so raw in their violent, honest depictions. Classic Halloween Scene: The Opening scene sets the tone of love, death, murder mingling together as we see how the couple stalk their prey.

The Innocents: Henry James’s The Turn Of The Screw is one of the most filmed novels of horror fiction, if not directly, then many elements of his story have been adapted. The Innocents is a fairly faithful re-telling of the story and one of the most successful. It may lack the punch which a modern audience is looking for, but if you like your horror filled with long corridors, big old houses, dark corners, and freaky children then this is for you. Thanks to a good lead performance from Kerr and an unsettling soundtrack, this still has its moments. Classic Halloween Scare: When we see the face of the antagonist appearing in the window- a stunt used in many films since but rarely bettered.

In The Mouth Of Madness: The nineties were not a great time for Carpenter- the undisputed Master of 70s and 80s horror seemed to hit a slump both critically and commercially. Never big with the critics, his fans deserted him as it appeared he was making more and more lackluster films- sequels, remakes, comedies. In The Mouth Of Madness is the best of his output this decade. Classic Halloween Scene: On the bus, look around when you wake up…

IT: It’s a long one, but a good one. If you plan to watch a movie a day rather than packing several into one party, then IT is a good choice, ideal for breaking up over a couple of days. Superbly acted by both young and adult casts and packed with some revolting moments which have stood the test of time so far, IT is the story of an evil force living in an all American town which rises up every 30 years to gorge on children. Our story focuses on a band of outcast kids who are being tormented by this creature which adults can’t see, and rather than waiting to be picked off they decide to go after it and destroy it. The story shows us in wonderfully nostalgic detail how the friends met and became a powerful group to face this evil, and how 30 years later when the disappearances start happening again, they reform to return home and finish what they started. Say what you will about that ending, but everything else here is a joy, from the music to the acting, to the adapted screenplay. This remains one of the best King adaptations. Classic Halloween Scene: Out of many, lets go for the rain-soaked opener with Georgie- once seen, never forgotten.

Jigoku: A visual feast, and one of the most extreme and well realised visions of Hell ever filmed. This isn’t the easiest to watch but is brimming with ideas and offers an opposing view to most Asian horror movies of today. Classic Halloween Scene: Any of the technicolour visions of hell are still nausiating and nightmare inducing.

Kwaidan: Another Japanese classic, this one ranking amongst the most highly regarded. The modern slow burning Asian horror movie pretty much stems from here, we have drawn out shots packed with tension, ghosts, long-haired freaks, and tonnes of foreboding. No horror marathon should be complete without an anthology tale. If you like J-Horror this should be top of the list. Classic Halloween Scene: All of the Snow Woman segment.

Land Of The Dead: Romero returns to the genre he invented and perfected with a big budget, all action zombie jamboree. The zombies have already seemingly overrun the world, while a group of survivors scratch out an existence in Pittsburgh. The rich live the high life whilst the poor live like rats on the streets, with some embarking outside the city on scavenger hunts. It’s a Rich vs Poor tale, but all the while the zombies are watching and learning. Good effects, good action, good gore, and a decent alternative to Romero’s earlier classics: Classic Halloween Scene: The Zombies coming out of the water and heading for the city is a cracker- you know someone’s about to have their intestinal cavity evacuated.

Misery: Yet another Stephen King tale, this one relying more on suspense and drama than gore and psychic weirdos. Almost like a Play, most of the action takes place between two characters in a couple of rooms although thanks to those actors, that story, and a strong director at the helm much of the horror is as immediate as a car crash. You know the story- writer gets hurt and is ‘rescued’ by biggest fan who just happens to be a murderous psychopath. It has held up well and neither the scares nor the plot have lost any of their power. Classic Halloween Scene: Its gots to be the sledgehammer scene.

Maniac Cop: This was always one which scared and intrigued me as a child- simply by looking at the VHS cover in my local store. Something about the name, the cover, the tagline, and the raft of sequels around it scared several bejeebuses out of me. I regard it more as an interesting twist on the action genre now but it’s still a nice one to pull out every so often as alternative Bruce film. Classic Halloween Scene: Maniac Cop pulls another victim through a window, 80s unstoppable killer style.

Phantasm: A series obsessed with death begins with the 1979 original featuring a young musicians investigations into a tonne of local deaths which leads him to the unsung horror icon The Tall Man. And his balls. Coscarelli’s film is inventive with its story, visuals, and gore, but it is the blending of fantasy and reality which makes us doubt what we see as real. Classic Halloween Scene: Entering the Mausoleum

Repulsion: The second Deneuve film on the list is arguably her finest moment as she plays a paranoid woman whose haunted memories and current paranoid delusions lead to withdrawal and murder. In career defining moments from Deneuve and Polanski, Replusion is the finest example of the psychological horror sub genre whose dream sequences are alarming and whose death scenes are still shocking. Classic Halloween Scene: The hand corridor.

Return Of The Living Dead: Another classic 80s mish mash featuring zombies, scares, laughs, punks, and BRAAAIIINNSS. Taking a more lighthearted approach, O’Bannon’s film follows most of the Romero rules but makes this a largely teen affair with the emphasis on fun. A big hit in the 80s the impact has been lessened by the many sequels. As horror comedies go though, this is at the top of the list. Classic Halloween Scene: A rainy graveyard, a girl, zombies.

Ring 2: A very good sequel although it does get bogged down with some science and explanation. With more jump scares than the first and another fingernail pulling finale, this sequel does justice to the original and expands on the mythology in often confusing ways. It’s great to see bit players in the first film take centre stage and even better to see most of the original cast make returns. The film largely focuses on Yoichi, the son of our heroes in the first film and his apparent psychic abilities. It seems his life is starting to mirror that of Sadako’s, and that the malevolent spirit has her eyes/mind set on him. Some great scares make this powerful viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: A traitorous journalist gets what’s coming to him.

Rosemary’s Baby: A good one for mum and dad to watch before bed, especially if either mum or dad has  been ‘away’ recently more often than they usually are. What could they be doing? Working late? Out with friends? Having an affair? No, the most likely answer is that they’ve joined a Satanic cult and are harvesting your ovaries for the purpose of bringing about hell on earth. Watching this now there are actually some very funny moments- the more I think about it, the more I think Polanski did these on purpose. Polanski knows all about cults and their deadly seductive power- here they are portrayed as benevolent, wealthy, influential, and unavoidable, setting in motion that great cliché that ‘everybody’s in on  it’. Farrow gives an unsteady performance which only begins to shine in the second half of the movie, while Cassavetes is his usually rampant, joking self. The old people next door are exactly as they should be. The dread, paranoia, and unease builds to the climax which starts off as unsettling, booms at the crib, and then becomes steadily more ridiculous. Thankfully the score helps to keep things grounded and nasty. Classic Halloween Scare: When Rosemary sees her baby for the first time. It’s all in the eyes.

The Ugly: Nothing says Halloween like murderous freaks butchering their way through an asylum. New Zealand continues its impressive horror output with this 1997 outing, which offers thrills both visceral and psychological. With lots of chat and lots of black blood, it’s an interesting alternative to throw out there to the more open-minded audience. Classic Halloween Scene: A few uncertain moments where Simon considers killing but doesn’t, but the best scene is likely when he is stalking his victim in a bathroom.

Zombie Flesh Eaters: Well, why not? If you can’t have some eye-gouging, zombie-chomping fun at Halloween, then you may as well be dead. This not-sequel to Dawn Of The Dead is a vastly inferior film, but still vastly enjoyable, and has enough gore, bad-acting, and boobs to yank guffaws from every drunken Halloween guest. And we even get the voodoo explanation for the outbreak, as well as seeing the various stages of zombiefication. Classic Halloween Scene: Any of the lovely kills of course, or the nicely dark ending, or of course the ever-popular splinter-to-eye scene. But for the sheer novelty of it, you have to appreciate the zombie versus shark scene.

Drag Me To Hell: Raimi returns to the genre where he first made his name, giving the fans an old-fashioned dose of scares, guts, and laughs. We see cultures collide as uppidy young Americans clash with decrepid old gypsy types, and a young woman has to contend with the fact that a curse on her head is growing more powerful, frightening, and deadly by the day. If she can’t lift the curse in a few days she will be dragged to hell. There are nice performances here but rather than the all out raucous joy of the Evil Dead series this is at times more camp, something which I cannot abide. There is an over-abundance of things going in or coming out of mouths, but the effects are wonderfully slimy and the sounds are booming enough to keep you on edge. It is the sudden bursts of energy which make this effective, all the while in the background that clock is steadily ticking down to the end. Classic Halloween Scene: Girl fight in a parking lot.

The 31 Days Of Halloween (For Kids)- Part 2

Ween’s-A-Coming

Alternatively:

The Abominable Dr Phibes: This is a nice bridge between the Monster movies of the pre- 60s era and the more intense stuff of the 70s onwards. Price is at his hammy best, chewing up the dialogue and relishing the inventive plot. It’s all about the kills and atmosphere here so older kids will appreciate the varying, often funny death scenes based on the biblical plagues. Some of it may be a bit too shocking for younger kids so make sure you are there if it gets too much. Classic Halloween Scene: The locust kill is hard to beat.

The Birds: Hitchcock’s thriller may not pack the punch that it used to for adults but thanks some great ideas, strong performances, and inspired set pieces it can still work for an early Halloween viewing. The kids will love it and it may make them think twice about chasing a flock of pigeons in the park. Classic Halloween Scene: Tippi Hedren goes into the attic when every person watching knows she shouldn’t.

The Blob: You could really go for either the 50s or 80s version as both are harmless products of their time, yet the story of some giant, unstoppable thing killing everything in its path retains its power to absorb the viewer. Both have aged horribly but therefore they make for interesting and humourous viewing for adults, but kids will be able to look past the funny hair as they wonder who will get eaten next. Obviously the modern version has the darker content with gore, swearing, and a more threatening nature. The 50s one though has Steve McQueen. Classic Halloween Scene: I’ll go for the kitchen sink scene in the 80s remake.

Bride Of Frankenstein: James Whales most famous masterpiece is one which has kept audiences scared for 7 decades now, thanks to its creaky old atmosphere and timeless creations. Although obviously watered down with each passing decade, this is still a good introduction to scary movies for kids who will learn that the evil which lurks in the shadows can sometimes come stumbling out to get you. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first learn that The Monster has survived the fire from the first films and begins another rampage, killing two characters in quick succession.

The Black Cat: Keeping with the oldies you can choose either the 30s original or 40s follow-up; both feature Legosi, and both are greats of the genre, although the 40s version of Poe’s story focuses more on humour while the original’s psychological and Satanic slant has ensured that it still has power today. Pairing Karloff and Legosi for the first time, your kids will be introduced to the first horror superstars and will get sucked in by the dark tale of rituals and creepy castles. Classic Halloween Scene: The basement ritual.

The Black Cat

The Fly: I wouldn’t advice letting your kids anywhere near Cronenberg’s vision- they’ll get to it eventually on their own time. For now you can let them learn everything they need to know about Science here (don’t mess with it). The story of a man splicing himself with a fly to create both a fly-man and a man-fly sounds utterly ridiculous but there are moments of brilliance here which make you forget all about the plot and watch the characters fight for survival. Classic Halloween Scene: For any spider haters out there, one scene here will stay in your head for weeks.

The Fog: One of the great campfire spook stories, The Fog is still sadly underrated. Carpenter creates a wonderful atmosphere here which suits the season perfectly; even better if you’re near the sea or if there is fog around. Classic Halloween Scene: The introduction with the wizened old sailor sets the tone for the rest of the show, and should set the tone for your night.

Ghost: Settle down, the kids won’t even remember the pottery scene, they’ll be too busy talking about and recovering from the scenes where the things come to claim the souls of the recently departed; the effects may be dated but the sounds, screams, and general idea remain terrifying. The girls and boys will both get wrapped up in the plot, whether it be the romance from beyond the grave or the revenge plot, while parents will revel in the genuine performances from all concerned. Classic Halloween Scene: When the spirits come for Willie.

Ghostbusters 2: The first film may have the more obvious jump scares, but the sequel has Vigo The Carpathian who is creepy just by being a static painting. Classic Halloween Scene: The Titanic returns.

House On Haunted Hill: Gimmick king William Castle teams up with Vincent Price to deliver a camp horror classic. In many ways the plot mirror’s Castle’s own style with Price’s weirdo millionaire offering obscene incentives to gain an audience. The story is a nice twist on the ‘stay overnight in a haunted house’ archetype and there are enough old fashioned scares to please the family. Classic Halloween Scene: The skeleton coming out of the acid- for your Halloween party buy your own skeleton and try a bit of Castle gimmickry yourself.

House On Haunted HIll

The Invisible Man: One of the best Universal Horror films, albeit one which has not had the same impact/amount of remakes as the more famous Monster films. Claude Rains ‘stars’ as a deranged scientist who goes on a rampage after discovering the key to invisibility. Strong effects and a creepy atmosphere ensure this is still strong watching today. Classic Halloween Scene: When the Doctor takes of his clothes and first reveals his gift to the locals. Ooh-er.

The Mummy: Keeping with the Universal theme, why not make it a double with Karl Freund’s dusty, creaking classic. Or you could go with the modern, action packed Brendan Fraser effort, though it is more of an adventure film than horror. Classic Halloween Scene: Imhotep’s awakening.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: I saw this at the cinema when it was first released, and quite a few families had to leave with their younger kids as it must have been too scary. In truth, I think it was the showing of Vincent at the start of the movie which freaked most out. The film itself pulls together everything festive about Halloween and Christmas and presents them with both childish wonder and Poe-esque darkness. The story, songs, and characters meld into an animation which kids of all ages should love. Classic Halloween Scene: When Oogie shows that he’s just a pile of bugs.

The Old Dark House: Few films have a more traditionally Halloween title, story and feel than James Whale’s early hit. The story of a group of travellers seeking shelter in a creepy mansion, the dark, rain covered, dreary setting, the mysterious residents, all create a superb, festive tone and the scares come thick and fast towards the end. Early jokes help to lighten the mood and make the film something of an oddity. Classic Halloween Scene: You just know that the deranged, locked up brother will escape

The Pit And The Pendulum: Arguably the best of the Corman/Poe productions, The Pit And The Pendulum has heaps of atmosphere, plenty of invention, and a top rate Price performance. Taking extreme liberties with the original tale, the film follows a man in search of his lost sister, a search which leads him to a foreboding mansion filled with torture devices, mystery, and strange characters. This one has plenty of shocks and a fair amount of genuine scares, so maybe keep the younger kids away. Classic Halloween Scene: When the ‘corpse’ of Elizabeth is first uncovered or the tense ending as the pendulum falls.

The Pit And The Pendulum

Stir Of Echoes: Continuing with the Richard Matheson stories, Stir Of Echoes is a supernatural thriller which stars Kevin Bacon as a man who gains the ability to experience visions of the past, and his son who is able to speak to the dead. This is a good one for older kids and while low on obvious jump scares, it has an interesting plot and is more like a detective story with ghost elements rather than an all out horror movie. Strong performances, ghostly visions, great script, and watching Bacon’s slow descent into madness all increase the chill factor. Classic Halloween Scene: When the son is talking to his mum about the babysitter and he goes a little odd.

The Thing From Another World: Carpenter’s remake is one of my favourite movies of all time and is the epitome of sci-fi/horror crossover. Due to it’s horrific nature though, it is not suitable for kids. For the same basic tale of paranoia, claustrophobia, and shadowy, alien evil, Howard Hawks’ original will do the job for kids at Halloween. The stark visuals, small cast, and threatening tone ensure this is still a classic. Classic Halloween Scene: When the team set The Thing on fire- great scare, awesome stunt work.

The Wolf Man: Lets return to The Universal Monsters once again and visit the hit werewolf tragedy. Although neither the first Werewolf film by Hollywood or Universal, this was the first of Chaney’s installments and is probably still the best. Again, Universal strike a perfect balance between focus on the Monster and the human side, all filmed in glorious B and W. Classic Halloween Scene: When Chaney attacks the Gravedigger, his first victim.

Wallace And Gromit- The Curse Of The Were Rabbit: After many succesful adventures (which are usually shown every Christmas in Britain) Wallace and Gromit enter the Halloween market with their take on werewolves, albeit changing to were-rabbits here. The film was a huge financial and critical success, picking up the Best Animated Film Oscar. Retaining the unique English charm of previous adventures, this is nevertheless accessible to all with its clever humour, fast pace, strong sight gags and set pieces, and strong voice cast. This is a gentle introduction to scares for the youngest children, but there is enough action and wit to please the whole family. Classic Halloween Scene: When the Reverend is attacked by the were-rabbit.

The Monster Squad: This is another one of those films whose VHS cover freaked me out when I was young. This is more of an action comedy with horror elements which succeeds due to yet another brilliant Shane Black script and because of the love for the genre it spins. It’s another quintessential 80s movie featuring a group of savvy kids on an adventure, this time battling famous monsters like Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man. This retains a cult following, but wasn’t a smash on Goonies/Gremlins/Stand By Me levels. It’s another strong introduction to horror for kids of all ages, with plenty of gentle scares and a lot of action and laughs. Classic Halloween Scene: Any scene with Dracula’s ‘Daughters’ has a high freak-out quota.

The Monster Squad

The Halloween Tree: What better introduction into the world of horror, and of Halloween, than this festive animated treat. Although lacking the big budget style of Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar type films, the film relies heavily on its script, backed up by a decent voice cast featuring Spock and writer Ray Bradbury. The story is set at Halloween, features a quartet of friends Trick Or Treating, and discusses the origins of Halloween and its traditions. Kids will love the spooky costumes and settings and older viewers will appreciate the Scooby Doo nods. Classic Halloween Scene: Nimoy’s poetic description of the tree.

The Sixth Sense: It may be too wordy and dramatic for younger kids, but the series of stand out scares will surely live on long in their imagination. The same should apply for older kids who will appreciate the plot, the performances, and the twists. Classic Halloween Scene: Under the table.

Pan’s Labyrinth: Frequently described as a fairy tale for adults, I don’t see why kids can’t get in on the act; the film is gorgeous and depicts an all too realistic nightmarish world which their young minds will thrive upon, while the story will teach them that sometimes it is the people around us we should fear as well as the demons. Classic Halloween Scene: The Banquet table chase.

Twilight Zone: The Movie: Spielberg, Landis, Dante, and Miller get together to make this homage to Rod Sterling’s classic series. Featuring 3 remakes and 1 original story, the focus is more on horror than the original series was, but the twists and ironic lessons are still in place. Each sequence is stronger than the one before, but each has its own charms and chills. Classic Halloween Scene: Miller’s final segment is a great remake of the original and packs some big punches (as well as having the always excellent John Lithgow).

Salem’s Lot: Well, hello. This is probably the first film which led me on the depraved path to horror geekdom. It scarred me at the time, but they best way I could deal with it was by telling all of my friends and neighbours about it. Through this catharsis I realised that this horror stuff was pretty cool and my friends and I began to seek out more scares. For people of a certain age, this one will still have an impact. As far as realistic vampire movies go, there are few to beat this nasty one. Classic Halloween Scene: There are tonnes to choose from which darkened my dreams for many a night, but it’s difficult to top the first- Ralphie Glick comes-a-scratching at the window of his brother.

Salem’s Lot

The Gate: This frequently bizarre horror movie has plenty of 80s hallmarks- cool creature effects, heavy metal music, evil books, kids battling demons etc etc. A group of friends inadvertently raise a host of demons and subsequently have to do battle with them. This is a darker version of The Lost Boys but this cult hit is still waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation. Why don’t they make horror films with kids anymore?Classic Halloween Scene: When Al almost gets pulled under the bed by monstrous arms- bed scare scenes always get me good, dagnammit.

Night Of The Living Dead: Few horror films have had such a long-lasting impact as Romero’s original. This is a must for all horror nuts and acts as a good gateway into the genre for viewers of any age; it’s smart, it’s terrifying, it’s brilliant. For younger kids this will be too much, but from around the age of 10 this is ideal Halloween viewing. The bleak setting, the black and white colouring adding to the tone, the isolated group dynamic which the imaginative child will link to their present situation, it’s all good. Spice things up by adding zombie make-up to the group. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire opening, from first second until Barb reaches the house.

Silent Hill: Perhaps a bit too complex and horrifying for younger viewers, this should satisfy younger teens. There are some spectacular visuals on display, the night scenes are powerful, and there are plenty of big scares on offer. It’s just a pity the plot is quite messy. The dark depiction of the town should make your kids ventures outside at Halloween more interesting as they question the noises and shadows surrounding them. Classic Halloween Scene: Pyramid Head’s first appearance.

Psycho: Why not break your children by subjecting them to the movie which broke the genre? Hitchcock’s mutha-luvin, lady-hatin, stabby creepfest has enough big scares involving scary houses, knives, and weirdos that all viewers will find something to be freaked out about. It’s one of the original behind-the-sofa watches, and 60 years on the power is still potent. Classic Halloween Scene: The shot of ‘mother’ strutting out of one of the upstairs rooms to claim another victim.

Tideland: Terry Gilliam’s massively polarizing film remains essentially unknown outside of the critical circle. For such a demented movie it is criminal that it made barely half a million at the box office- there is surely an audience out there for another twisted fairy tale, so it makes an ideal experiment for kids at a Halloween party. It may not make a lot of sense to them, but as is expected from a Gilliam film, the visuals are like nothing you will have experienced before with an invention sorely lacking in films of most genres today. Classic Halloween Scene: Any scene with Noah’s decaying corpse is both ghastly and tragic.

Tideland

The Omega Man: We end the list with another Matheson tale. Based roughly on his classic I Am Legend, this sees Chartlon Heston battling groovy hooded freaks rather than the terrifying and pitiful vampires of the novel. Heston was obviously a huge star and is able to carry the film on his own, but once the love interest is introduced things get messy. I’m still waiting on the definitive version of the story, but for an action packed siege film this has plenty of nice scares and no gore or swearing, so is suitable for all ages. Classic Halloween Scene: The wine cellar attack.

As always, feel free to leave your comments: what did you think of my list- are some of the films too extreme for kids? Which films would you choose for Halloween family viewing, and which films haunted your youth?

Hally Happoween!

Psycho- MAMMY! Billy got his arm stuck down the sink!

This film was based on one of Shakespeare’s ‘Psychological Horror Trilogy’, usually known collectively as “Ye Old Pant Soilers”. Now, I’ve studied brain studies, human behaviours, etc, and I have over a year’s experience in this area. Shakespeare’s three plays were quite primitive, and not very insightful (they were towards the end of his career and he had become a well known loon and bum pinching pest by this time. ‘Oh look, here comes Willy, swinging his namesake’ people would shout fondly). Psycho is probably the best of the three (Le Deux Idiottes and Weirdo being the other two), and features his usual spark for language and quips.

Albert Hitchcock adapts the novel into what has somehow become known as one of the scariest films of all times. Now, I like a scare as much as the next person who likes a scare as much, but not too much or I can’t sleep. You’d expect a film with such plaudits to have at least one scary point, or maybe a section involving terror, but this HAS NONE! I wasn’t scared et al! There were no ghosts, zombies, vampires, not even a werewolf. There was a mummy, but that was a HUGE let down, she wasn’t even wearing bandages. I know recent films like The Mummy have shown mummies to be made of sand and be bullet proof which is OK, but this thing was just silly. I had to laugh. Ha ha ha, ha HA HA HA. Heh heh heh. That’s the way I laughed. I admit that the house was quite spooky- I for one wouldn’t like to spend a night there- I wouldn’t be able to sleep! But Hitchcack didn’t exploit this opportunity. Anyway, now I’ll tell you about the story if you don’t already know. A man has a terrible secret- He is in his 30s and lives with his mummy. He can’t share this secret with anyone in case they laugh at him, and his mummy doesn’t like him talking to girls as she knows how they laugh. He owns a hotel, and is in contact with girls everyday, so preventing his secret is a daily struggle. One day a particularly pretty girl comes to stay, she is so pretty that his mind breaks and he goes on a rampage, killing all the people in the hotel one by one until only Miss Pretty remains. Foolishly though, she decides to hide in the house. Unfortunately Mummy wakes up, and she’s hungry! There are a few coolish moments here, but most are spoiled- when we finally see Mummy, her face is a disappointment, and John William’s score is nothing but the sound of cello tape being tugged and broken guitar strings being rubbed with sandpaper. I like that kind of music, but it isn’t used to great effect here. The most famous moment is the bath scene- Nigel Bateman watches one of the girls getting into the bath through a magic hole in the wall. We see what he sees, and it’s as if we are actually watching it. The strange thing is that we actually ARE watching it! It’s a bit of a mind bender, but then again it is Hitchclock. I must admit that this scene got me quite excited, and I was scared of my own mummy walking in! Anytime I get into the bath now, I get concerned that someone may be watching me, so I always get in fully clothed. Maybe the film has had a more profound effect on me than I first thought. Hmm. But no, Nigel enters with a knife and dispatches the girl and then dumps her in the lake. I was disappointed by this- I like scaries, but it wasn’t scary et al. Then again, I don’t like old black and white movies, or things based on Shakespeare so it was pretty much what I expected. There has never been a scary black and white film, and there never will be. Not until the oil and electricity runs out and we can’t use colour anymore!

Favourite scene: When Nigel is chasing the pretty girl through the basement, and she has put tar all over the steps so that his socks are pulled off. The following shot of Nigel’s tar covered feet, with speckled sock cloth hanging off as he creeps into he bedroom was quite upsetting.

The Infamous Shower Scene