The Dark Tower On The Big Screen?

Just a note that this post may contain minor spoilers for anyone has not yet read or completed the Dark Tower series. I won’t be going into in-depth detail on characters or plots, but some of my points will veer into minor spoiler territory.

If you’re a movie fan or a Stephen King fan, then I’m sure you’ll have heard the recent news that Sony and MRC have acquired the rights to Kings epic fantasy Western series. Most of us who have been following King for a while will no doubt be aware of the many similar pieces of news which have been published over the years. Only last year it seemed like it was finally going to happen, with Ron Howard putting himself forward as Director, Akiva Goldsmith writing a draft script, and they put together a plan almost as ambitious as the series itself – multiple movies and an accompanying TV series to ensure the screen adaptation remained as faithful as possible to what Sai King put on paper. For most fans it seemed like a dream come true, with daily discussions on hopes and fears being posted on forums and blogs, and over time various A-list actors began being attached to the series. But it all fell apart.

It’s hardly surprising. Aside from the sheer scope of the series, and the budgets that would be involved, there are many factors involved in creating this project. Sure, some lazy company could make a couple of movies loosely based on a gunslinger chasing a man in black through a desert, and through various worlds in search of The Dark Tower, but what would be the point? Every fan has a will they/won’t they/can they/should they relationship with the series. King fans are a ravenous, faithful bunch, and even such heralded adaptations as The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand By Me have their detractors. For some The Dark Tower is the Holy Grail, and many fans are waiting for an adaptation to fall foul of dubious script decisions, removals and/or additions of plot points. When considering ‘will they’ or ‘won’t they’, to me it seems like the answer is an inevitable yes.

Almost everything King has written has made it to screen in some shape or form, with The Dark Tower being the ever more conspicuous gap. Even though King’s films are not always profitable, even though they are rarely both critically and commercially well received, it has never stopped people making and releasing them. Hollywood is so out of ideas that it will turn to what it knows best – big names, remakes, and sequels. In horror there is no bigger name than King, and already many of his previous screen adaptations are being remade. The flip side of this point is that Hollywood hates to take a gamble, and The Dark Tower could end up being a costly flop. Possibly the idea of movies could be abandoned altogether, and the series as a whole could be translated to the small screen instead. Shows such as Under The Dome and Haven appear to be doing well, and Game Of Thrones has proven that the viewer is willing to follow a complex fantasy series with a massive cast of characters – as long as it’s done right, and with quality. TV is in a different place than in previous decades, pulling in the finest writers and actors and budgets – get the right people involved and the rest should follow naturally.

That takes me to ‘can they’? This may be the most complex question. What approach do you take, how do you get a cast and crew to commit to something so huge – it’s a series that will take up a considerable chunk of an actor/director/writer’s life, and there are iconic characters which are sure to stick with an actor for the rest of their life and beyond. Where do you draw the line between what is considered for a movie, and what for TV? What happens if the first movie is a flop? How do you adequately explain Roland’s determination to get to the Tower, how do you cover all of the important imagery which permeates each story? How do you convey The Tower as the apex of all worlds without showing those worlds, and their tie-in stories and characters? How do you film an insane, riddle-loving bullet train racing through a Wasteland towards its own destruction? How do you deal with the meta nature of the last few books? How do you film sex in A Speaking Demon ring… what the hell is a Speaking Demon ring? Every few pages of each book there will be something problematic for even the greatest writer and director. The simple answer is that the best writers and directors simply make things work. Like magicians or silver-tongued liars, they can convince us of anything… but it will never be easy. Can they do it? Ultimately, yes. I have no doubt that a dedicated group could make this a seminal moment in Televison and Film history; I have no doubt that a respectful company could craft something entertaining. However, I am fully aware that it could be a resounding disaster.

And so my final question, and the most vague and subjective of the bunch – should they do it? I’m not a snob. As I sit writing this on my Kindle, I have a bottle of Estrella to my left, and a plate of half-eaten cottage pie to my right. My point is that I’m just a normal fanboy. King has been a massive influence of my life in many ways, a constant nightly whisper in my ear, and a source of entertainment and inspiration since my childhood. I’ve been reading King since I was 10, possibly younger, although I was a late comer to The Dark Tower, tackling it (ironically) for the first time when I was 19. There are snobs though… movie snobs, critical snobs, and alas, even King snobs. Most of the time I know that those guys will never be pleased, so there’s little point in even considering them. It’s us Constant Readers that are the biggest concern. I’m a member of several online King and Dark Tower fan groups, and there is rarely a standard consensus on even the simplest issue concerning The Dark Tower and a possible screen outing, from casting choices to favourite book or character. Once again though, the simplest answer is that it will be impossible to please everyone all of the time. Hell, we even criticise King for certain moments in the series, so what chance will a movie have? Therefore, the best option is to respectfully ignore such opinions and just go make it. Most of us want to see it, many of us will be disappointed no matter how great it is, but there’s that chance, that hope that it could be something brilliant.

As for me, anyone who knows me knows I often speak in highly hyperbolic ways – I feel The Dark Tower is the single greatest piece of art of the 20th Century. The books have been written over the span of decades, and they relate to almost all of the output of the most prolific and important writer of the last hundred years or so. I want to see this series being made, and of course I want to see it be good, and successful. To finish up I’m going to unleash my inner fanboy and explain what I would love to see for the series. I’m not going to mention casting choices, though I do think underused actors such as Ben Foster, Josh Zuckerman, Michael Shannon, and Michael Pitt should be considered. What I would love the most is if the series branched out to encompass the major tie in novels and short stories. Similar to what Marvel has been doing with The Avengers, SHIELD, Thor, Captain America etc etc – they have created a massive living breathing world with familiar cast members crossing over from one film to the next. Every year there is at least one blockbuster related to the overall series, and although each acts as a standalone, there are clear ties to other films and characters which both serve the world, serve the plot, and act as fan service as the nerds recognise some otherwise throwaway comment which relates to some event in a previous or upcoming moment. This is what I would love to see with King’s work – films with ties to The Dark Tower being made as standalones, but like the books, having enough connections to The Dark Tower itself. Actors passing over, character names and imagery dropped, things as minor as a painting of Roland and the Tower in The Mist, up to the true tie ins such as Salem’s Lot, Hearts In Atlantis, Insomnia etc. One of the most important lines in the series is ‘There are other worlds than these’, and what better way to hype up the importance of the quest for The Tower, by having all of these other films and characters directly reference it?

Below I’ll list the books I’d love to see being linked to The Dark Tower series as per the books, but note that I’m aware many of the below are already in the works and the rights to each will cause obvious conflicts. I haven’t read everything yet by King, so there may be some tie-ins I’ve missed. Let me know in the comments what your hopes and fears for the series are, and what you would love to see on screen. Do you have any preferred actors for Roland and his Ka-Tet? Which directors are worthy of the series and could give a movie their own unique vision?

Salem’s Lot: This has seen a couple of mini-series (and a sequel) already, but the world loves vampires, right? The obvious tie-in is Father Callahan, a figure only briefly seen in Tobe Hooper’s adaptation, but given more weight in the Rob Lowe version. A mini series on Salem’s Lot would be cool, given that it deals with the total destruction of the town, and we could also see the wraparound short story prequel and sequel (Jerusalem’s Lot and One For The Road) filmed for added depth. Could we tie in Little Sister Of Eluria here too?

The Stand: The original mini-series is one of my favourite shows/movies ever, even with Molly Ringwold. Although a movie is already in the works, given that it deals with Mr Flagg himself, it’s a chance to have a major actor crossover and explanation of the many beams and levels leading to The Tower. An excellent story on its own, we would get to learn more about Flagg, including the fact that he just won’t go away.

The Talisman/Black House/Sequel: Although King and Straub have dropped hints of a third Jack novel, it hasn’t been written yet. Fans have been crying out for an adaptation for years now, and the first two books alone would make for a stellar movie or TV series. Once again, there are many connections which would answer questions posed in The Dark Tower, but each book stands alone brilliantly.

It: Again, an existing mini-series that I hold dear to my heart, and one which is getting the remake treatment. We could use this opportunity to go into a little more detail about Beams, Guardians, and the fear/emotion sucking demons which inhabit the many worlds.

 The Eyes Of The Dragon: Well, why not. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent child/teen oriented fantasy story which is equally suitable for adults. I’d love to see this being handled in the same way as many of the 80s classics by masters such as Richard Donner, Stephen Spielberg, and Joe Dante. It’s Flagg again, and we may meet a few familiar faces along the way.

Insomnia: A terrific book, but one that doesn’t exactly have the dollar sign written all over it. Then again, if it was handled in the style of Cocoon, but with King’s darkness thrown in, it could be a sleeper hit. There’s a whole world of older actors out there, many of which would relish some of the roles encountered in these pages. There is of course the large tie-in of Patrick Danville and The Crimson King himself which would shock and impress those who haven’t read the books.

Desperation/The Regulators: Desperation has seen the screen treatment already, and The Regulators is ripe for social commentary given a lot of the suburban fear and paranoia swirling around the world at the moment. These have the potential for good movies on their own merits, and from a connection perspective we can have the villains using certain words/langauge from Roland’s world, although this would be more difficult to recognise on screen than on paper.

Hearts In Atlantis: The screen adaptation was fine, but left much of the violence and Tower related stuff out. Once again we have a fairly major character crossover, and there’s the potential of confusing matters by having the same actor who plays Jake starring as Bobby from Hearts.

Everything’s Eventual: Aside from Eluria, which should be covered in the main series somewhere, we could have the title story too due to another character crossover. Due to the short length, Dinky’s story could be incorporated into another film as a sub plot.

Cell: Although light in direct connections, there could easily be inserted references and hints that the evil force involved could be siding with The Crimson King.

Under The Dome: Not many connections again, but as this show is already up and running, and going in its own direction from the novel, they could easily drop some Tower references.

Apologies for the lengthy post – hopefully Tower Junkies will find something useful or even entertaining here. Just before I leave, as I was writing the connections, it struck me that a standalone TV series could be created -not as a specific series for one of the DT books, but a unique series based on the tie-in novels, and possibly featuring the main DT players. This could be a Hammer’s House Of Horrors style show with a self-contained episode each time which links to DT or one of the stories above, or have a more serialized approach like SHIELD with both currently existing King stories and characters as above making appearances, but also newly written unique stories – an ongoing struggle against Low Men, vampires, demons, the Crimson King and featuring the recruiting of important Breakers, warriors, and some of the many many lesser characters of the DT books and their connected stories. A man can dream…

The 31 Days Of Halloween (Part 1)

Not Turnips

Aah, Halloween- the most wonderful time of the year. When even those who wouldn’t usually subject themselves to all manner of terrors decide to watch the odd scary movie or 2. Unfortunately for me, this part of the Spac Hole which I currently inhabit does not indulge in the season as seriously and joyfully as other places, so I have always felt a little deprived. Sure, we had some parties, sure we threw fireworks at Gerry’s house, and yes we would watch whatever limited choice of movies were on over the few days but compared to other places (particularly you festive folks in the US) it just didn’t seem as much damn fun. In my mind, the whole month of October should be a vessel for Halloween activities, from dressing up to trick or treating, to watching scary movies and hiding under the beds of people you don’t know with a chainsaw.

To that end I have helpfully made a few lists of classic horror movies which sould chill you to the bone, and add to the singular atmosphere of this most evil time of the year. This list of 31 movies was created so that you can split the fun over the entire month (alternatively you could wait until closer to the day and have a few marathon sessions) and let yourself tremble ever so slightly in the supposed safety of your own home. Just be sure to lock your doors and windows, close the curtains, and tuck up the kids tightly in bed (checking underneath and in closets for me) before turning off the lights. Maybe check those locks once more, you can never be too sure or too safe. Oh, what’s that? That noise from outside? I wouldn’t worry, probably just the wind. By all means go out and check, but that would mean going into the basement to find batteries for your torch. Really, just relax and watch the film, your paranoia can’t hurt you. The thing outside, yeah- it could hurt you. But you locked the doors, right?

These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. This is not meant to be a list of the best or even my favourite horror movies (though I love them all) but rather I feel these offer something of the atmosphere of Halloween. Enjoy.

An American Werewolf in London: This one has it all- gore, jump scares, atmosphere, action, humour, and a great plot with likeable characters. WereWolves, like Vampires have taken a rather glossy beating recently. This proves that you can wrap up a love story with horror without being teeny, without being sparkly, without being demeaning to viewers with brains. Classic Halloween scene: The Nazi section.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Wes Craven, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund- lovely ingredients for a tasty Halloween Pie. This is the original and best, before the horrific character of Freddy (Here just Fred) became a snuggleable, bantering chum. What could be better for Halloween than scaring yourself so badly that you can’t sleep- knowing that something terrible may be waiting for you in your dreams. A story with more depth than it gets credit for, dealing with the Craven standard of ill-advised parenting and how the children have to cope with the mistakes of the elders, this is full of genius set pieces and bloody action. Classic Halloween Scene: Nancy gets a bloody post coital surprise- but not what you’d expect. And did they say she was 14??

Alien: Often described as Halloween in space, or a Haunted House in Space, Alien deals with our fears of isolation, of being trapped, of being in s situation way beyond our control and way above our heads. Remove the alien, remove the setting, and this could be any slasher movie from the time. However, that would be taking away the fun, the fear, the atmosphere, and the ingenuity. This is dark, claustrophobic stuff, and the perfect film for Halloween to make you look out the windows into pitch darkness and wonder if something is staring back. Classic Halloween Scene: Dallas goes hunting, but realizes too late that he is the prey.

The Blair Witch Project: Similar to Alien this deals with our fears of isolation and the un-experienced unknown, but spices things up with issues of abandonment, paranoia, and things that go bump in the woods. A classic survival tale for city folk poking their ill-prepared noses where they don’t belong, Blair Witch succeeded because of it’s innovative filming and marketing techniques. It still succeeds today amongst a rubbish tip of similar films because the plot is solid, the acting is real, the rising tension and fear played out between the characters feels exactly like how we would react, the growing dread is almost unrivalled, and the climax is absolutely chilling. Classic Halloween Scene: The search for Josh in the freakshow house at the end will get you tingling and gripping the seat every time.

Creepshow: Halloween isn’t just about traumatizing each other, it’s also about good old fashioned camp-fire tales to warm the heart and soul. This is cheesy at times, but never boring or irritating, it feels nostalgic both for children of the 80s and of the 50-60s. The tales are brief, well written and acted, the effects are still top-notch with an earthy feel, and the scares are tense and fun. Classic Halloween Scene: Trying to convince your abusive wife to enter a box where a monster lives has never looked so enjoyable.

Creepshow

Candyman: Both Cliver Barker and Tony Todd are vital ingredients in any scare-fest- put them together and you’d better have a few spare pairs of pants lying around. An intellegent, sexy, city based horror which merges old world supernatural fears with the modern world of big business, CSI policework, snooping journalists, and end of the century hairdos. Barker at his height was a fountain of invention, bringing a freshness to the genre which made everyone else’s ideas look like old creaky mummy movies. Candyman merges urban myths with ancient folklore, mysticism with science, gore and shocks with beauty and lyricism. Todd’s presence is as powerful as any of the classic monsters, while Madsen gives a refreshing twist on the final girl character. Classic Halloween Scene: Hook through the chest.

Carrie: One for the teens this, though it may have aged some due to being so authentically 70s, the scares and the themes of abuse, loneliness, bullying, and separation are no less relevant or universal today. The story is simple but pumped up by ideas of religion, extremism, and psychotic mummies (not those ones). The acting by the main players is superb, there is something bleak about the whole sordid business, and we manage both to sympathize with and be scared by Carrie. And wish we had her gift. De Palma twists the tension knobs until they break off, though some of the intrusive camera guff is laughable now. Classic Halloween Scene: Everything between the bucket dropping and the school burning.

Child’s Play: The evil doll is a well worn sub genre of horror, but one which has very few, if any, classics. Child’s Play is amongst the best, and the series is certainly the most notorious. Like many 80s horrors, the series was unfairly derided for it’s supposed impact on our youth with some people going so far as blaming it for some grisly murders. As with most of these series, the quality decreased as the sequels increased, but the original remains surprisingly effective given the silly subject matter. If you don’t know the story- multi murdering maniac transfers his soul into a popular doll moments before his death, doll is picked up by young boy, doll begins murderous rampage again until it realises that it needs to sacrifice the boy to become human again. There are sure to be some laughs, some screams of just kick him in the balls and throw hm out the window!’, but maybe a few jumps too. Classic Halloween Scene: Chucky terrorizes the baby-sitter and we all jump when the phone rings.

Dawn Of The Dead: There is something quite special which you may not know about Dawn. If you watch it at Dawn- depending on where you live etc, try to time it where the film will just be ending as the sunrises. Then go for a walk immediately. It’s likely there won’t be many people around. The ones you will see will probably be shambling. The bleak nature of the film rarely hits harder than in these moments and you will surely look around yourself and feel a stark aura fill your being. There are few things more terrifying than waking up to an otherwise beautiful day and not wanting to be any part of it. Classic Halloween Scene: So many to choose from, from funny, to scary, to bleak, but I’ll go for the truck parking section as we realize that paradise can quickly become hell, and a haven can suddenly become a tomb.

Day Of The Dead: Surely the most grim of all the DEAD films, this is perfect Halloween viewing, not only because of the exquisite gore and effects. Claustrophobia and paranoia again play a large part, and you can’t help wondering why all these psychopaths keep getting in the way of your enjoyable apocalypse. Most people would be happily looting and whiling away their days watching DVDs, playing games, reading books, getting drunk, but there always has to be a crazy doctor or maniacal military group to spoil your good times. Halloween is all about good times, stick this on to reap the benefits. Classic Scene: When the Zombies step on the lift and it begins moving downwards- you just know all hell is about to break loose.

Day Of The Dead

Dracula (30s): A classic to chill the bones of all comers, this still has the ability to… worry those who haven’t seen it before. A film that’s almost a hundred years old- how could that possibly be scary? Well, there’s a reason why this is still considered the best version. Classic Halloween Scene: When Harker first meets The Count.

The Exorcist: Now we get into the truly demanding territory. A rarity in the genre, The Exorcist was a massive financial and critical hit upon release, pampered with awards and then…uh, banned. It may not be as hard-hitting these days, but it’s still rough, creepy stuff. Plus it is played extremely coldly, and without a hint of humour. This is as bleak as horror gets, and even the supposed happy ending leaves us with a bitter, fearful taste. Excellent performances, bewildering jump scares, and freaky moments all conspire to chill the soul and ensure you cuddle up to your beloved in bed. Classic Halloween Scene: Spider walk.

The Evil Dead: This was mostly played for scares over the played for laughs sequel, and while there is humour here, the main focus is on sudden frights and wonderful, innovative camera techniques. You’ll have fun watching this one as each character gets picked off, comes back, and gets picked off again. Classic Halloween Scene: Cheryl at the window, not in the cupboard.

Friday The 13th: One of the original slashers and one of the most successful, this one has plenty of ideas and violence, and staples of the sub genre which have now become clichés. It has dated, it is silly and quite tame, but it was made with love and ambition and freshness. The ending is shocking, the performances are ok, and there isn’t a hockey mask in sight. Classic Halloween Scene: Arrow through the neck- don’t have sex kids.

Final Destination: Another rarity- an inspired modern horror film with great ideas which blends humour and genuine frights. We have a series of characters who rather than getting picked off one by one in an uncaring fashion, are shown to be real kids with real lives, fears, and concerns- and then they are picked off one by one in increasingly exciting, tense, and innovative ways. A film which deals with our fear of death, of inevitability succeeds on every level. Classic Halloween Scene: During a heated discussion in his car, one reckless character refuses to accept that his life is pre-destined or that death is stalking his every move. To prove the point he parks his car on train tracks with his friends as the train hurtles towards them. He soon realizes he was wrong.

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.

The Fog

Hellraiser: Another British one now, offering something different from our American cousins. We have sex, violence, lots of gore, and some S&M themed fun. This is gritty in an Eastenders sort of way- you don’t really want to look or have anything to do with these characters. Classic Halloween Scene: When Kirsty first meets the Cenobites- what is the finger in the mouth about?

Halloween: What more can I say? This is the movie which should be watched every Halloween- not only is it a genuine classic of the genre and a kick-ass movie no matter which way you look at it, it drips with and evokes that special Seasonal feeling that few things do. Make this the highlight of your night. After you’ve cut some throats. Classic Halloween Scene: Young Laurie runs screaming down her street being chased by a murderous maniac. She clambers to the front door of a neighbour, knocks and begs for help. A light is turned on. Then switched off. Did they think it was just kids messing around? Were they too afraid to help? Welcome To America folks.

Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (70s): Some us like to dress up at Halloween as ghosts, vampires, or our favourite horror movie characters. Some people go further and pretend to be the person that the costume depicts. This definitive version of Bodysnatchers takes the idea of hiding behind a costume to dramatic and terrifying extremes- what if person next to you on the bus, your neighbour, your friend, your wife, or child was no longer the person they once were? In fact, what if some alien creature had taken their body as host and was walking around as an imperfect mockery of that person’s life? What if this alien race had designs on all your friends and everyone you’ve ever known, and what if you were next? This chilling view of a world snatched away from under our noses is all about loss of identity and mistrust, and makes for unsettling Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: The final moments. I’ll say no more.

Night Of The Living Dead: A staple of midnight viewing, the surrounding darkness makes the black and white all the more stark and cold; There are no easy answers or happy endings here. If you are watching this with a group of people, ask yourself which ones you would trust in a life/death situation. If your cosy home was surrounded suddenly by thousands of undead, who amongst you would come out as leader? Would you sit back, would you make decisions, would you think only of yourself or would you think of the safety of the group? Either way, you’re bound to get a chewing. Classic Halloween Scene: They’re coming to get you, Barbara.

Night Of The Living Dead

The Omen: So far we don’t trust our neighbours and friends, but what if you thought your son was the Antichrist? The Omen is an apocalyptic film in more than one way and is filled with strong performances, gripping and bloody deaths, and a memorable, frightening score. Music is often pivotal in horror movies, and as you clamber the stairs to bed after this, with infernal monks chanting obscenities in your head, that corner of darkness you can’t quite see clearly may fill with unspeakable evil more readily. Classic Halloween Scene: Damian decides to ride his bike.

Prince Of Darkness:  I find this to be Carpenter’s most underrated film mostly because it is awesome and should be mentioned in the same breath as Halloween and The Thing. Sure the plot is messed up with it’s evil green satanic liquid taking over zombies and bums mixed with time-travelling dream messages and psych jargon, but seriously it is awesome. It has more effective jump scares than any of his other shows and there is a creeping sense of dread and atmosphere throughout. In many ways it is classic Carpenter- a group of different thrown together in a building who have to team together or fall apart and stand against an overpowering threatening external force. It is a siege movie, it is clever for the genre though at times it doesn’t know what genre it wants to be. I think that was part of the fun though- like Big Trouble In Little China it is more than just it’s labels instead transcending notions of what it should or shouldn’t be, and is well ahead of it’s time. Classic Halloween Scene: The final survivors holding up behind some furniture while one of the crazies admires himself in a mirror with a large blade.

Ring: Please please please watch the Japanese version, not the abomination that is the remake. Sure the remake has plenty of jump moments, but it also has a deer on a boat, Brian Cox in a bath, and a director who decides it would be clever to cut away from the movie’s most important scene for the sake of a car chase. The original has Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada and if that isn’t enough of a recommendation then please remove thine eyes from mine page post haste. Watch this deep into the night, possibly as the last film, then play the lovely game of phone your friend once they have left to terrify them. Unfortunately the ideas first seen here have been so over-used that these games have become diluted, but the film still has an unflinching power. Not a drop of blood is shed, there are no knives, guns, or people bursting in from behind doors with a loud noise- this is the best horror film of the nineties and goes against everything that decade threw at us. And it’s a damn good story with excellent performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Sadako. TV. Sleep tight.

Scream: The second best horror movie of the nineties is the stuff of parties. By know everyone should have seen it, but many of you will have forgotten it and how good it still is. Plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and action as well as a script the quality of which horror movies rarely get. And my beloved Neve Campbell is in it. Few horror films provide this much entertainment whilst still being scary, funny, and clever. The nods to horror movies will keep the nerds amongst your bunch happy and you can shout out when you spot a reference. Classic Halloween Scene: The final house chase scene as Neve doesn’t know where to run or who to trust.

The Shining: It’s rare for most people to get snow at Halloween, even more rare to be completely snowed in and surrounded. Try replacing the notion of snow with rain or darkness- would you want to go wandering outside if it was completely dark or hammering down? Anyway, this is another film which plays on isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. It’s probably best not to watch this one as a cosy night in flick with your little family- you’ll start wondering what the hell is going through each other’s minds. This is a giant of the genre with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of unsettling moments which deserves to be menti0ned at any Horror Movie Marathon. Classic Halloween Scene: Danny was warned not to go in that room. Prepare to be scared when Daddy goes looking too.

Silence Of The Lambs: The critic’s choice. Don’t invite any critics to your party as they will moan, groan, bore your girlfriends, and likely drink all your wine. There should be wine. This is nasty stuff from start to end as poor Jodie Foster tries to solve a murder whilst hiding her own fears from the unlikely Terminator Anthony Hopkins. This is better suited to smaller group viewing as it isn’t exactly cheery, blood n guts fun but it does the job when you’re on your own. Classic Halloween Scene: Anything with Bill really.

The Thing: In many ways the ultimate John Carpenter film, the ultimate macho man fest, and the number 1 examination of the paranoia which creeps into people during periods of isolation. The effects here still blow me away and they are only part of a long list of quality to describe this film- look at the cast, the performances, the music, the scares, the cinematography, and the way Carpenter drags the tension out of every shot until we don’t know who has been infected and who hasn’t. Great action adds to the great scares, but the special effects and story are kings here. Classic Halloween Scene: When the survivors are tied to chairs and Mac goes through each one by one to test if any are not human. Genius.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: This one still hurts today- it’s just so damn grim, dirty, and repulsive as to make the horror timeless. Sure they scares may be cliché now and the gore is almost non-existent, but the low down atmosphere, the miniscule budget, and the amateur (but good) performances all conspire to make this uncomfortable watching. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who still think that there could be a family like this in their town, just as much as I’m sure that there probably are still families or people like this in the world- maybe not in your town, but possibly the next one over. And chainsaws are awfully easy to come by these days. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire dinner scene. Truly horrific, the use of sound and various camera techniques make this one of the most intense few minutes in any horror movie.

28 Days Later: A modern classic, and one of the few great British horror movies of the last few decades. Taking riffs from Romero and King this is a post apocalyptic survivalist’s wet nightmare. Empty streets, shops to loot, cars to steal- all great if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of psychopaths charging towards you in search of your blood. This is the 21st century folks, and zombies ain’t got time to amble and stumble about- these are confident, successful, modern big business, stepping up to the plate, corporate bull-shitting zombies, and they won’t take closing a door in their face for an answer. If you can’t run fast, you’re screwed. And just to make things Mega Man 9 difficult- these fiends don’t even have to bite you to kill/convert you- one drop of their blood/saliva entering your body, through a gash, a scratch, a kiss, or a tear is enough it recruit you. And sheesh! They don’t even give you time to grieve for your fallen comrade- within seconds of getting exposed, your best friend will be diving for your jugular too. My advice- kill everyone you see and hide under a pile of coats till it all goes away. Classic Halloween Scene: An abandoned car sitting in the middle of an abandoned London- nothing to fear but technology.

The Wicker Man: Nothing to fear but religion. Look closely enough and all religions begin to look like cults; they all have a figurehead, the followers worship the figurehead unquestionably and offer prayers, thanks, songs, and sacrifices, there are certain rituals usually borne of centuries long since dusted, those involved are usually inviting to outsiders in person, but have a secret hatred, anger, or issue against them once backs are turned. So we have The Wicker Man, possibly the best British Horror Film of the whole sorry lot. Aah, the confusion of two worlds colliding as we watch a upstanding lawman and guardian of his own archaic faith fall victim ever so slowly to a cult even more decrepit than his own. He knows something terrible is amiss, but it isn’t until his toes turn to cinders that he realizes his fate was sealed the second his feet touched the land. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first see Mr Straw and realize our hero’s fate.

Paranormal Activity: Proof not only that horror movies still have the power to scare, entertain, and bring in the mega bucks, proof not only that a good story well executed can be more than a match for buckets of blood, but also proves that in this day and age of $200 million dollar movies that a small group with talent, an idea, and a few months worth of average salary can make a great movie. Romero did it in the 60s, Carpenter did it in the seventies, Raimi in the 80s, Myrick and Sanchez in the 90s, and now Oren Peli has continued the tradition. Using every trick in the book he has made a classic pastiche of the genre and a thrill ride akin to running naked through a field of land mines. The setting of the movie is perfect for Halloween viewing- primarily it is set in the home and most of the scares happen at night- the film invades you with a sense that you aren’t safe in your own house and makes you take a second or third glance at that cup that you swore you set on the table which now sits on the ground. Likely to lose its impact with subsequent viewings this is best served to people who haven’t seen it. The scares (while you sense them coming) are unexpected and rewarding and while the characters are painfully annoying, you’ll still soil your drawers. Classic Halloween Scene: NEVER leave your foot hanging out of bed.

Trick R Treat: Anthology movies have had their heyday- we had a succession of British hits in the 70s, then a slew of bloodier efforts in the 80s. Then for 20 years anthology fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about aside from a few cheap efforts (although Asia did produce some great ones at the turn of the century). Trick R Treat is good enough to kick start a revolution in the genre, or at least it would have been had it been released in any cinemas. Straight to DVD (yet with a decent budget and big name cast) Trick R Treat features four shorts linked by an over-arcing plot and is to Halloween what presents are to Christmas. This one is destined to be shown and loved every Halloween for years to come, possibly as a double header with Carpenter’s classic. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy opener sets the tone for the movie and features everything we love about the season, dripping with atmosphere, and settling us in for a bumpy ride.

Trick R Treat

Please leave your comments and suggestions for films you think are best viewed at Halloween, and let us know which films terrified you when you were growing up at this time of year.

Maximum Overdrive: It Shook Me All Night Long- with scarinessness!

This is one of THE great films of the 80s, featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Emilio Sheen, Lisa Simpson, and Stevie-Nix-King head up the terrific cast in this brutal, haunting, and often sad story of man versus machine set in the future (about 2 weeks I think). Based on one of King’s most famous works- Cujo, the film follows a weekend in the lives of a bunch of Hicks who are surrounded, tormented, and murdered by their favourite household appliances- microwaves, TVs, Big Blue Pleasure Devices, chair lifts, and of course staples. The main threat though comes from their cars, their motorbikes, their trucks, vans, and hover crafts. They all get stranded in a diner off Route 66, and in classic Night Of Lovely Dead style they argue and fight amongst themselves whilst trying to solve the main problem and escape the nightmare in one or three pieces.

Emil Esteves is a loner, a truck driver who just happens to pull into the diner for a burger and a litre of coffee, and perhaps to make a deposit in the traps. He meets an assortment of locals, weirdos, and workers but soon after all Hades breaks loose. One customer is in trap 1, but when he tries to flush it gurgles speech at him. ‘Honey, this la-vor-a-tory just called called me an ass hole!’ he cries. It retaliates further by spewing forth what he had previously spewed forth in a glorious twist of irony. Soon people are being stabbed, crushed, decapitated, and victimised. This film has what idiots call the likability factor. In other words- you can like it. There isn’t much of a story after the first 12 minutes as the final hour is just scenes of carnage accompanied by music by metal band ABBA. Occasionally Yardon Smith (From the Simpson Family programme) shrieks something unintelligibly which would usually make me want to cut out my eyes and replace them with some sort of larvae, but here it serves to increase the tension. With superb actings throughout, lots of killings, and plenty of naked action, this is one of the all time must sees.

Best Scene: When that weirdo looking freak (whoever he is he should never be allowed near another film again!) at the start trying to reason with a cash machine but it keeps calling him a twatbag!

Maximum Overdrive

The Running Man: On yer marks, set, Run!

Yeah! Everyone knows Arnie is the greetest Acting Star ever and everyone one of his films (except don’t throw mummy off the train) is a classic. Based on a Steve Kingsly album this film sees Arnie entered into a popular game in the future. Blockbusters? Nope. This game is of life and death, and of running and fighting. The contestants (including Arnie’s girlfriend Amber and two of his mates) are claimed to be criminals, and the game show is designed as punishment for criminals. They have to enter an underground city and get from one end to the other without being killed, but there are lots of obstacles in their way, such as Skipping Stones, Single Roller, and Bridge Ball. As well as these there are gladiators chasing them- skilled fighters with special powers- one is a tough ice hockey player, one shoots fire, one shoots lightening etc. Normally this would be a good way to treat criminals, and teach them not to steal groceries anymore, but we know that Arnie et al have been framed. There is lots of action. There is lots of humour:

Mic: Mr. Spock, you have the com. Underground Tech: Ay aye, Lord Vader.

And lots of classic Arnie one liners such as :

Ben Richards: Killian, here’s Subzero, now nothing but a lifeless body. Like a snowman. Heh heh.

And:

Amber: (after Richards cut Buzzsaw in half with a chain saw) What happened to Buzzsaw? Ben Richards: He half to go away!

And of course:

Ben Richards: (after strangling Sub-Zero with barbed wire) Every rose has its thorn!

Not forgetting:

Ben Richards: (trying to get Dynamo’s attention) Hey, Lighthead! Hey, Christmas Tree! Yeah, you! Come here so I can turn you on!

A highlight of the film is the relationship between Arnie’s character and Amber. At first they are enemies, quipping:

Amber: I warn you I get sick. Car sick, air sick. And I’m going to throw up all over you. Richards: You wouldn’t dare. Just remember, I can break your neck like an Irishman’s.

But afterwards they fall for each other reluctantly:

Amber: They think I’m your girlfriend. Ben Richards: Well, um, you could be. The camera can’t see round that corner. Wanna feel the Austrian Oak? Amber: OOOH MATRON!

Arnie also quips with the lead bad guy- the game show host (played by Roy Walker) throughout the film. Before the game begins:

Ben Richards: Killian! I’ll be back! Damon Killian: Sorry, your microphone isn’t working.

During the game:

Ben Richards: You’re gonna eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach! Then, I’m gonna feed you bag after bag of money, cos that’s all you love, and when you start dumping out quarters sideways, I’m gonna be in the toilet with you, laughing!

And after the game:

Damon Killian: I’ll have a gun please, Bob. Ben Richards: I don’t do requests.

Indeed, with all this classic dialogue from Arnie the rest of the cast may feel neglected. The script writers were clever though and let the rest of the cast have some dialogue which is worthy of being in Shakespeare:

Amber: They’re running men. Last season’s winners. Fireball: Yeah. They wasted their money on an orgy of crack. 12 hours later all that was left were 2 shrivelled, mangled corpses. Funny huh?

And:

Laughlin: I’m going somewhere, but not with you. Buzzsaw took care of my travelling arrangements. Ben: Must be Disneyland. I’m still banned after that incident with Sleeping Beauty.

And:

Damon Killian: What’s the matter? Steroids make you deaf? Sven: WHAT!? I CAN”T HEAR YOU!

The rest of the cast are pretty good in their roles, from Arnie’s mates to the sweet assortment of goons. They make the film incredibly realistic and make you wish the future would hurry up so that you could watch this game every Saturday night on TV. If I was in the game I would hide until I found a machine gun, and then shoot my way out. No one would get me as I have over a year’s experience in the Armed Forces and frequently spend my days working out survival tactics, inventing booby traps and creating scenarios where I am trapped in space or surrounded by bad guys and have to escape. Les Forsyth does a good job as the Host at warming up the audience into a frenzy, so that they buy lots of merchandise I assume:

Damon Killian: Who loves you and who do you love? Audience: Jerry! Jerry!

The action here is very good, with lots of killings, fights, guns, and bloods and I would say that it is one of the best movies based on a Steve King play.

Best Scene: When Arnie is trying to hack into the computer system so that he can turn off the cameras and meet the underground army of rebels and his friend keeps shouting Uplink Undergorund!

Ben Richards- Uplink underground, up-link underground. If you say that one more time, I’ll up-link your ass, and you’ll be underground! Friend- Uplink underground! Montage of shots showing Arnie fetching tools, digging a hole, blow-torching something, and eventually putting friend in hole, and filling hole with dirt.

I also liked the bit where the guy’s head explodes.

Dreamcatcher

In the late 80s and early 90s Freddy was at his peak of fame and notoriety. Kids were running around outside wearing stripey jumpers, mums were running around the kitchen with gloves, teens were running around sitting down with videos they were too young to watch, and all sorts of merchandise and spin offs were running around our shops and TVs. Freddy’s Nightmares was an OK show, Freddy’s Sex was excellent obviously, though Clean Your House with Freddy (and kill your neighbour) was a lowlight. Freddy popped up in a few other movies too- Friday The 13th part 7 or 5 or something, and The Goonies (if you watch closely).

‘A Nightmare On Elm Street 8: Dreamcatcher’ was after all this and was meant to reboot the series, like Police Academy 6 did. Unfortunately, Freddy doesn’t do much in it- he hides in a toilet, and makes all the folks in the town dream about aliens but that’s about it. They even hired Steve King to pencil the script for this, but even his genius couldn’t save the day. Whoever wrote the original story was clearly an idiot and Steve King shouldn’t sully his name being involved with such inferiors. I bet the staff weren’t even Freddy fans, they just wanted to make a quick buck. There isn’t even a strong female lead like Heather Krueger Mellenkamp from the earlier ones- you would think after the success of Buffy that every horror film would capitalise by having a kick ass heroin, but not here. We just get a bunch of men walking around in the snow. Some of the deaths scenes are pretty good, some of the best in the whole Elm street saga in fact, but that isn’t enough to save it. I hope the next film deals more with Freddy than this one did. They should call it The Dream Executioner or something cool like that.

Best Scene I can’t think of any stand out scenes but I must admit the snow looked rather nice. It was quite realistic and made me want to throw myself into the fire.

 

Freddy 9: Sunnydale Goon Camp

 

Creepshow 2: Yeah!

Yes! YES!! I wish they would make more creepshow films, more anthologies. I love this kind of film- lots of bite (or Chomp in this case) size stories pieced together by an exterior character, plot, or situation. It’s like getting a 10p mix from your mum, and each sweet story has a scary taste all of its own. Some are soft and chewy, others are hard and crunchy, some are sour and you have to spit them down the sink, and occasionally you get a long lace. The best ones are when you get two stuck together so you get one for free! Even though it was your mum who paid for it. I like horrors and actions, films where lots of things happen. In these films the stories are so short they have to keep the plot small, the action fast, and everything is quick and exciting. If any of these stories were turned into a two hour film they wouldn’t have the same impact and I would probably fall asleep or cry. I think all films in the future should be made like this. No-one can be expected to stay awake for longer than 2 hours at a time- we all watch MTV, and even American Idol has adverts in it so that we can have a quick nap before the next instalment. Films like Lord Of The Rings go on FOREVER, I felt like I’d aged 84 years after watching the first one. If they’d done all the LOTR films as one 90 minute anthology like Creepshow, it could have been the best film ever: Story One. ‘There’s a bad ring, and a bad man wants it’ ‘I’m a good guy but it might make me evil, so I’ll give it to this wee chump, no-one will expect that. The wee chump and his friends can go to the volcano and throw the ring in’. The wee chump sets off with his friends, meets a fairy, tramp, beardo, and a midget along the way, one of them is eaten, another killed, and they all get separated. Part 2: A monster helps the wee chump to escape, but it really wants to steal the ring. Meanwhile the bad guy sends his armies across the land and the rest of the gang have to hide in a castle and save the children. Part 3: The monster leads the chump into a spider web and steals the ring. It turns out the tramp is actually The King and he rallies the rest of the gang to prepare for the worst. The chumps’ friend Brian wakes him up from Spider sleep, they beat up the monster and throw the ring into the volcano. The world is saved, the end. Awesome!

Creepshow 2 features 3 stories written by Stevie King (directed by Romeo) during his drunk period. He claims he doesn’t remember writing these, and to be honest, I don’t remember watching them. The first is about an Indian Zombie getting revenge on the descendants of the cowboys who stole his buffalo. He chases them round with a sword, eventually poking their eyes out. The second story features friends going white water rafting. They get chased by the Blob which eats them and pokes their eyes out with a canoe. The last story is about a demon driver who likes to pick up hitch hikers and gives them a terrifying journey. He also wants to poke their eyes out with his hand brake. Linking these stories is a little boy called Billy who likes reading comics. This is the same as the first film, and some of the same footage is used. Overall, an excellent film about horrors.

Best Scene: The shock ending of Billy falling on the edge of his comic which pokes his eyes out.

Creepy Magee