Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Interlude: 11 Great (and two terrible) Halloween Favorites You Probably Haven't Seen

Hey everyone! As some of you may have guessed by now, I watch a lot of horror movies. Seems that some of you have been asking me for some Halloween suggestions. Initially I was sort of surprised since I already took the time to review MANIAC and GOTHIC and STREET TRASH and so on for ya, but gradually I started picking up on context clues that those might not be exactly everyone’s speed, or able to be watched by a normal well-adjusted person without having their eyeballs melt. On the other hand, you don’t need me to tell you to go see ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE SHINING, THE EXORCIST, HALLOWEEN, PSYCHO, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (original, sigh), those old Universal Monster movies, Romero's DEAD movies (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD) that kind of thing. You already know that. But if you’ve made it through those and still hunger for some good Halloween fun, I got a few more that I think are really great  and most people would enjoy, but are not as famous as they deserve. So, without further ado:

Mr. Subtlety’s List of 11 Great Halloween Movies Most Normal People Haven’t Seen (in no particular order)

Trick ‘r Treat (2007): An anthology of four interwoven stories that takes place on Halloween night, this one is on my list every year for a great reason: It’s a fun, scary, high-energy and festive romp with a streak of jet black humor about a mile long.

The Changeling (1980): A classy, deliberately paced, atmosphere-laden ghost story set in a scary old house. This is the heart of what a good ghost story ought to be like, and as an added bonus you get cranky old George C. Scott giving a great performance as the lead. [LPT: Don’t get confused and rent the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name, it’s not a horror film and not as good.]

The Thing (1982): John Carpenter directs this pinnacle of sci-fi horror which expertly mixes and balances dread-soaked paranoia and nightmare-fueled monster effects.

The Pact (2012): A recent example of a indie horror film with a tiny budget that still delivers the goods in terms of skin-crawling unease. If you’ve ever started to get the feeling you were not alone while walking around your darkened house at night, this is one of the best evocations of that feeling that I know of. (original review here)

Creepshow (1982): Another anthology, this time with four segments written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero. Colorful, entertaining, inventive, and a great mood-setter, this one is a great party movie which holds up remarkably well. If insects creep you out, for all that is holy do not watch the last segment.

Red Lights (2012): With a great cast (Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy) and sumptuously stylish direction, this one would be a worthwhile watch even if it wasn’t a deft and supremely creepy examination of skepticism and belief. That it is those things too pushes it from stylish thriller into the “contemporary classic” category. (original review here)

Eyes Without a Face (1960): This subtitled French film (yes, you’ll have to read) takes a fundamentally twisted idea (a scientist murders Parisian women to steal their faces and transplant them to his disfigured daughter) and infuses it with a dreamy, poetic black and white menace to great effect. The genesis of a million lesser films, this one remains a nightmarish classic.

Tale of Two Sisters (2003): A deeply creepy Korean (yes, you’ll have to read again) charmer from Kim Ji-Woon, for my money one of the best directors in the world right now. Disorienting and soul-crushing in a way that only a Korean horror film could really be, but also oddly satisfying.  

The Haunting (1963): Robert Wise (director of THE SOUND OF MUSIC?) takes on a classic Black and White ghost / psychological horror story in this 60’s gem which just fuckin’ drips atmosphere. Time and endless imitations have dulled it’s edge somewhat, but it still has plenty of ability to unnerve. A good reminder that the mind is always a much more terrifying place than any haunted house.

Phantasm (1979): A low-budget first second feature from Don Coscarelli (BUBBA HO-TEP), this one shows its age a little but makes up for it through sheer ingenuity and creativity. You’ve seen a million movies about zombies and ghosts and vampires, but how many have you seen about evil flying silver orbs that suck out your brain? This one is a non-stop surreal nightmare guaranteed to make you think twice before fucking with a weird tall dude who runs a creepy funeral home.
Suspiria (1977): Before he went completely bug nuts insane and gave up trying to tell a story entirely, Italian genius/psychopath Dario Argento made this, a focused but freewheeling fever dream of violence, suspense, and terror that remains his best work. It perfectly balances a surreal style, classic score, and creepy premise with short bursts of shocking violence. Not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare the rewards are great.

All those above films are genuinely good, but if your goal is just to watch something ridiculous and funny and get hammered, there are two absolutely essential films which always deliver the goods. These are sort of terrible, but not terrible in the boring, incompetent way that most bad films are (see; PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE). These films have real budgets and were made by talented, even visionary people, so it's even more entertaining that they're as laughably absurd as they are. With the proper application of copious amounts of alcohol and good friends, they can't miss.

I Know Who Killed Me (2007): Lindsay Lohan plays responsible high-school piano prodigy Audrey Fleming, who gets mysteriously kidnapped, only to reappear later on claiming her name is Dakota Moss and that she is a chain-smoking badass stripper with a super strong robotic arm. It gets crazier from there, but the movie’s ace in the whole is that the ludicrous plot is bolstered by equally ostentatious style, drowning scene after scene in intense blues or reds. The is no better movie to watch as a drinking game with a bunch of friends, as you watch in disbelief about just how crazy this thing can get.

Lifeforce (1985): Naked Space Vampires invade earth and take over our minds in this has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed absurdist sci-fi horror from Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). Copious nudity, expensive 80’s special effects, crazy monsters, and a passionate french kiss between Steve Railsback and Patrick Stewart make this monument to bad judgement something that needs to be seen by everyone, everywhere. Guaranteed to get you through a bucket of vodka.


  1. I have literally seen every movie on this list except Lifeforce. I guess...I'm not normal after all? But you had me at "passionate french kiss between Steve Railsback and Patrick Stewart." Actually you had me at "passionate french kiss between Steve Railsback" and fucking anyone. It could have been with a washer/dryer, for all I care.

  2. Dude, you live with Dan. No, you're not normal as far as horror movies go.