31 Days of Halloween Day 10 -THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

31 Days of Halloween – Day 10

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) The fact that this film is twenty-two years old blows my mind. After two plus decades, this wonderful animation has not lost any steam. The characters are still as cool, the soundtrack is still one of the best ever, and the merchandise is everywhere. I think I know why. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one hell of a film. Not only is by far my favorite animated feature, but probably in my top ten loved movies of all-time. The Tim Burton written story is fun, emotional, creepy, and lovely all at the same time. The stop-motion animation is whimsical, and endearingly imperfect. All of the voice work fits the characters, and the songs, written by Danny Elfman, make the film complete. Halloween Town is celebrating another Halloween, anchored by the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington. Jack is to Halloween as Santa Clause is to Christmas. He runs the show. But the Pumpkin King is becoming bored with the same old routine. He wants to do something fresh. While Jack and his “dog” Zero are out lamenting Skellington’s complacency one evening, they stumble across a place in the forest with strange doors built into the trees. Jack decides to venture through one of these doors, and discovers something that takes his breath away; Christmas! Jack falls in love with Christmas, and hatches a plan to bring Christmas to Halloween town. The venture goes wrong, and Christmas is in real danger of being destroyed by the over-zealous Jack and fellow misfits, which include a trio of devilish kidnappers, a much feared entity called Mr. Oogie Boogie, a senile old mad scientist, and a cast of other assorted ghouls, vampires, zombies and werewolves. The only person who can see that this will go wrong is Sally, Jack’s sweetheart. Nightmare can also be categorized as a Christmas movie, but it feels more like a Halloween treat because of the Tim Burton factor. It is twisted and dark, but in a fun way. The whole family can take something away from this film. This soundtrack always makes me happy when I hear it. Danny Elfman is brilliant, and this is some of his best work. He even does the singing parts for Jack, and the voice bits for a few other characters. Director Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach, Coraline) does a fine job putting it all together, and like Burton, has an eye for the bizarre. Whenever I hear someone say “I’ve never seen that movie”, it almost baffles me as much as hearing someone say the same words regarding Star Wars. Viewing this film will make you happy, and make you fall in love with Halloween. Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, for Halloween, because it will make you a better person.

Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas

T.

31 Days of Halloween *Day 9* – PET SEMATARY

 

31 Days of Halloween – Day 9

Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert, 1989) The first time I was Pet Sematary, it was sort of by accident. A friend and I went to the drive-in with his mom and her boyfriend. We begged them to take us to see the main feature, Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. We were, and still are, big fans of Jason Voorhees. The second movie on the bill was a film we knew little about; Pet Sematary. These were times before internet, so we were in the dark about this film. We only knew that it was a novel by Stephen King. We decided to stay and watch the second half of the double feature. What we saw next haunted us for some time to come. Mind you, we were thirteen years old, but I am not afraid to admit that Pet Sematery scared the crap out of me. I watch it now with only fond memories of being frightened, because it has lost some of it’s effect over the years. The story is of the Creed family, who move from the big city of Chicago to a cottage in the country. The couple and their young daughter and son arrive, and from the start are concerned by the highway that runs right in front of their property. Day and night, the road is traveled by fast moving tractor-trailers. Numerous dogs and cats have perished to the road, so down the path from the house is a make-shift cemetery dedicated to the fallen pets. The family is befriended by neighbor Jud Crandall, an old gentleman who takes a shine to the new residents. After tragedy strikes, Jud introduces Mr. Creed to an ancient Micmac burial ground, just beyond the “Pet Sematary”. After abusing the power that the ancient grounds hold, life really begins to unravel for the Creeds. Like many of King’s stories, Pet Sematary has more than one element at play; the horror that is at hand, and the memories of the past that haunt certain characters. Mr. Creed and the daughter are visited by a ghost warning them of the future. Mrs. Creed is tormented by the memories of her crippled, invalid sister, and the the neighbor is tortured with guilt over the hell he just opened up on his new friends. Not to mention a zombie cat named Winston Churchill, and a soulless toddler running around with a scalpel. Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) is great as Jed, and has some pretty good lines of dialogue. Things like “Christ on his throne, no!” (when asked if a man had ever been buried in the burial ground) or “Sometimes dead is better.” He’s like a poor man’s prophet, and seems to always have a beer in every scene he is in. I have since read the source novel by horror scribe, and legend, Stephen King, and it is frightening. The book translates very well to the big screen. The story deals with death, and grieving, and the desperation of a devastated father. Desperate men go to dangerous lengths, even if the consequences are deadly. If resurrection is possible, does the soul return from the dead along with the body? Pet Sematary answers that question with a resounding NO! Even cute little kids return as blood thirsty ghouls. Along with The Exorcist (1973) and The Changeling (1980), Pet Sematary is a film that truly frightened me, and certain scenes still can make my skin crawl. And if all of that is not enough, legendary NYC punk band The Ramones perform the title track for this movie.  I highly recommend this film for some truly chilling and spooky Halloween viewing.

Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary

31 Days of Halloween *Day 8* – THE PROWLER

31 Days of Halloween – Day 8

The Prowler (directed by Joseph Zito, 1981) There is nothing sheepish about The Prowler. First, the death scenes are bloody and gruesome. When the main instrument of murder is a pitchfork, you are not going to find a neat and tidy crime scene. Secondly, there is no shortage of of gratuitous nudity. That era of horror film and the bare female form went hand in hand. Third, the production team did not skimp on amazing make-up and wound effects. From slit throats, to punctured skulls, every death looks convincing. Veteran F/X maestro Tom Savini brought his ‘A’ game for The Prowler. This standalone, underrated murder-fest knows what it is, and delivers. A small New Jersey town is terrorized by a maniac dressed in WWII army fatigues (simple and effective, not mention creepy). It is also to the thirty-fifth anniversary of an infamous double-murder, and the pitchfork wielding butcher is celebrating by targeting teens, who are attending their high school graduation dance. Director Joseph Zito (Invasion USA, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) delivers a no-nonsense slaughter festival. As much as it pains me, I enjoy The Prowler more than the first Friday the 13th Films (I still love them). If you are looking for wonderful gore, buxom ladies in distress, and a violent psycho dressed like a soldier, add The Prowler to your Halloween viewing index. It’s bloody good fun.

Recap

  • Day 1 -The Conjuring
  • Day 2 -You’re Next
  • Day 3 -Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 -Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 -Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 -Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 -John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 -The Prowler

T.

31 Days of Halloween *Day 7* – THE THING (1982)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 7

The Thing (directed by John Carpenter, 1982) At some point in time, we have all pondered the notion that there may be life beyond the skies of our planet. It would be unreasonable, and arrogant to think that we are alone in the universe. Many films over the years have tackled the subject of extraterrestrials visiting earth. Many of these movies go with the theme of a global invasion; hostile aliens wanting to use us as food and slaves, or cute little aliens that befriend children. John Carpenter’s The Thing goes with a different and much easier story to believe. What if these “visitors” were already here and us humans awaken them? Thousands of years ago, an alien craft crashes in Antarctica. A Norwegian exploration team discovers, and excavates the buried relic, and with it, they also discover one of the ships passengers. The shape-shifting alien eventually finds its way to an American science outpost not far from the Norwegian camp. The alien begins to infect and become members of the team. Paranoia and panic sets in as the crew loses trust and turns on each other. The Thing is a story of survival; the men trying to survive the thing, and each other, while the thing tries to survive on a foreign planet. If you crashed into a frozen wasteland only to be thawed ten thousand years later, you would probably be confused and a little pissed off. There are so many wonderful things about this film. It is a perfect blend of horror, science fiction, action, and suspense. The set design and location make this film seem desolate and claustrophobic. The cast, including the always cool Kurt Russell (R.J. MacReady) are intense. Russell is the camp’s pilot, and the only level-headed member of the doomed crew. The true star of the show is Rob Bottin’s special effects. His creations are bloody and disgusting, as I imagine an alien morphing into a human would be. John Carpenter has created some genre classics, and The Thing may be his best work. Treat yourself to some out-of-this-world horror this Halloween. You will not be disappointed by The Thing.

Cool Fact – The Thing opened in box offices the very same day as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Both films are now much loved and respected sci-fi films.

IMG_0678

Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing

31 Days of Halloween *Day 6* – PSYCHO (1960)

Psycho’s Bates House

31 Days of Halloween – Day 6

Psycho (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) I will begin by admitting that black and white films are not my favorite. There is no real reason, I just don’t dig them as much as I do color movies. That being said, there are a few that I can enjoy, despite my obvious flawed film viewing habits. The sixth entry of my 31 Days of Halloween extravaganza, Psycho, is one of those classics that I do enjoy, and consider a landmark in horror movie history. Secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) decides to commit theft against her employer, and in doing so, leaves town with the cash she has stolen. She sets out towards California to meet her lover. After a long day of driving, the tired Marion checks into the Bates Motel for the evening. There, she meets the hotel proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who lives up the hill in a house he shares with his domineering mother. It is what happens next in Psycho that set the stage for horror cinema for the next fifty years. Until then, Hollywood’s dark side was dominated by monsters, mutants, and aliens as the evil antagonists. Psycho humanized evil, and gave it a man’s face. Alfred Hitchcock’s enduring classic set the table for countless slashers, creeps, and maniacs to make their way into cinema. The film is much more than a typical horror movie. It also contains Hitchcock’s signature film noir and murder mystery/thriller vibe. The Janet Leigh shower scene may be one of the most famous and recognizable scenes in film history, if not the most famous. Sure, in this desensitized era, that scene is tame. Yet, think about what that scene meant to movie-goers in 1960, when blood and bare skin were taboo. Psycho would have made an impact on people who were not used to that type of on-screen violence. Gus Van Sant tried to make a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, but you cannot replicate near perfection, and Vince Vaughn is no Anthony Perkins. Perkins is almost too good as the tormented Norman Bates. His portrayal of Bates puts him in the same stratosphere with Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector and Heath Ledger’s Joker as cinema psychopaths. Going back to my first statement regarding black and white films versus color films, Psycho would not be nearly as effective if it was shot in color. The way Hitchcock filmed it gives the picture an air of timelessness and immortality. On second thought, maybe I should give monochrome a second chance. But for you, faithful readers, you should make psycho a part of your Halloween viewing. Sometimes it is nice to go back where it all started.

Cool Fact: In homage to Psycho, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) from John Carpenter`s Halloween is named after Janet Leigh`s screen lover of the same name.

Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)

T.

31 Days of Halloween *Day 5* – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 5

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (directed by Marcus Nispel, 2003) After picking up a hitchhiker on a desolate road, a trip through Texas turns into a living nightmare for five young adults. A family of sadistic psychopaths terrorize the travelers, led by the menacing, but simple Leatherface. Sound familiar? That is because Tobe Hooper already made a film called Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974. Since Hollywood became obsessed with being unoriginal, there have been several attempts to cash in on remakes. Most are rather lame, but this update of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is actually really good. Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, specializes in horror movies, and the first few years it was mostly remakes that they focused on. Amityville Horror (2005), Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street are the other franchises that Platinum Dunes have tried to revitalize. This is by far the most well produced and directed of all of the other films that have been released by this company. There are differences here and there between the new and classic stories, but the gritty and grisly terror that the 1974 Massacre is known for is quite prevalent in the reboot. The dirty, sweaty hot Texas atmosphere and backwoods sets are really well done. The portrayal of Leatherface by actor Andrew Bryniarski is menacing, and R. Lee Ermy (Sgt Hartman, Full Metal Jacket) is typically awesome as the ‘sheriff’. I actually find his character a bit more insane than that of Leatherface. Jessica Biel also stars as Erin, the lone survivor of the ordeal. Director Marcus Nispel, who also directed Friday the 13th (2009) and Conan (2011) had a tall task in recreating the infamous original, and does a commendable job. Out of all of the horror remakes in recent years, this is one of my favorites. If you are looking for a get-down-to-business, chainsaw thriller with a lot of running and screaming, this is your second best option, but we will talk about that a little closer to Halloween.

Cool Fact – Actor John Larroquette (TV’s Night Court), who lent his voice to the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre returned to narrate the 2003 remake as well.

T.

31 Days of Halloween *Day 4* – DOG SOLDIERS

31 Days of Halloween – Day 4

Dog Soldiers (Directed by Neil Marshall,2002) There are three things I learned from Dog Soldiers. One, the Scottish country side is beautiful. Two, the banter of British Soldiers is highly entertaining. Three, war is hell, especially when you are battling seven foot tall werewolves. A squadron of British troops are in the remote Highlands of Scotland, running a routine training mission. After a series of gruesome events take place, they realize this mission is anything but ordinary. After being attacked in the forest, the men retreat to a farmhouse with the aid of a local. Under constant attack during the night, the soldiers can only hope to survive until morning. By the end of the film, the soldiers discover that the deck has been stacked against them from the start, and death is eminent. For a feature debut, director Neil Marshall hits a home run with Dog Soldiers. He has since gone on to direct The Descent (2006), as well as episodes of Hannibal and Game of Thrones. With minimal CGI, the werewolf make-up is organic and convincing. The acting is great, and the story is well thought out. There a couple of hokey scenes, (watch for a scene with the family dog is trying to eat something he shouldn’t be eating) but I feel it adds to the charm of the film. I love the werewolf genre, but find most of the movies about these shape-shifters to be awful. Dog Soldiers ranks up there with An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981) at the top of my list. Sean Pertwee (TV Gotham’s Alfred) is great as the tough-as-nails Sgt. Wells, but the real stars are the werewolves. Dog Soldiers is a thrilling horror movie, perfect for a Halloween viewing.

T.

31 Days of Halloween *Day 3* – ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN – DAY 3

Rob Zombie’s Halloween (directed by Rob Zombie, 2007) Right from the opening scene, this re-telling of the John Carpenter classic grinds on the nerves. You instantly hate every character except for Michael, and his mother. Even the beloved Dr. Sam Loomis character in the original (Donald Pleasence), quite frankly, is an asshole in this story.
Most horror re-boots are not effective because audiences are desensitized to the subject matter, and also because most re-boots suck. I believe Rob Zombie did a commendable job with giving Michael a back story, and manufacturing some sympathy for a character that has never spoken a line of dialogue since his inception in 1978. The juxtaposition between the young, bullied Myers boy and the savage killing machine he becomes is a nice touch. The story is much the same at the very core as the classic. As a child, Michael kills his sister, becomes institutionalized, and escapes years later, then returns to Haddonfield to finish of his only remaining relative, his sister Laurie. Where Zombie’s vision differs is in the amount of corpses left Michael’s wake, and the amount of bloody violence that we see on screen. The original is void of blood, and relies on atmosphere and shadows to give us the chills. 2007’s Halloween uses abrasive characters, brute force, and violence to tell the story. The effect is not the same, as Carpenter’s Halloween will always be the champion slasher film. If Rob Zombie would have “re-made” Halloween, it would have fallen flat on its face. Instead, he chose to “re-tell” the story, adding elements to make it a very watchable film. This updated version even keeps the Michael Myers legacy alive more so than six sequels (not including the original Halloween II, because that movie kicks ass) ever did. Actress Scout Taylor-Compton plays the part of Laurie Strode (made famous by Jamie Lee Curtis), and is great as a more contemporary, sassy sister to the maniac, Michael. Something else I really enjoyed, and is prevalent in all of Zombie’s films, is a great mix of 70’s rock as the soundtrack. Any movie that kicks off the opening scene with Kiss’ ‘God of Thunder’ is bound to be a good time. Love it or hate it, the film is polarizing, and bloody enjoyable. Give it a watch. You may like it. After all, it is Halloween.

Cool factDanielle Harris, who played Michael’s niece, Jamie Lloyd, in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, plays the character of Annie Brackett. A nice bit of nostalgia for us horror nerds.

IMG_0678

Recap:

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 2 – YOU’RE NEXT

31 Days of Halloween Day 2

You’re Next (directed by Adam Wingard,2011) This clever thriller has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the last few years. The Davison family and guests have gathered to celebrate a family occasion. Like most families, they are not perfect. During a family dinner, things get heated. Before the internal bickering turns ugly, the family is attacked by a group of masked strangers. One by one, Davison’s are picked off. Their only chance against the assault is Erin, the girlfriend and guest of one of the brothers. Who is really in danger, the assaulted or the assailants? You’re Next is a violent, bloody movie that has tension and terror. The attackers are intimidating, wearing SWAT style combat fatigues with simple animal masks. Sharni Vinson is awesome as Erin, who goes into survival mode, as she is victim to the old adage “wrong place, wrong time”. A good plot twist adds some depth and character development to the story. If I had to compare You’re Next with something, I would say it is a little bit of The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008) and The Purge (James DeMonaco, 2013), but with more brains, more balls, and definitely more violence. If you enjoy violence, gore, opening scenes containing sex, and a woman who won’t put up with people’s B.S., check out You’re Next for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

IMG_0678

Recap:

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next

T.

31 Days Of Halloween – The Conjuring

IMG_0678

Halloween is the best time of year. It’s the one day that kids and adults alike can dress up to pretend to be something else. Also, Halloween is the time of year that you can find a scary movie on almost any channel during the month of October. Sure they edited for content, but that does not stop people from getting their fill. People love a good superficial scare. This is why I find it fitting to bring to you, my valued readers, 31 Days of Halloween. Each day, up until the final day of October (which happens to be Halloween), I will present one of my favorite horror movies, just to get you in the mood. I am also going to watch each day’s movie, life permitting of course. So sit back, pull the covers up over your eyes, and enjoy the countdown to All Hallows’ Eve.

31 Days Of Halloween – Day 1 – October 1st

The Conjuring (Directed by James Wan, 2013) In the tradition of Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, The Conjuring is a (loosely based) story about a family that moves into a house, and becomes tormented by something supernatural. It’s not often in this day and age that we are treated to a complete horror movie of this caliber. The acting is very good, the story is compelling, and the effects are not over the top. There are plenty of jump scares, some wonderful suspense, and believable characters. The Perron family move into a Rhode Island farm-house to start over, but soon fall victim to a malevolent force that has attached itself to the home. Paranormal specialists Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help the family overcome this evil. Along the way, a lot of bad things happen, including demonic possession. James Wan does a great job of squeezing all he can out of this genre (Saw, Insidious), and this is his best film to date. Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Farminga (Bates Motel) and great as the ghost-hunting Warrens, and Lily Taylor (Six Feet Under) plays a very convincing terrified mother to the Perron family. The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist has been announced for 2016. Let’s hope it can live up to its predecessor. For some good ghostly fun, The Conjuring is just what you require.

T.