31 Days of Halloween Day 30 – The Exorcist

31 Days of Halloween – Day 30

The Exorcist (directed by William Friedkin, 1973) It seems improbable that a film with this subject matter could gain the critical and commercial success that The Exorcist has over the past forty years. Film goers in the early seventies were not quite as desensitized as we are in current times. Mainstream cinema had its fair share of chilly movies; Psycho, of the Dawn of the Dead, Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead had seen wide distribution, and were all fairly successful. These movies, while considered scary for the time, could not prepare audiences for what was released on December 26, 1973. Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a young spirited girl, and her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn) are taking residence in Washington D.C. while Chris is there for work. During their stay, Regan begins to exhibit strange behavior; anxiety, aggression, physical abnormalities. These symptoms are accompanied by strange noises and physical disturbances in the house. After a battery of tests is performed on Regan, it is determined that there are no physical sighs to indicate a cause. Regan’s condition becomes dire, and Chris becomes desperate to find help for her daughter. At the suggestion of a doctor, Chris turns to the church for help. She seeks out Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller). Karras himself has been questioning his faith because of his mother’s death. After an initial visit with the afflicted young girl, Karras decides to help the family. Whatever is inside Regan is making claims to be the devil, and knows things that the twelve year old would not know? Father Karras enlists the help of Father Lancaster Merrin (Max Von Sydow), who has experience in the field of exorcism. The ensuing battle between good and evil is shocking and intense, and has dire consequences. The Exorcist is one of those films that have a lasting impact on the viewer, whether positive or negative. The film is polarizing, but undeniably brilliant. It is the type of movie that you think twice about watching alone. The are some first class shocking moments in this film, all delivered by an amazing performance by a young Linda Blair. These scenes would not be half as messed up if an adult was doing the blasphemous things that are taking place. The actors are all great. Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller are convincing servants of god, fearless in the face of the subject matter. Director William Friedkin (French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.) took something that would seem almost laughable in a story of demonic possession, and created a film that shocked and terrified, but most importantly, changed horror cinema forever. Not only did audiences take notice, but critics also saluted the film. Multiple Academy Award nominations and two Oscar wins were well earned. Possession films are a dime a dozen now, and none of them are really that good. The Exorcist set the bar so high that it will never been duplicated. There will come a time when Hollywood will try to remake this beauty, but they will fail miserably. How do you improve on perfect? This Halloween, watch The Exorcist. The power of Christ compels you.

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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
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat
  • Day 28 – An American Werewolf in London
  • Day 29 – The Changeling
  • Day 30 – The Exorcist

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 24

The Evil Dead (directed by Sam Raimi, 1981) It is amazing what you can accomplish with a movie camera, a small budget, and a group of close friends when you put your mind to it. This is essentially how The Evil Dead was made. Director Sam Raimi (Drag Me To Hell), producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), with some friends, made one of the most memorable horror movies on a budget of just under $400,000 (some films have a budget of over $150,000,000, and they suck). Creativity can go a lot further than money, and this film proves it. Five friends travel to a remote cabin for a little rest and relaxation. While they are there, they discover an ancient book and an old reel player. As they listen to the reel player, they discover that the book is called the Necronomicon, the Sumerian Book of the Dead. The voice on the reel recites some of the text as they listen, and the incantations awaken a sleeping evil in the woods. One by one, the characters are possessed. Can Ash (Bruce Campbell) survive the demons long enough to see the daylight, or will the evil swallow another soul? One thing I really enjoy about Evil Dead is the physical acting that takes place. The action, along with the campy nature of the film almost makes it seem like you are watching a demented episode of the Three Stooges. The last half of the film is basically one long, bloody action sequence. The make-up effects, while walking the fine line of being cheesy, are charming,and have a distinct look, and continue to do so through out the series. There is plenty of gore, dismemberment, sexual assaults by trees, screeching and laughing Deadites (possessed people), and most importantly, Bruce Campbell, to keep you entertained for the duration of the film. It is easy to see why the Evil Dead films, and Army of Darkness, have such an amazing fan base. If you manage to acquire a Blu ray copy, the transfer is very good, and makes the experience better. I loved my VHS copy, but it was shoddy at best.I have always been torn over which Evil Dead, 1 or 2, I like better. Evil Dead 2 is essentially the same movie with better effects, brilliant one-liners, and jacked-up insanity. While it is also a classic, I think I am more impressed with first film. It has a distinct “home-made” element to it that reminds me of being a kid, running around with my friends and a camcorder, making our own horror movies. I had not watched Evil Dead in sometime until this writing. I won’t make that mistake again. Please give the Deadites some love this Halloween. Just don’t read the paperback version out loud, unless you want to fight demons all night.

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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
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 23 – The Exorcit III

31 Days of Halloween – Day 23

The Exorcist III (directed by William Peter Blatty, 1990) When I first wrote out a list of the movies I would blog about for my ’31 Days of Halloween’ series, for day twenty-three, I had James Whale’s 1935 classic Bride of Frankenstein. Bride is probably the best of the Universal Monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, but it just didn’t seem right to include it on this list. I wanted to give the spot to something that truly scared the hell out of me after seeing it for the first time. Friends and I went to the theater to watch the film, and it immediately had an effect on me. And if that wasn’t enough, no word of a lie, there was a storm and power outage that night. I had to sit in the dark and think about what I just saw, and if the devil was responsible for the lack of electricity on my street. This is why I switched in The Exorcist III as day twenty-three on this list. This movie still gets under my skin. Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been investigating a string of serial murders which share far too many similarities to those of “Gemini Killer”, who has been dead for fifteen years. The current murders contain evidence that only the police knew about during the original series of killings, but what is really puzzling is that the finger prints at each scene are different, making it seem that there are multiple killers at play. The trail leads Kinderman to a psychiatric hospital and what he discovers in Cell 11 will truly test his faith in all that is holy. Exorcist III should be considered the true sequel to the classic 1973 The Exorcist. The film has received average reviews, and admittedly seems to be appreciated more twenty five years later, but I feel it does not get the credit it deserves. The story is actually well crafted, and makes sense. True evil never dies; it just finds another body to hide in. The acting is great lead by George C. Scott, who was always a commanding screen presence. Jason Miller returns as Father Damian Karras, and the always charming Brad Dourif is scary and convincing as the Gemini Killer. The cast of elderly people, who play an important part of the story, are wonderfully creepy. The original is so shocking and blasphemous that it would be hard to even come close to duplicating, but this sequel tries to deliver some genuinely freaky moments. One of the best jump scares of any film, in my opinion, is a long hospital hallway shot that builds for quite a bit, but delivers a satisfying payoff. What frightens me most in horror films is the use of Catholicism and religious symbolism, or demonic possession (if done right), and Exorcist III is chalk full. This Halloween, if you want to see the film that made me (figuratively) wet my pants, watch The Exorcist III. If you do not get the creeps, you can laugh at me.

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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
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III

31 Days of Halloween Day 13 – CHILD’S PLAY

31 Days of Halloween – Day 13

Child’s Play (directed by Tom Holland, 1988) Do you remember when you were a kid, and you wanted that special toy more than anything in the world? I bet that when you received the toy, it wasn’t possessed by the soul of a serial killer. After being cornered by the police in a toy store, psychopathic murderer Charles Lee Ray, the Lakeshore Strangler, transfers his soul, using black magic, into a ‘Good Guy’ doll before he dies of gunshot wounds. After purchasing this doll from a street person, Karen surprises her son Andy with it as a gift. It is not long after until Andy discovers that his doll “Chucky” has bad intentions. First off, I will say that if it was not for the acting/voice talents of Brad Dourif, Child’s Play would not be half the film that it is. Dourif (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Exorcist III) brings Chucky to like, and makes him the little menace he is. Chris Sarandon (Fright Night, Princess Bride) plays the detective who first track Charles Lee Haley, then tries to protect Andy and his mom (Catherine Hicks) from Haley after he becomes Chucky. Usually child actors annoy me, but Alex Vincent is really good as the boy Andy, who is the target of Chucky’s homicidal intents. I remember wanting to see Child’s Play in the movie theatre, but I was not old enough. I had to wait until it was released on home video, which seemed like it took forever. This was the first VHS movie that I “pirated” (did the old VHS-to-VHS copy), and watched the crap out of it for a year until I taped over it with some Stampede Wrestling. I understand why the movie was rated R at the time. There is some very strong (and humorous) language that flies from Chucky’s mouth. The movie is pretty short for a full length feature, clocking in at around eighty minutes, but perhaps more would have seemed like too much. Director Tom Holland (writer of Fright Night) has done some off-beat horror films, and Child’s Play is well done considering it is based on a possessed doll on a kill spree. The effects are good, and the animations for the Chucky doll are pretty believable, but like a mentioned before, Brad Dourif makes Chucky entertaining. Child’s Play will always have a special place in my heart (even though the sequels never live up to the original). Maybe you could find it in your heart to give Child’s Play a viewing this Halloween.

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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
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play

T.