You knew it had to be coming and here it is. The Annual Halloween Weekend of Horrors re-cap.
You knew it had to be coming and here it is. The Annual Halloween Weekend of Horrors ran smoothly this last weekend with tons of Horror cinema run for the whole crew after the proper sacrifices were made… This year, rather than being themed as always, seemed to be all over the map but we did work in an unofficial John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis subtext throughout and quite a few slashers made the cut. The guest appearances by Cybermonkey editorial and affiliated members was a true treat for this mini-Fest of 18 films in three days. I had so much stuff picked out that we didn’t get to it all but here’s the list of this year’s movies for your reading enjoyment.
The Mummy (1959): We kicked off the Fest this year with the Hammer films version of The Mummy. Chrisopher Lee’s Kharis is still spine tingling today, iconically covered in mud, rising up to take vengeance on those who violated Princess Ananka’s tomb. The scene where Professor Banning is in the sanitarium and the mummy’s legs make that slow shuffle across the high window scared me out of my wits as a child and when he busts through… Peter Cushing plays the doubting son turned a believer by the evidence of his own eyes but strangely relies on ineffectual guns to dispatch the threat. Quite fun and holds up well.
Phantasm II (1988): Special request by the Tomlinsons, who had seen Part I many times but not Part II. The Tall Man is back and a group is assembled to put an end to him once and for all but that’s not easy to do (seeing as there are 2 more installments). So you’d have to expect the flying drill ball to mess some people up and that, my friends, is exactly what happens. This was a fun selection and we’re all fans of Don Coscarelli but it’s Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man that really keeps you watching the film. Every time he’s on you believe something bad is going to occur and the evil he exudes is almost palpable. Not quite as out there as the first film but a more than suitable follow-up.
Black Sheep (2006): Did a full review on this one when it came out on DVD, oh so long ago, so I will not bore you with another overview. I still stand behind my liking of Danielle Mason as the hippie ecologist and mutated sheep attacking the populace is a wonderful premise. Full of laughs and blood, this “Night of the Living Sheep” movie is one for the ages and I would recommend a view anytime.
Prom Night (1980): Another full review I had previously accomplished and the first of our unofficial Jamie Lee films to be run. Why they screwed this up with a remake is beyond me. Jamie Lee attempts to fight off evil with a hairbrush at one point! Who can forget the 6 minutes of Leslie Neilsen? The game of “killer” where the object is to yell kill at someone until they fall out of a window? The fat stoner kid who finally gets a hot sexpot in his van and drives off a cliff? The actors all feel like high school kids and the crew really tried to give a list of suspects for you to guess at and delivers more thought than most slashers of it’s ilk. If ever in the mood, skip the new one and view this.
Ghost Adventures (2010): It was getting pretty late so we broke and watched the current Ghost Adventures which was about what you’d expect. Aaron continues to amuse, Zach and Nick continue to annoy. They do stuff wrong and get excited about nothing and I still believe Zach makes stuff up and their “crew” fakes some stuff but it is still the best and most compulsively watchable show about ghost hunting on television.
Night of the Living Dead (1968): It was like 3am and everyone had finally left. I had the television on and it just so happens one of the HD channels was running the godfather of the modern zombie film. Seen it a billion times, won many free pizzas on call in shows in my hometown answering trivia, met Mr. Romero, “they’re coming to get you, Barbara,” “you be boss down there. I’m boss up here,” board the windows, don’t shoot, rednecks! Yet, sleep deprived and horror-full by that point, I still watched it. It’s only one of the best horror films ever made and I guess what I’m saying is if it comes on you’d better be in front of your television. Programming this good never goes out of style.
The Fly (1958): This is the only film to run twice this weekend. My roommate would watch it later on with the remake right after and he enjoyed himself immensely, as did I. Horror icon and one hell of an actor, Vincent Price, plays the befuddled brother of a scientist who is working on teleportation. A horrible accident occurs and his brother is found with his head crushed in a machine press, his wife standing over the body. She is obsessed, for some reason, with finding a special fly with a white head. Price is rather understated until the end, confused and disbelieving until the horror slowly overwhelms him. That last scene with the spider web was almost unfilmable, as Price and co-star Herbert Marshall kept cracking up. Also notable for being James Clavell’s first script.
Comedy of Terrors (1964): If you were to tell me there was a film about an undertaker whose business was failing so he resorted to drumming up his own business, directed by Jacques Tourneur, written by horror author Richard Matheson and starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, I’d say you have this movie. Price is over-bearing and cruel, Lorre is abused and sympathetic, Karloff an invalid and Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes… an imperious landlord. A fun little film and draws a direct comparison with the 2010 action thriller Red in the sense that it’s a bunch of really famous actors having a good time filming a silly movie and it works.
Terror Train (1980): More scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, this time with Vanity and David Copperfield…and a masked killer on a train. Once again a prank goes wrong. Once again, people get hacked to pieces. Once again, Jamie Lee is awesome, helping cement her “Scream Queen” status. Good chases, good score and a claustrophobic setting elevate this to one of the exemplary pieces of early 1980s horror. Plus, magic!
The Prowler (1981): One of the best of the early 1980s slasher films, directed by Joseph Zito (Friday the 13th: Final Chapter) and featuring some great effects by gore master Tom Savini, I must admit I paid attention to very little of this film as I made the mistake of checking email and got caught on chat (apparently, I’m extremely popular with mid-20’s girls from England) so other than a few good stabs, this one blew right by. Good thing I remembered it pretty well. Incredibly underrated and worth a view.
The House on Sorority Row (1983): The best of the “Sorority” genre, this film features another prank gone wrong, this time with a gun and an elderly house mother. When girls end up getting murdered at a party it is assumed the house mother has returned from the grave to take revenge but is it something else entirely? A few likely suspects, unanswered questions (why is the house shut up for the break?) and scantily-clad hot girls running about in a panic, this slasher delivers on every level you want it to without failing to deliver a story along the way. Not very well remembered, this film deserves to be dusted off and re-explored and was one of my favorites from the whole weekend (and that’s hard to say with all the goodness that ran here).
In the Mouth of Madness (1995): The single greatest H.P. Lovecraft film ever made…and it has nothing to do with Lovecraft (though, if you ever want to have that discussion I’m game. It wasn’t based on HPL’s work but is so deeply rooted in it and there are so many references to it that it is John Carpenter’s contribution to the Mythos). Some of my guests had never seen it and I’m always looking for an excuse to view it so it became the perfect film to end the night on (and went over huge). Spooky, cosmic, otherworldly, great cast, great crew, violent, paranoid, mysterious – I could empty my store of adjectives and still not capture how truly incredible this movie is. Definitely deserving of a place on your John Carpenter shelf and holds up with the best of his work. Cthulhu fhtagn!
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974): One of the single oddest entries in the horror genre and one of my favorites of all-time because of it, this is a co-production between Hammer Studios (1960s/70s Horror Classics) and Shaw Brothers productions (kung-fu masters of the 60s/70s) and the blend is incredible. Dracula (unfortunately not Christopher Lee) possesses the body of a Chinese emissary to escape his castle and sets up shop in Hong Kong, resurrecting the 7 Golden Vampires as his henchmen and committing acts of atrocity (lots of topless village girls being bled and the vampires, when swooping on villages, also disrobe the hottest women they can find). Unfortunately, Van Helsing (the inimitable Peter Cushing) is in the area doing a series of lectures on vampirism. He is approached by 7 kung-fu experts, all with their own specialty, and begged to help free their village from the vampire’s power. What follows is a martial arts extravaganza with flipping and kicking and slicing as the brothers battle their way through hoards of undead to their final showdown with Dracula. What an amazing film. Skip the edited American version (7 Brothers Meet Dracula) and head right for the meatier international version. Track this down at all costs.
Halloween III (1982): Had they called this movie Season of the Witch and dropped the Halloween from the title, no one would have a problem with this corporate thriller, which is actually quite good. The producers had figured they’d run their course with Michael Myers and wanted to try something new, which is understandable, but they didn’t count on a rabid fan base that expected more slasher goodness and they were not happy. The movie is an effective thriller with a strong plot and great cast, led by Tom Atkins, and has a deserved soft spot in the hearts of most horror aficionados. You want a good spooky thriller centered on witchcraft, the Halloween holiday and corporate machinations, look no further. Silver Shamrocks!
Zombie 2 (1979): Lucio Fulci’s Zombie masterpiece was next on the agenda because I wanted to watch a zombie fight a shark. Italian as it gets. Beautiful, scantily-clad women, over the top gore and violence, incredible settings, great looking undead and, let’s not forget, a zombie battles a shark! Wonderful look at how other countries perceive the Zombie and it spawned a whole Italian Horror industry. Plus, not to beat it to death but it is one of the most iconic scenes in the genre whether you’ve seen the film or not, but a zombie battles a shark. Under water. Gold.
Halloween (1978): I got the Blu-Ray of this a while back and saved it for the holiday. The movie is a “10,” we all know that, and launched John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis into movie fame, spawned many sequels and remakes, made Michael Myers a household name, showcased acting legend Donald Pleasence and was for the longest time the most successful independent feature of all time. The Blu-Ray transfer is stellar and the picture crystal clear. Night scenes are more defined and it does not detract from the horror they were trying to achieve. Nothing looks extremely silly. Probably the best way right now to view this masterpiece of cinema and a highlight of any movie fest, especially the one it was intended for.
Mad Monster Party? (1967): Where to start on this one? It’s one of my favorites and I know hardly anyone else got the joy and love this movie brings but this choice was about me. Dr. Frankenstein is retiring from the League of Monsters and he throws one last party to announce his successor, his worthless and utterly human nephew. he has chosen his nephew because he also holds the secret to total destruction, which he fears the other monsters will use. of course, each of the other monsters desires the position so they plot to destroy Dr. Frankenstein’s nephew. The geniuses behind Rankin and Bass animated this feature using the same type of puppets they used for their well-known Christmas adventures and Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller contribute voices. The story is written by comics luminary Harvey Kurtzman and the character designs are by EC comics legend Jack Davis. I do not want to spoil a lick of this film but it is so much fun to watch and sucks you right in that I strongly recommend digging out a copy and giving it a shot. Fun for the whole family.
Idle Hands (1999): Really? A Jessica Alba movie? A Seth Green film? Vivica Fox, on Halloween? Yes, and let’s not forget the outstanding Fred Willard, Kelly Monaco and Timothy Stack. After Mad Monster Party? I felt we needed a light follow-up (and we’d watched some pretty heavy stuff up to this point), no one had seen it and, as stupid as this “possessed hand” movie is, it’s really a good time. It always, for some reason, puts a smile on my face when it ends. I largely agree with this hand’s motivation and priority schedule and I believe we could hang out. The characters in the film disagree whole-heartedly as the hand goes on a killing rampage, first when it’s attached and later when it free-roams. It should have let Fred Willard live, though. C’mon, people, it’s a comedy about a possessed hand. There are Zombies in it and the kids think the Metal guy knows all about the devil because he listens to demonic music (they may have a point). Absolute gold and has a surprisingly large fan base. I defy you to start this film and let it go 15 minutes and see if you get hooked. You’ll be grinning like an idiot, too, while shaking your head at how this impossibly dumb movie could do it.
The Thing (1982): We ended the Weekend of Horror with another film I did a full write-up on (so I will not bore you with details) yet it constantly baffles me how many people have never seen it. It’s not like this is some obscure film no one’s ever heard of but an acknowledged classic directed by a man who’s output is overwhelmingly incredible (the aforementioned Mr. Carpenter) and starring one of the most incredible casts you could get (including The Man Kurt Russell!) in one of the grossest, suspenseful, claustrophobic, isolated mistaken identity films ever made. Everything about the film is masterful, it looks great in HD and is still one of the most thought-provoking and intelligently filmed Horror films ever. I could watch it every other day and not get sick of it; indeed, I had just re-visited it a few months ago and was itching to view it again so Halloween was the perfect excuse and I could think of no better film to end on. Should be near the top of everyone’s favorite viewing lists and quite Lovecraftian as well.
This Halloween weekend was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in some time and it was fun dusting off so many old classics, rather than relying on the same old stuff (which, granted, is also awesome). The not having a theme this year allowed more freedom to go a little nuts, which was good because I feared not having a thread like previous successful years would water down the impact of some of the films and I’m glad to say the variety was a big hit. Several of my pals have been over the last couple of days commenting on which films surprised them the most and that is very gratifying to me, that i could open them up to some great stuff they’d never seen before and now may become perennial favorites. It’s also why I write the weekend up – I hope to do the same for you.