SpeakeasyENT’s ultimate Halloween movie guide

Photo from CityPaper.com

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. Halloween is just around the corner. This is a time to celebrate, be with friends and consider the ancient and sacred Celtic tradition of Samhain pig out and get wasted get into the true Halloween spirit, and it just so happens that one of the best ways to do this is to have a film festival. If you’re a little short on ideas this season, fear not. We’ve got a list of suggestions that’s so good, it’ll scare your pants off.

“Halloween” (1978)

You can’t go wrong with the classics, especially with this granddaddy of all slasher movies. John Carpenter’s tale of a boy who committed patricide and returned to his hometown years later to kill again helped kick-start the wave of slashers in the ’80s, and gave birth to many of the genre’s tropes that we know and love (or hate, depending on one’s taste). Unlike many older slashers such as “Friday the 13th” and “Prom Night,” which seem more cheesy than scary, the lack of graphic gore and focus on suspense and sharp direction (not to mention that unforgettable score) ensure that “Halloween” still has power today.

For more creepy John Carpenter goodness (albeit with significantly more gore), check out “The Thing.” Unless you’re a dog lover, in which case, don’t.

“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Sirius Black is super hot as a vampire, guys. Photo from IMDB.

After the popularity of classic monster movies died down in the ’70s and ’80s, Dracula films disappeared for quite a while. Francis Ford Coppola was determined to inject some fresh lifeblood into the classic vampire legend, however, and the result is a lovingly crafted but silly film that goes for grand gothic thrills (and occasionally delivers) but keeps falling flat on its face. The sets, score and costumes are beautiful and elaborate, but the plot, acting and dialogue grow more and more absurd at every turn.

Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins ham it up delightfully as the Count and Van Helsing, respectively, and Tom Waits delivers inspired work as Renfield, the resident madman, but the sight of Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves as turn-of-the-century Londoners is all but certain to send you into hysterics. It’s not a great movie. It’s hardly even a good movie, but it’s immensely enjoyable to watch with friends, if only for the novelty of watching Keanu Reeves’ attempt at a British accent (“Byuudapest,” indeed).

“The Evil Dead” trilogy (1981, 1987, 1992) 

Fan of demons, gore, Bruce Campbell or all three? Congratulations! You’ve just found your new movie gospel.

Sam Raimi’s high-blood, high-camp trilogy is the quintessential “unsuspecting teens go to a cabin in the woods and unleash ancient horrors” movie for its creative and cringe-inducing gore (there’s a particularly nasty scene involving a pencil in the first film) and the perfect blend of goofiness, “just cuz it’s cool” scenes and scares (Bruce Campbell cutting his hand off with a chainsaw? Eeew. Bruce Campbell grafting said chainsaw onto the stump to fight demons? Hell yeah!).

True, the films grow progressively zanier as they go on, but they’re all worthy pieces of horror cinema in their own right.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) 

What’s Halloween (or Christmas) without a little Tim Burton Magic? Photo from Rotten Tomatoes.

Yeah, yeah, we could argue ‘til the cows come home about whether this is technically a “Halloween movie” or a “Christmas movie,” but Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s charming little stop-motion tale about where holidays come from is so darn fun that it works for viewing at any time of year.

Jack Skellington, the leader of celebrations in Halloween Town, is tired of the same old routine scares every year, but when he discovers a portal to a strange land called “Christmas Town,” he decides take over for Santa as the leader of Christmas preparations. Full of endearing characters, impressive animation and memorable songs, this creepy-sweet concoction is a marvelous alternative to other, scarier Halloween fare.

For more Tim Burton fun, be sure to see “Sleepy Hollow.” Just remember to keep your head firmly attached.

“The Fly” (1986)

Sure, the original Vincent Price film is a classic B-movie, but you can’t beat David Cronenberg’s remake for sheer squicktastic spectacle. Gore for the sake of gore isn’t scary, but Cronenberg’s horrific (and ultimately tragic) tale of a scientist who accidentally merges with a fly during a teleportation experiment uses gore to underscore the tragedy of its central character’s situation, as well as accentuate his humanity. Chock full of some of the most nightmare-inducing body horror scenes in all of cinema, as well as great acting from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, this is a great flick for gorehounds and lovers of great movies alike. Bring a barf bag (and some tissues for the finale).

Cronenberg fans are also advised to take a look at “Scanners” and “Videodrome” for a bit of social commentary mixed with bloodshed.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)

Tim Curry. Singing and dancing. As a transvestite. Need we say more? This campy musical homage to sci-fi B-movies isn’t horrific as the title might imply, but it delivers scene after scene of unleaded lunacy and a clutch of instantly memorable songs, plus the pleasant sight of Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick traipsing around in their underwear for 80 percent of the movie. Nice.

What’s your favorite Halloween movie? Any of our picks? Whether you go for full-on terror or subtler chills, let us know what you think in the comments or tweet us @SpeakeasyENT

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