- by Loron Hays
So you’re throwing a party on Halloween night and, while the ghouls and boils are still ringing your doorbell and pulling pranks in the neighborhood, you want something to set the mood. Decorations are out. The jack-o’-lanterns are lit. Cobwebs spread throughout the house. Yet, the screen on your television is filled with an erectile dysfunction commercial. Mood killer. Get your creep on (along with a healthy dose of FUN) with these 13 films that can set one hell of an appropriate tone on Halloween night.
Disclaimer: these titles are merely suggestions and by no means are they meant to be comprehensive. Don’t bust my chops if I left your favorite film out. Chances are, it’s my favorite horror film, too. Oh, and all titles are available on blu.
13. The House on Haunted Hill (1956)
The screams at the beginning echo throughout the blackness of the screen and fill you with dread. The guests to this haunted house arrive in hearses. And Vincent Price offers a contest for the ages. Is he truly the ghoul his wife suggests? Few people can EVER shake off the night they first stayed at The House on Haunted Hill. Directed by William Castle, this is – for a lot of people – THE haunted house picture that will NEVER be topped. I tend to agree with them. Every note Castle and Price strike is pitch perfect for scaring its audience.
Memorable Line: “Don’t let the ghosts and the ghouls disturb you.”
12. The Burbs (1987)
Has director Joe Dante ever disappointed us? Hell, no! The Burbs is a classic horror-drenched black comedy that continues to strike all the right chords. Repeated viewings of the film brings to light just how GREAT its lines and warped sense of humor are. Starring Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, and the great Bruce Dern, the neighborhood watch at the center of this comically morbid tale has gone completely off-kilter as one strange family moves in and perplexes the community with midnight treks to the curb in their car to dump the trash and rain-soaked backyard burials. Are they deranged or has the neighborhood lost its collective mind? With Rick Ducommun as the very paranoid Art, The Burbs should finally receive the recognition is deserves. As a bonus, you’ve got Dick Miller in it as a garbage man. Need I say more?!
Memorable Line: “What have you got in the cellar, HERR Klopek?!”
11. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
I’ll venture to bet you STILL have the Silver Shamrock commercial jingle stuck (pun intended) in your head. I know I do and – with every Halloween season – comes the reminder. That. Damn. Jingle. Set to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, the commercial that triggers a mass-killing of children is at the heart of this haunted tale. Writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (It) takes an original idea by John Carpenter and spins Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like themes into this disturbing movie, coupling it with some good old trick-or-treating nightmare scenarios all at the hands of a mad scientist who wants to see the Halloween holiday return to its dark roots. Starring Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, the horror film has become a yearly staple in my grab bag and, thanks to Scream Factory’s handling, belongs in yours, too. It is the BEST to countdown the evening’s festivities with.
Memorable Lines: “I don't believe this commercial! It never stops!”
10. The Night of the Comet (1984)
Who says Halloween can’t be fun? Set during the Christmas season, this horror/comedy is what happens when a comet passes too closely to Earth. Two sisters, Samantha and Regina, and a handful of others are the only survivors when a much ballyhooed comet appearance actually gets people out of their seats and into the streets to watch it pass by. Unfortunately, its side effect is total obliteration. Written and directed be Thom Eberhardt, the film is filled with nice zingers, big hair, cool chicks, and has enough zombies scattered about to scare the living shit out of you. Of course, the valley girls at the center of this tale only want to have fun … with guns and Daddy’s credit card. They have to, after all, lead the way in order for humanity to continue.
Memorable Line: "Daddy would've gotten us Uzis!"
9. Dolls (1987)
Still on the lighter side of All Hallow’s Eve comes Stuart Gordan’s Dolls. While it is considered a horror film, this film operates more like a dark and twisted fairy tale. It even has a moral that it imparts to its audience. There are fantasy elements associated with The Brothers Grimm and serious bits of Gothicism sprinkled throughout the setting of Dolls, a film that brings some creepy-ass children’s toys to life inside a big ol’ haunted house in order to teach some nasty adults a lesson or two. Gordan who shot this tale of a spooktacular house inside a soundstage at the Italian studio formerly owned by Dino De Laurentiis. This adds to the visual aesthetic of the low budget film, giving Dolls a hefty punch. This film does aim for laughs and – with cackling jeers from the elder owners of the house as they watch their toys go “play” with the deserving targets – also manage to be frightfully wicked.
Memorable Line: “Fuck you, clowny!”
8. Cherry Falls (2000)
Flipping the whole slasher script on its proverbial head, Cherry Falls is the horror genre’s best-kept secret. It is an intelligent romp through a new teenage wasteland where a knife-wielding murderer is offing the small town’s virgins one by one because of a nasty little secret from the town’s past. It stars the late Brittany Murphy, comedian Jay Mohr, and The Terminator’s own Michael Biehn as the town’s sheriff. Satirical and cleverly-written, Cherry Falls is hands-down one the BEST horror scripts to come out of the past three decades of filmmaking. It deserves an audience, which is why it makes my list for Halloween cheer. Any fan of satire and of slasher flicks will appreciate the hell out of this one. Go ahead, pop that cherry…everyone else is.
Memorable Line: “Holy hymens, Batman - they're killing virgins!”
7. Spaced Invaders (1990)
Crippled with a fun-loving throwback vibe most audiences were not expecting, the madcap flick about a group of aliens who misinterpret Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast disappeared from theaters as quickly as it had arrived. Luckily, it has found a second wind on blu-ray and, as it is aimed for little Halloweenies, scores some kudos from family households. Its cheesy, but fun. While the aliens invite ridicule and laughter, they never get out from under the weight of their big green heads. Falling in line with some children on Halloween night – one dressed as an alien, and the other dressed as a duck – the aliens, with personalities all of their own, use their stunning good looks to mingle with the enemy on Halloween night and figure out how the hell to get back home. It’s harmless, but highly recommended when you need some Halloween fun.
Memorable Line: “But, Dad, they're not really bad, they're just... stupid.”
6. White Zombie (1932)
It is more than just a cult classic. White Zombie is the stuff of legend AND nightmares. It’s also the first movie to showcase zombies – whether the walking dead or just poisoned. Let’s be honest, though. It’s far beyond the appropriate time to recognize Victor Halperin’s White Zombie as a masterpiece of horror. In many ways, it is a more poetic horror film than 1931’s Dracula. Long on shadows and heavy on mood, White Zombie suffers nary a single hiccup in in its wondrous and haunted imagery. While the role of Dracula made him THE name in horror, Bela Lugosi absolutely nails his role as the brainwashing Murder Legendre. Watch it with the lights out!
Memorable Line: “For you, my friend, they are the angels of death.”
5. Spider Baby (1967)
When it comes to cult films, Spider Baby, written and directed by Jack Hill, might just be the best example of the term’s definition. The film is a low-budget classic that nails its horror and its comedic elements like none other. While Hill – the director of Switchblade Sisters, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and Foxy Brown – remains tightlipped about what inspired this mad tale of onset puberty behavioral regression as three “children” – the products of a long line of incest – dabble with murder and chaos inside a disintegrating house, the influence of this film is what carries its greatest momentum. Starring Sid Haig and Lon Chaney Jr., this macabre tale is purrfect for Halloween. Crank its theme song up loud and see for yourself why it remains The Maddest Story Ever Told.
Memorable Line: “This has gone well beyond the boundaries of prudence and good taste.”
4. Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Now this one is a film that gets the balance between horror and comedy exactly right. Knee-deep in late ‘90s production values that doesn’t halt the intensity of some solid practical effects, the first Tales from the Crypt film, Demon Knight, is a modern classic that should be on everyone’s screen Halloween night. Blood-born demons unleash hell itself against a tiny inn and the results are both intense and a lot of fun. Explicit in its gore and confident in its direction, it is Zane’s gonzo-throttled performance as The Collector that jettisons this movie into the stratosphere of the horror/comedy genre and makes it worth revisiting each and every year. Seriously. Stop reading. Pick up your copy today … like right now.
Memorable Line: “You fucking ho-dunk, po-dunk, well then there motherfuckers!”
3. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
What better way to get your clown fix this Halloween than with a splatterific chuckle or two? Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the flick you want. Owing much of its inspiration to the science fiction and horror films of the 1950’s, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the story of one small town’s hostile takeover as aliens, who look alarmingly like clowns, arrive and start harvesting its citizens. The movie attacks its audience with corny lines, acid pies, popcorn guns, flesh-eating balloon animals and awesomely distasteful B-movie clichés. Even the children are not spared. This homage to those inspiring classic B-movies of a bygone era might have hitched its wagon to a single-minded gag but the riff pays off in all its rib-tickling variations.
Memorable Line: ‘What are you gonna do... knock my block off?”
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
You already suspect it, now you must admit it. People are turning on you. Everywhere. They simply cannot be trusted. That’s basically the premise – the motif – in 1978’s re-imaging of Jack Finney’s book. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, spins its dark web from the 1956 original. As far as science fiction B-movies go, director Philip Kaufman’s version is the most “human” any thought or discussion of paranoia and intellectualism gets; the fascists are coming. Wicked in its welcoming of conspiracies against one another and yet still full of compassion, this remake gets everything correct, making it damn-near the only version of pod-people to ever really see. If it’s raining where you are on Halloween night, God help you. This flick won’t make it any easier for you.
Memorable Line: “Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me you scum!”
1. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
No, no, Plan 9 from Outer Space is not the worst film every made. It is a joyful song echoing from the bloggersphere world in which we live in today. Having said that, Ed Wood’s movie isn’t perfect. It embraces its flaws and, as a result, has become an icon in spite of itself. Plan 9 is a birthright into Nerd-head Geekdom; a certifiable accolade of coolness if watched with the right attitude. Starring Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Vampira, and The Amazing Criswell it will make the perfect nightcap to ANY Halloween festivity. While it’s true that Wood couldn’t make a good film if his collection of wigs and angora sweaters depended on it, it is also true that he is one of the most earnest and honest filmmakers to ever break in to a Hollywood set and steal a prop octopus for Bela Lugosi to roll around on top of.
Memorable Line: “I'll bet my badge that we haven't seen the last of those weirdies.”