Thanks to the institution that is Major League Baseball, the Simpsons Halloween special is always shown the following week in November (this year includes a Twilight spoof, yawn.) So every year I seem to have Halloween on the brain long after the holiday is over. If I close my eyes, I can still taste poisoned candy and hear the soft thuds of toilet paper enveloping your house. As horror movie marathons are a staple of the season, in this post I'll run down some morbid movie marathon essentials. These films are paired with a corresponding song, ready to be heard during bathroom breaks. Alternatively you can put them on your iPod as you chase after the kids who just smashed your decaying jack-o-lantern.
Scary Movie: Halloween (John Carpenter's 1978 original or Rob Zombie's 2007 reboot)
The original was an anomaly of it's time. Produced for under $400 000, it grossed $60 million worldwide. Producer Debra Hill admits Jamie Lee Curtis was cast simply for the fact that she is Janet Leigh's, of Psycho shower scene fame, daughter. Tame by today's standards, at the time critics blasted the film for encouraging sadism and misogyny. I can only imagine what those critics would say had they seen Rob Zombie's 2007 reboot. Ultra-violent is an understatement for Halloween version 2.0. Zombie envisioned Michale Myers as a dog-eating psychopath and Scout Taylor-Compton's Laurie Strode is a fragile victim in the first film. By 2009's Halloween II she becomes as unhinged as her murdering brother. If Zombie does make a Halloween III, prepare for Laurie to don the William Shatner mask.
Accompanying Song: Halloween by Sonic Youth
Scary Movie: Rosemary's Baby
Understated and slow paced, 1968's Rosemary's Baby doesn't rely on buckets of blood or gallons of gore to terrify the audience. Instead Roman Polanksi's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel is a study in psychological horror. What woman wouldn't be repulsed to learn they have conceived the devil's baby? Look for Ruth Gordon's standout, Oscar-winning performance as a naughty neighbour.
Accompanying Song: Devil Baby by The Demonics (there are a few minutes of dead air after the song)
Scary Movie: Pet Sematary
The death of a pet is always a somber occasion. In Mary Lambert's 1989 pic, pet death goes from somber to spooky. Personally, I enjoyed the Edward Furlong-starring sequel over this installment. Don't get scared, but a remake is in the works! Paramount Pictures has tapped Matthew Greenberg to pen the screenplay.
Accompanying Song: Pet Sematary by The Ramones
Scary Movie: The Descent
Easily one of my favourite horror movies ever. Neil Marshall's 2005 claustrophobic epic stars six femme fatales and a horde of subterranean scares. One thing that sets The Descent apart from other horror movies is the writing- you actually begin to care about the characters. It may start slowly but as the story builds so does the dread. The drama that precedes the darkness makes for a sort of terrifying telenovela. See The Descent Part II for the return of Sarah and Juno.
Accompanying Song: Underground by Moist
Scary Movie: Scream (Series)
In 1996, Scream re-invigorated the horror genre. Smart and self-aware, the original grossed over $100 million on a budget of $10 million. The movie also introduced the mainstream movie going public to Rose McGowan's nipples. While 2000's Scream 3 saw the departure of writer Kevin Williamson and with him a dip in quality, the upcoming Scream 4 has Williamson returning for what will hopefully be the best installment in this legendary slasher series.
Accompanying Song: Scream by Michael & Janet Jackson
Scream 4 trailer
Scary Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street (The 2010 remake)
Looking back at the original it now seems schlocky and lame. Thankfully we have the recent reboot to stir us in our sleep. While not an amazing re-imagining, music video maven Samuel Bayer's 2010 version is definitely more disturbing. Mostly because of the molestation plot line. After his Oscar-nominated turn in Little Children,I wonder if Jackie Earle Haley will be pigeon holed as a child abuser- an abhorrent fate for any actor. As for the song paired with this movie; the tempo may not cut as sharply as Freddy's faux-fingers, but who else is creepier than that "witchy woman" Stevie Nicks?
Accompanying Song: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
Scary Movie: Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder's 2004 remake)
Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is my favourite zombie movie of all time. George Romero's original is a solid scare fest; for it's time. I mistakenly rented Romero's version once and honestly it now plays out as dated and more comedic than it was meant to be. The message of "consumers are mindless zombies" is more prevalent in the first film- yet for real petrification, I need zombies that can run as fast as blood spurting from a jugular wound.
Accompanying Song: Zombie Dance by The Cramps
Scary Movie: Natural Born Killers
Named the "8th most controversial movie" of all time by Entertainment Weekly, movie goers either loved or hated Oliver Stone's 1994 tale of mass murder. As a whole it is not so much scary as it is simply sick. NBK is memorable not only for the violence, but for its unique style. The film contains over 3000 cuts (mostly films have around 650) and utilizes black and white, unconventional colour schemes and bizarre camera lenses to create an unparalleled package. Released before reality TV was all the rage; NBK remains a prophetic and divisive celluloid chronicle nearly two decades after its release.
Accompanying songs: I Wanna Kill by Crocodiles
Got Love to Kill by Juliette & the Licks
Scary Movie: It
This movie terrified a pre-pubescent version of myself. Tim Curry is a true chameleon. He can play a sweet transvestite, a bungling butler and a blood thirsty monster without missing a beat. This TV movie does digress from Stephen King's novel but it's hard not to when the source material is over 1000 pages. Watch for a 2011 remake that will hopefully improve on this morbid masterpiece. Now here's Krusty, who I'll be looking for at the Treehouse of Horror this Sunday.
Accompanying Song: Send in the Clowns by Krusty the Clown