9) I'd put this higher up on the list, but it's the only of the films that is in theaters now (opening nationwide this weekend). Paranormal Activity is a great scare. That's really all there is to it. If you were ever one of those kids who dared your friends or were dared by your friends to go running into the local house with the haunted history attached to it, Paranormal Activity feels very much like that. Except, you're an adult now, and you're just not used to being that damned scared anymore. It's pulse pounding, suspenseful and the film succeeds in making you basically do that to yourself because it shows you so little. I've been beating the drum for this movie for a few months now, and I'm not going to stop because it has gotten a nationwide release and it has already become incredibly successful for the $15,000 it cost to make. I've been beating the drum for this film, and have continued to because it is just that fun to watch. GO SEE THIS IN THE THEATERS NOW!!!!
7) Speaking of fun, another ghoulishly good flick for the Halloween season is Night Of The Creeps. This one is finally coming to DVD and Blu-Ray on Oct. 27th. We've got an alien invasion film, a zombie film, bits of slasher film, and fifties B movie all wrapped up into one decidedly absurd package by one Fred Dekker. You might not be familiar with the name, but the chances are that if you're in your early to mid-thirties (or are just a film geek like me), you've heard of The Monster Squad, Dekker's other film from the 80's. Night Of The Creeps is a lot less kid friendly than The Monster Squad, if only for the level of gore thrown about. Take heart if you're a non-horror lover, most of the gore in this one is strictly for gags. It's both a send up of the B-movie monster flicks from the fifties, and a loving homage at the same time. It's got a little bit of everything and is generally well made enough, and doesn't take itself seriously enough for most people to enjoy it.
6) It's time to get a few genuinely scary flicks in, because after all, it is Halloween, and what better time of year to allow yourself to get the pants scared off of you from the comfort of your own living room. Hence, I give you The Shining.Aside from the obvious, the things people always say about The Shining being terrifying, Jack Nicholson being brilliant, Kubrick being one of the greatest film makers of all time, and the beauty of the location and cinematography, there's something else I absolutely love about it. When I talk to people who don't generally like horror films, it's invariably the exception they make. When you bring up The Shining, they'll say, "That was a great movie. It scared the crap out of me." In other words, it's one of the truly rare gateway films the horror community shares with the rest of the film community, The Silence Of The Lambs being the other big one. There's never a bad reason to watch The Shining. This and the next film were the first two horror films I ever saw, and they scared the living daylights out of me. From that point forward I was hooked.
3) From the horrifyingly unsettling to the horrifyingly absurd. Dead Alive is one of Peter Jackson's (you know, that guy who made that trilogy for nerds and geeks called The Lord Of The Rings) early works. A.K.A Brain Dead, depending on where you live, this is often referred to, as the line on the poster says, as "the goriest fright film of all time". But, this is in no way a serious film. Dead Alive has more in common with The Three Stooges than it does Night Of The Living Dead. All of the gore in the film is meant to make you slap your forehead and exclaim "oh WHY?!", not make you wretch. It's fun stuff, and Brain Dead may have been a better name for the film because it is essentially brain dead. The only intent here is to make you laugh at how gloriously insane and gory this film actually is. Jackson uses some semblance of a plot about a monkey from Skull Island (oh yeah, he did that remake about the huge monkey as well) which is dragged back to New Zealand as a zoo attraction. Well, apparently anyone it bites becomes a flesh eating zombie. Our hero, on a clandestine date, finds his smothering mother has been following him when she's bitten by the ugliest simian you've ever seen. From there, things go downhill, and it's funny as hell. It's really fun stuff from a man who later proved himself to be a master film makers, and who horror fans are happy has shown he sure has a love for gore.
2) This film laid the groundwork for so many that followed, it's hard to leave it out of any list of horror films. But, considering the general tone of the film, it fits here on a list of Halloween films. It's fun, kind of scary, kind of weird, experimental, and do it yourself, imaginative film making at it's best. Evil Dead 2 is as much Three Stooges as it is horror film, it's the #1 reason Bruce Campbell has become a cult hero, and it was the very first suggestion that Sam Raimi could possibly be a master film maker. I saw this for the first time when I was probably fourteen or fifteen, and my reaction to it was, "I didn't know you could do that in a movie!" and not just in the sense of the incredible gore (because there's lots of it, again comedic in tone), but in the way the story is told and in the cinematography as well. There is a kind of kinetic quality to this film that is extremely rare. It just seems to be moving along at an incredible pace, that even when the on screen action slows down, it's either in service to the comedy or the suspenseful aspects of the film. This is just a great, fun, incredibly inventive film.
1) There's a new king in town. As of this year, Halloween has a new favorite film for the season. Will I always love John Carpenter's Halloween? Yes. Will it always have a special place in my heart because it was one of my very first and longest lasting "favorite movies"? Absolutely. But, the thing about Trick 'r Treat is that it's an anthology, with every film being related to something that is directly related to so many of our different Halloween traditions. It's a lot of fun, extremely well made and the love for both this style of film and for the holiday itself are palpable in viewing the film. Like Paranormal Activity, this film made a big splash at the film festivals and got picked up by a larger studio, and sat on the shelf for two years. This didn't get released to theaters specifically because the studio was afraid to release it opposite any of the Saw films, which have ruled the Halloween box office for some six years now, possibly a seventh if this year continues the trend. I can't think of another film which is so specifically about Halloween, and which tells it's stories with such skill. In short, it gets the top spot for the combination of great content related to Halloween, and really good film making. Trick 'r Treat is the kind of film that needs more support and more attention from the masses. If you're of the mind that horror has become too focused on torture, degradation and lost it's eye for the fanciful and fantastic, this is perfect for you.