Every year I pledge to myself that this is the year I’m going to come up with a list of films that revolve around a common theme, and I’m going to do a and every year I wind up with a grab bag of flick as varied and colorful as a the contents of trick-or-treater’s pillow case. Ah, well. So much for Halloween resolutions…let’s get on with the sweet stuff. Every year I pledge to myself that this is the year I’m going to come up with a list of films that revolve around a common theme, and I’m going to do a and every year I wind up with a grab bag of flick as varied and colorful as a the contents of trick-or-treater’s pillow case. Ah, well. So much for Halloween resolutions…let’s get on with the sweet stuff. 10. Pet Sematary Two (1992) The critical tide is about to turn on this motherfucker, I can feel it. This is your last chance to get in on the ground floor. Plus, it was either this, or Fun Size. 9. Saw II (2005) I’m a big fan of the Saw franchise and, even after the seventh installment ended the series (so far), the second film remains my favourite. What’s doubly impressive is that it works as well as it does when it was just a spec script that was repurposed as a Saw sequel when the original became an unexpectedly big sleeper hit. The traps are bigger and more elaborate and the introduction of the group dynamic adds another psychological element that would be present in the series strongest installments. The needle pit and the wrist traps are deliciously squirm inducing. And I like that a lot of Jigsaw’s plan doesn’t pan out the way he intended. The later installments confer on Jigsaw a level of near omniscience with his ability to tell not only how a trap will go off, but any particular individual’s reaction when placed in the trap. Saw II has the madman engineer at his most human, and his traps at the most sadistically gruesome. 8. The Devil's Advocate (1997) While the horror genre has a sizable and devoted following its fan base pales in comparison to that of, say, comic book superheroes. As a result horror films are very rarely made with a large budget and A-list cast and when they do manage to secure top shelf resources the stories are usually watered down, stripped of the most disturbing elements and the on screen bloodletting is “tasteful.” Part of the reason I love the big budget studio pic The Devil’s Advocate is its willingness to descend into the unabashedly horrific and spend scads of money while doing so. Themes of rape, incest, Satanism, martial breakdown and blood sacrifice…nothing’s sacred. The film is opulent and worth watching even if only for the last act, where Al Pacino tears up the scenery with some first rate blow-harding. This was finally issued on Blu-ray last fall so if you haven’t seen it in a while, pick it up. If nothing else, the cinematography by Andrzej Bartkowiak and production design Bruno Rubeo provide lots of eye candy while your brain is going over tomorrow’s grocery shopping list. 7. Warlock (1989) I’ve shortlisted Warlock for my Halloween top 10 the past two years. Not sure why it keeps getting edged out, since its canny mix of horror and fantasy easily make it a perennial favourite of me and my wife every October. Give the huge buzz I got from Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, we’ll definitely be revisiting this one. One of the last (if not the last) films from New World pictures. I always appreciate when writers delve into the more obscure arcana of classic folktales and integrates these elements into their stories. It shows that they cared about and put some effort into the story they were telling. Although Warlock is definitely weighted more towards fantasy than horror, it manages to pull out a few genuinely horrific moments, like when the Warlock skins a child so he can boil the skin to make flying potion. Director Steve Miner never lets such dark elements overtake the story, though, and keeps the story relatively light and the pace brisk. He’s help immeasurably by veteran actors Richard E. Grant as the witch hunter and Julian Sands as the Warlock. My only real bone to pick with Warlock is that Lori Singer disappoints as an uninspiring heroine. 6. King Kong (1976) I don’t really count “giant animals on a rampage” as true horror films; I consider them more creature features. Still that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for them on my viewing schedule come October, and the lavish (well, for the most part) Dino DeLaurentiis production is one my favourites. That’s due in large part to nostalgia, yes, but I’m still surprised how well this retelling of the classic tale stands up even against the epic Peter Jackson version from 2005. No, it’s nowhere near the classic that the 1933 version is, and not the high tech spectacle the Peter Jackson remake is. It’s campy schlock, sure, but it’s intentional campy schlock. Criticising it on that ground is like saying a comedy sucked because you laughed too much. Besides, I like schlock, I like camp and this version scratches that itch extremely well. If the special effects are a bit dodgy (oaky, a LOT dodgy), at least the John Barry score is sublime; someone must not have told him exactly what movie he was scoring. Updating the story to the fuel starved 70’s and making the villains an oil company has inadvertently made it relevant to the new millennium. One real minus: while she looks gorgeous in the role of Dwan (that’s not a typo) Jessica Lange’s performance is a dire miscalculation, even in a movie this intentionally over-the-top. Still, we get to see a giant gorilla hand rip off her top and try to finger-bang her. That’s got to count for something, right? 5. Halloween 5 (1989) I put this film as my number #1 pick on my very first Halloween Top Ten, to the chagrin of many. Time has not changed my opinion. THIS. MOVIE. OWNS. It’s such a bizarre mix of over-the-top camp, and legitimate scares and suspense. You have the keystone cops goofing it up with their mugging and clownish theme music one minute, then the next you Ellie Cornell taking a pair of scissors to the chest. Slick photography by Rob Draper. He’s gone on to a distinguished career since, and watching Halloween 5 it’s not hard to see why Danielle Harris is currently the reigning scream queen. Her diminutive, 11-year-old shoulders have an entire feature film set on them and she carries the movie, giving a legitimately forceful performance in the lead role that I consider one of the best juvenile performances to come out of the 80’s, in any genre. 4. The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) This is definitely the autumn of Stephen King. With the Carrie remake about to hit screens, the TV series Under the Dome wrapping up a successful first season and King’s belated Shining sequel already flying off bookseller’s shelves, there’s no better time to revisit the story that he made his bones with. The reason that I’m picking the sequel to the 1976 DePalma classic instead of that film itself, is because of how prominent the topics of rape culture and slut shaming have been online and in the traditional media this year. While the first one deals with the eternal problem of bullies picking on the weakest in the pack, the sexual exploitation the jocks in The Rage perpetrate is a whole other level of nastiness. In the aftermath of Rehteah Parson’s suicide, Carrie 2 resonates in an entirely new way. Directed with a surprising amount of sensitivity – unexpected considering director Katt Shea was brought in at the 11th hour as a hired gun - and featuring a great lead performance by Emily Bergyl, Carrie 2 is an undervalued little sleeper. It wasn’t a big hit at the time of its release but, watching it now, it feels like it was ahead of the curve. 3. Night of the Scarecrow (1995) There’s always been something inherently creepy about scarecrows, and their iconography has become almost as intertwined with Halloween as pumpkins and witches. Surprisingly, there are only a handful of films that try to capitalize on our fascination with the silent stalkers. Jeff Burr’s unfortunately overlooked direct to video feature was blessedly given a Blu-ray release earlier this year after being out of print since the heydays of VHS. I was both excited and nervous. I practically wore out my copy that I’d taped off Cinemax back in the 90’s (I tried ripping it to DVD, but the control track was so jacked up that my VHS to DVD recorder couldn’t even play it), but nostalgia can be a bitch. I was so happy it see it still (mostly) holds up. True, there are some moments that are painfully 90s, including a laughably awful CGI morph. But it has much more going for it, including some great harvest time atmosphere and a far better cast than you’d expect, including veterans Bruce Glover and Gary Lockwood, up and coming character actor Stephen Root, future Oscar nominee John Hawkes and the fetching Cristi Harris as the town reverend’s daughter. 2. Patrick 2 (Patrick Still Lives) (1980) Friends not as well versed in the genre as I am often ask me to recommend movies for them. I’ll try and match them up with something that suits their taste, which often means slighter newer, more mainstream skewing fright fare. For the truly adventurous, though, and those with a good taste for the absurd and off the wall, Patrick 2 is unrivalled. Ostensibly a sequel to Richard Franklin’s frankly bland 1978 Australian thriller, this cheapie Italian knockoff steals the premise and then takes an immediate left turn into Batshit Crazy Town. There’s almost no way to describe the hijinx in this movie. This is seriously something that needs to be experienced. I’m literally trying to think so something to describe to you that you would actually believe. And I can’t do it. All I can say is, you will never see a movie quite like Patrick 2. That’s a promise. 1. Friday the 13th, Part II (1981) Jason is back in a big way this fall. Not only has Warner released the first collection of all the Friday the 13th epics on Blu-ray, but 1428 Films has finally unleashed the epic documentary Crystal Lake Memories. There’s no better time to revisit the exploits of the sultan of slash, Jason Voorhees. The question is, with 12 movies to choose from, which one to pick? All the Friday the 13th films have their individual charms and even the worst of them are still insanely watchable but Part 2 is usually my go-to film when I want some Jason action. It’s a little harder edged than the quaint original, but it still hasn’t lost the sense of innocence that made the initial outing so endearing despite its flaws. Steven Miner steps into the director’s chair and gives us a first sequel that set the standard for the series that followed: tightly directed, suspenseful and scary in equal measures, Part 2 improves on the original in every conceivable way. If it weren’t for the fact that Jason has yet to don the hockey mask that would be become the character’s trademark and a pop cultural icon, I’d say it’s the perfect Jason movie. In fact, I’ll say it anyway. Even without the hockey mask, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a goddamned perfect Jason movie.