Paff's Halloween List 2005 Yes, Paff is still here. An intensely busy schedule has once again limited my participation at HorrorDVDs.com, and I wish I could contribute more. But at Halloween, I couldn’t even call myself a horror fan if I didn’t make an effort to watch a ton of fright flicks, no matter how busy I might be. So once again, I’ll recommend 10 films to consider for the last week of October. Some are fairly obvious, some might be a little obscure, but all of them are great options for a chilly autumn night. 10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 2, episode 6: Halloween (1997) An early episode of this series that is also among the best. On Halloween, the gang dons costumes to escort Sunnydale’s children for trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, a spell results in everyone developing the persona of his or her costume (except Cordelia of course, because she got her costume from a much more expensive store). Buffy is of no help, as she has become the pampered Southern belle she was only pretending to be. The real cleverness in this premise belongs to Willow (Alyson Hannigan). First, she was going to go as a slutty chick, but modesty and shyness results in her throwing on a bed sheet to change her costume to a ghost. So, when the spell is cast, she becomes the ghost of a slutty chick. A creative episode of one of the most creative television series of all time. 9. Hellsing (2002) As always, I like to have one animated film on my list. This time, it’s not just a film, it’s an entire 13 episode anime series. Now, it may be a little much to watch all 6 hours in one sitting, but why not throw in the first two or three episodes? Most animated Japanese horror tales feature multi-tentacled creatures doing unspeakable things to schoolgirls, but Hellsing is a very straightforward vampire saga, and one of the best examples of animated horror that you’ll ever see. But just to remind you that it’s anime, there are still plenty of guns, along with an impossibly well-endowed young woman. 8. The Wicker Man (1973) I debated whether or not to add this one, but when I realized that I wasn’t planning on putting any other Christopher Lee movies on my list, I gave Lord Summerisle another appearance. As I’ve mentioned in previous years, this begins as a seemingly innocuous tale of a remote Scottish island, with plenty of songs and entertainment at the pub. But there’s an air of mystery underneath, and as that mystery slowly unfolds, it gets creepier and creepier. Christopher Lee is at his finest as the austere Lord Summerisle and this is probably the best performance of his legendary career. An all-time classic that deserves a turn in everyone’s player at this time of year. 7. Fright Night (1985) Everyone praised Scream for being a film where the characters knew of horror movie clichés, and thus could avoid them or use them to their advantage. But it has been done before, and perhaps never better than in this 1985 vampire film. Not only does this movie take place in a world where people have SEEN horror films, the transition from self-referencing parody to true horror is nearly imperceptible. Compare that to Scream, where they felt they had to constantly remind the audience that “this is just like a movie.” Even Roddy McDowall’s hammy portrayal of legendary horror actor Peter Vincent fits in with the film’s motif. About the only negative of Fright Night is that it is now hard to take Amanda Bearse seriously after all her years as Marcy Rhodes D’Arcy on Fox’s raunchy Married: With Children. Other than that, this is one of my all-time favorite takes on the vampire story. 6. Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969) Well, we’ll end our string of (somewhat) light-hearted and humorous fare with the fifth (and best) entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. It looks like Hammer wasn’t interested in being light-hearted and humorous either. They’ve always portrayed Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein as the villain, but nowhere near as evil as in this film. Also, I really like how this is not a re-hash of the old “re-animate the monster again” premise that made Universal’s Frankenstein films so boring after the first few. Here we have a brain transplant as the storyline for a change of pace. To me, it’s just not Halloween without a Hammer film, and this is one of the best. 5. The Funhouse (1981) Speaking of dark films, how nasty is this Tobe Hooper effort from 1981? There is just not a likeable character in the cast. Even Elizabeth Berridge’s Amy is a bit snotty and uptight, and she’s the heroine! When you add in her questionable friends, her dysfunctional family, and worst of all, the traveling carnival troupe, you have 90 minutes of real ugliness. Some people criticize that the movie takes way too long to get started, but I’d say that the time is needed to illustrate what a downbeat and depressing setting Hooper has created. The Funhouse is far from a perfect film, and I agree with the assessment that it is “incomplete” in some way, but there is still some pretty chilling stuff here. Give it another try. 4. Three...Extremes (2004) I always like to include one recent film to remind everyone (including myself!) that the genre is not dead. And many people feel that the best horror films come from Asia nowadays. So why not include an anthology film that represents not one but THREE Asian nations? Directors Takashi Miike (Japan), Fruit Chan (Hong Kong), and Chan-Wook Park (South Korea) combine on this inventive trilogy. I like Miike’s story the best, and the Korean tale will remind many people of a movie they recently Saw. But the one that sticks with you is the middle story, from Hong Kong. This extremely gruesome short film will test the stomach of even the most seasoned horror veteran. And heck, why not order some Chinese food for this one? I highly recommend a plate of dumplings for when you watch Three…Extremes. 3. Night of the Living Dead (1968) A perennial favorite of mine, which has been on my list every year. Like many of the other films I’ve already listed, this is a movie that starts out relatively calm (well, after the cemetery scene), and lulls you into a false sense of security before a total shocking climactic sequence ensues. The influences of Night of the Living Dead are numerous, yet it’s really never been equaled. 2. Suspiria (1977) Despite being my favorite director, I’ve not included any films from Dario Argento on my previous lists. I feel his movies just don’t evoke the Halloween spirit. I’m changing that this year, and putting Suspiria on the list. For Halloween, I usually prefer the more muted color schemes you see in my other selections, but this year I’ll go with all-out color and the all-out assault on the senses of Argento’s most famous film. The plot is nearly non-existent, and many of the set pieces defy all strains of logic (I.E., the barbed wire room). But when you think about it, it might well be the closest anyone has ever come to putting a nightmare on film, and can you think of a better experience for Halloween? 1. The Blair Witch Project (1999) This is no surprise to anyone by now, but I’m gonna keep recommending this film on Halloween. Maybe someday, the haters will finally be able to see just how good it is. Once again, you have a film that seems innocent, almost boring to start. Days upon days of wandering in the woods numbs the senses of the viewer, but it also numbs the senses of the on screen characters. When they arrive at the clearing and find the bizarre stick figures, also realizing that they are hopelessly lost and in a lot of trouble, the numbness turns into total fear. To appreciate The Blair Witch Project, you have to be willing to let that fear take you over, and if you do, you may well be in for a long sleepless night.