Paff's Halloween List 2006 Halloween. A time for traditions. A time for costumes, wild parties, and opening your door to hand candy to neighborhood kids (does anyone else have the phenomenon of teenage kids with NO costumes trick-or-treating? What’s up with that?). And for horror fans, it’s a time to watch our favorite movies. So it’s also time for me to come up with my annual list of 10 suggestions for movies to watch on or around Halloween. As always, I’ll throw in a few classics, a few you forgot, and maybe some you’ve never even heard of. Blend the old and the new, the funny and the scary, the familiar and the unfamiliar for a great evening or two with your DVD player. 10. The Simpsons – Treehouse of Horrors (1990-2006) These horror parodies have been a Halloween staple on Fox for 16 years now. And they never get tiring! I will leave it to the viewer to pick which entry to watch. There is a DVD collection of various episodes, but a lot of the best entries have been omitted. For those, you’d have to refer to the individual season box sets. Luckily, I own several of these so I have a lot to pick from. Season 4’s trilogy may be my favorite, with the evil Krusty doll, the King Kong parody, and the zombie invasion. Other seasons include parodies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (season 5), The Shining (season 6), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (season 7). If you don’t have the DVD sets, check the syndicated reruns. 9. Theater of Blood (1973) Quite possibly, Vincent Price’s finest moment. This film has it all: comedy, literary and Shakespeare references, violence, fencing (!), hippies, and Diana Rigg of The Avengers. I re-watched this one recently after seeing a staging of Titus Andronicus and I loved the direct quoting of the Bard’s text. The concept of murders based on classic literature was much more successful in David Fincher’s Seven, it’s too bad this movie never got the respect it really deserved. Vincent Price was always a bit of a hammy actor, so who better to play the part of a hammy Shakespearian actor and murderer? In a way, it was the role Price was born to play. Plus, it makes you realize just how dark and violent a lot of Shakespeare’s plays really were. 8. Horror of Dracula (1958) Thought I’d throw this one back on here, as it’s my favorite Hammer film. They don’t try to make Christopher Lee’s Dracula seductive like many of the other film versions of the Stoker tale, but who cares? It’s Christopher Lee, dammit! I guess they figured no one would be fooled into thinking that Count Dracula is just an eccentric loner, so they made him a badass pretty much from the beginning. Works for me. And the pairing of Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing is legendary. Lee and Cushing would trade off in the sequels, never appearing on-screen together again until Dracula AD 1972, long after the series had grown tiresome. A quintessential film for Halloween. 7. Rosemary's Baby (1968) Roman Polanski’s epic nightmare of paranoia and the supernatural is a well-deserved classic. The pace is a bit slow, but it’s the little details that make it so good. Is Rosemary really carrying Satan’s child, or is it just a difficult pregnancy? Are the neighbors’ homeopathic medicines helping her, or is it all part of their evil plan? Sure, if you’ve seen the film you already know the answers to those questions, but it’s best to wipe your mind clean and watch it all unfold. A subtle, understated film that really illustrates the concept of horror. 6. Masters of Horror (2005) For the longest time, horror fans have clamored for a high-quality horror anthology series on pay-TV (where the installments could include the graphic violence and gore we all love so much). It took a while, but Showtime finally delivered: a horror series where the episodes are directed by well-known names in the field. Now, I will confess that I have only seen a small handful of episodes, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I can definitely see myself owning most or all of the series. Another overlooked facet of Masters of Horrors is the hour-long running time. Perfect for when you want a little horror, but don’t have 90 minutes or two hours to spare. Something else to consider: Takashi Miike’s episode “Imprint” was deemed too controversial even for pay-TV! 5. One Missed Call (2003) Speaking of Takashi Miike, check out his entry in the “scary girl” genre that has been so prevalent in Asian horror the last few years. Many fans have decried this as a paint-by-numbers rip-off that is not as good as many of the other films made by the innovative and prolific Japanese director. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, Miike plays by the rules, yet he knows when to break them too. Check out the apocalyptic live-TV segment midway through the film or the horrific conclusion in the abandoned hospital and you’ll see Miike’s distinctive touch. I view this the same way I view a giallo film by Lucio Fulci; he has to stay within the confines of the genre, yet he knows when to add his own personal flavor and style. Better than a lot of people think, and a great use of surround sound effects will provide more than a few startles and jumps. 4. Night of the Living Dead (1968) Yeah, this one has been a staple ever since I started doing these lists. A friend of mine always makes a point to watch Freaks (1932) and this movie back-to-back. Can’t say it’s a bad idea. It’s odd how it’s become such an established Halloween movie, when it takes place in the early spring. Maybe it’s the stark black and white photography, combined with extremely gruesome subject matter that puts it on the top of so many Halloween viewing lists. Whatever the reason, it’s a classic piece of filmmaking that can still give you the chills if you’re in the right mood. Give it another spin. I know I will. 3. Art of the Devil 2 (2005) You probably never even HEARD of this one, have you? Well, it’s a rather nasty film from Thailand that has a touch of 80s style with a group of teenagers and the “final girl” storyline we all know and love. Throw in some gruesome torture scenes and a supernatural plot element, and how can you miss? Thailand is still new to the horror genre, and most of their output has been limited to variations of Ring and other “scary girl” rip-offs. This is a sequel-in-name-only to a fairly tepid entry from a couple of years back. Since there are no recurring characters or storyline, you can jump right in. In fact, avoid the first film altogether. But so far, it’s the best Thai horror film I’ve seen yet (and yes, I’ve seen Shutter and The Eye). Plus, it’s good to get that 80s feel on Halloween without rehashing a film you’ve already seen 100 times. 2. Creepshow (1982) In the 80s, there was a much-anticipated team-up of George Romero and Stephen King. We were expecting a big-screen version of The Stand, and we were quite surprised when the collaboration turned out to be a filmed version of a King-penned COMIC BOOK. We were more surprised when it turned out to be one of the best adaptations of King ever seen (which it still is, to this day). Once again, George Romero was way ahead of his time, adapting the comic book style to the big screen. Robert Rodriguez was given all sorts of praise for Sin City in 2005, but Romero did it first (and without the help of computers or digital effects I might add). Horror anthologies are always fun at Halloween; it’s too bad they’re rarely done this well. 1. The Blair Witch Project (1999) So many of you were probably hoping I wouldn’t put this at the top of my list again. Sorry, it’s not gonna happen. Look around the cable channels, and you’ll see this one on the schedule quite often this time of year, almost as often as Carpenter’s Halloween. So I’m not the only one who sees this as a perfect Halloween film. In my past lists, I’ve given various reasons why I love it…some of you have backed me up, some have ridiculed and criticized me. I’m sure it will be no different this year. All I can say is that it’s not Halloween to me until I’ve done a midnight screening of The Blair Witch Project.