Rhett's Halloween List 2005 As Hollywood horror seems to have stalled recently due to sequelitus and remakemortis, I’ve found myself increasingly turning to Europe for my scares. They have such a diverse body of horror films of all makes and models that it is tough to know where to start. This year has no doubt been a banner year for European horror on DVD, as we've seen some great releases by Blue Underground, Shriek Show, Criterion, Anchor Bay, Lions Gate and NoShame, to name a few. So this year, instead of giving you my usual list of the top ten movies I recommend for the day of the pumpkin, the theme this year will be European. 10. Venus in Furs (1969) This Jess Franco neo-noir is the perfect thing to pop in to start off your Halloween party. Laced with good jazz music and a meandering and redundant plot, it’s the perfect movie to have playing in the background as you focus on other things. That way the jazz music can kick the night up a bit, and the hallucinogenic visuals can kick off North America’s craziest night. If ever there was a movie to watch while not paying attention, it is a Jess Franco movie. His movies seem to get better the less critical attention you give them. So pop in Venus in Furs and let the night begin. 9. Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) From Franco we move to Bava, in what is probably his most accessible and most violent film. Twitch of the Death Nerve exhibits all the style that Bava was known for, as well as all the gore that the slasher film was known for. It is a fusion of old and new, and its legacy continues with every backwoods camp slasher movie that follows in its wake. It is short and brisk, and playful enough to watch before the night kicks into the more serious bits of October horror. For added fun, let the kiddies watch the finale. 8. Night Train Murders (1975) Nothing says Halloween like a rape revenge story. The autumn backdrop and folky theme song give it a festive Halloween mood, but it’s the cold and unflinching story that really gives the film its worth. Ennio Morricone’s brooding harmonica score suggests a horror as lurking as trick or treaters on Hallow’s Eve, and Aldo Lado’s direction gives the whole thing substance. He made quite the contribution to Italian cinema between this and his two gialli, Short Night of Glass Dolls and Who Saw Her Die?, but Night Train Murders remains his best. It’s a film that broods in the barren autumn landscape, and even if the film is cold, it fits the mood perfectly. 7. Cat People (1942) A Hollywood production, sure, but deep down this is a French meditation on suppression and lust. Both director Jacques Tourneur and star Simone Simon hailed from Eiffel country, and they lend the film an exotic elegance that has rarely been achieved in Hollywood before or since. The whole production embodies the central metaphor of Halloween: the duality between wholesome appearances and ghoulish desires. On the surface Simon is proper and polite, but deep down lurks the longing of the beast. The inspired use of shadows pays homage to another seminal European horror film, Nosferatu, but it’s the elegance that sets Cat People apart. The recent Val Lewton collection has finally given this film the release it deserves, and there’s no better time to celebrate it than tonight. 6. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971) Another anticipated fall release, Tombs of the Blind Dead is a haunting and original work from Spain, infusing your typical Romero zombies with deep mystical underpinnings. The Blind Dead themselves are a macabre creation, and their foreboding death march, whether on foot or on slow-motion horseback, is instantly memorable. Every Halloween horror list needs a zombie film, and zombies don’t get much better than they do here. It is a fun enough movie, and one that again can be enjoyed with or without sound, but whether you are listening or not is irrelevant, those knights templar will slowly creep into the subconscious. 5. Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) You can’t represent Europe without a little bit of Fulci, and Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is yet another great European horror film released on DVD this year. More than just metaphor, it actual features some eerie scenes of people in mask, as the lead character bombards herself with hallucinations. The whole film has a psychological perplexity to it, as well as Fulci’s trademark boobs and blood excess. This film contains some of Fulci’s craziest imagery, from a mad honking duck to eviscerated dogs hung from bedposts. The whole film is a parade of ghastly images and conceptions, and the perfect treat for a night of unpredictable doorbell horrors. 4. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) A horror-a-thon doesn’t feel complete without a séance, and Dracula A.D. 1972 captures that fun, old fashioned scary movie feel with swingin’ perfection. A European list wouldn’t be complete without some Hammer, and Warner’s recent release of the film is finally giving people a chance to enjoy this underappreciated Dracula entry. It’s got Cushing and Lee back together again, and even more “groovy, man!” hippies than Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. More fun than freaky, it’s the perfect film to throw in when the night calls for old fashioned horror movie fun. 3. High Tension (2003) Even if European horror thrived and died in the seventies, High Tension is proof that good genre films can still be resurrected from the remains of the seventies legacy. Perfectly channeling seminal seventies classics like the fitting Halloween, Tension is a perfect throwback to a time when great stories could be told through style rather than story. Tension is a high octane suspense ride, with enough gore by the bucket to satisfy Ed Gein. It may not be explicitly set on Halloween, but in its stylistic similarity to Carpenter’s film, it more than feels suitable for tonight’s night of horror. 2. Eyes Without a Face (1959) Like Tourneur’s Cat People, Eyes Without a Face is another elegant French concoction that sort of sneaks up on you. It presents itself quietly and subtly throughout, like a quaint period drama…that is until you realize it is about a doctor making flesh masks for his deformed daughter. It seems to artsy and pretty to be wholly scary, but the final sequence of liberation is certainly one of the most hauntingly beautiful sequences in all of horror. For anyone looking at a more cerebral and affecting horror movie this year, the involving mask of Eyes Without a Face is the perfect fit. The fantastic Criterion DVD makes this an even more enticing film to dress your DVD player in this Halloween. 1. Halloween 5 (1989) My Halloween pick every year has naturally been my favorite horror film, John Carpenter’s Halloween, but the European underpinnings of this list make doing so again an impossibility. Instead, I am going to suggest people give Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Halloween 5 another shot. Although officially American, it rings with a European sensibility throughout thanks to Frenchman Girard’s exciting visual style. The “underrated classic” card has already been played one too many times on Halloween III, but there is equal much to admire with this fifth Halloween sequel. Sure, it’s got those laughable keystone cops and the inexplicable man in black, but strong characters or plotting has never been a European forte. People don’t watch Argento or Fulci for story, so neither should they for Halloween 5. The Revenge of Michael Myers is filled with style, from its first inward shots of a pumpkin being carved to the expressionistically lit wheat field chase at the end. The stalking sequences pack a real punch, and the equally stylish laundry chute sequence is one of the highpoints of the series. Michael’s mask looks grisly and creepy, and the one-two-three punch of Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris give Michael some worthy adversaries. The second and fourth installments of the series were enjoyable adherences to formula, but this fifth film continues to ring with a freshness. It is an at times unrelentingly bleak experience, but Othenin-Girdard isn’t afraid to try new things with the formula, and between the twists and the style, Halloween 5 is a film fit for reappraisal.