View Full Version : Rhett's Halloween Top Ten 2009

10-24-2009, 10:26 PM
Itís been a busy year for me, and in the past Iíve been able to look for October as my solace to sit back and relax with the horror movies I love. Work this year has dictated that rather than set aside designated time to indulge in the addiction, Iíve instead had to piece together what free moments I do have to try and fit in the movies I want to watch. Add to the calamity the fact that this October 31st Iíll be on the road filming, so I canít even set aside the Hallowed day for watching horror. The resulting list this year

Itís been a busy year for me, and in the past Iíve been able to look for October as my solace to sit back and relax with the horror movies I love. Work this year has dictated that rather than set aside designated time to indulge in the addiction, Iíve instead had to piece together what free moments I do have to try and fit in the movies I want to watch. Add to the calamity the fact that this October 31st Iíll be on the road filming, so I canít even set aside the Hallowed day for watching horror. The resulting list this year is thus a rag tag array of picks from countries, eras and sub-genres Ė anything I could get my hands on, all rolled into one. Whatever you watch this year, make sure to try and fit in some of these like Iíve done. Happy Halloween!


10. Tales from the Darkside, Season 1: "Trick or Treat" (1983)

After devoting the last several years of my TV time to reviewing and revisiting TV horror in the form of Tales from the Crypt, Friday the 13th: The Series and The Hitchhiker, it was a great change of pace to finally enter the darkside when Paramount debuted the first season of George A. Romeroís celebrated series. While the second, ďI donít have a son named Jerry!Ē segment is probably the best and most memorable, itís the Romero-written series opener that works best this time of year. It plays on our bizarre custom of having children walk up to the houses of strangers to ask for loot on Halloween by having an old curmudgeon hide his wealth inside his old, scary house for the children of his employees to try and find. Itís the ultimate gamble, but watching Romeroís ďTrick or TreatĒ episode is a sure bet to starting your Hallowís Eve festivities off with a bang.


9. Blow Out (1980)

Octoberís about watching horror movies, and while Brian DePalmaís overlooked Blow Out is certainly quite the masterpiece on its own, its focus on a schlocky B horror movie sound man gives the movie a fun, tongue in cheek sensibility to help alleviate the overwhelming dread that overhangs this dreary testament to American conspiracy. The film within a film opener, the sleazy slasher Coed Frenzy, is as hilarious a pastiche as anything found in all of Student Bodies. It kicks off with a bang, but the actual story grabs you shortly thereafter and doesnít let go until the harrowing finale. I donít think there has been any darker comedy than the last line uttered in Blow Out. The dying fall backdrop makes a perfect setting both for the filmís metaphor of decaying constitutional values and for setting the stage for the horrors that come with October. Look for film posters for a number of old MGM drive-in staples like Squirm and Food of the Gods in the background of the earlier production house scenes.


8. Don't Look in the Basement (1973)

Donít Look in the Basement is a movie I picked up at a momín pop shop in 2003 with little to no expectations, and itís a good thing since all bets are off. Iíve never been able to shake this weird little movie, the debut of under-appreciated mini horror auteur S.F. Brownrigg, from my mind. Itís basically what would happen if you remade Freaks with no budget in Texas circa 1973. Thatís fitting, since near the end of his unfortunately short, four film career, Brownrigg had intended to remake Browningís carnival creeper. The plot is hardly there, but the screw loose cast definitely is, giving each scene a weird, uncomfortable flair. The truth in the titular basement turns out to be an anti-climax, but the film has a few frightful tugs of the rug and plenty of uninhibited carnage. Itís really tough to describe the je ne sais crazy of the film, but maybe itís all for the best, because the less you know about this cheapie, the better.


7. Murder by Decree (1979)

Were it not for Donít Look in the Basement, I probably would have included Clarkís equally low-budget and bizarre Children Shouldnít Play with Dead Things on this yearís top ten. Both with casual acting and endearing, low rent effects, they create a realistic descent into genre. Murder by Decree, Clarkís final horror film in a long line of great seventies horror, certainly is no realist rumination, but it manages what few period films are able to do (especially when it comes to horror) by making the look, the tone and the debauchery as dark and disturbed as films set in the present. The tendency for period films is to gloss over or sanitize the past, but here Clark has great fun gliding across the prostitute-filled cobblestone streets, looking in the shadows when everyone else would turn the cameras on the A-list cast. The acting is of course terrific too, and the repartee between Sherlock and Watson is something the upcoming Holmes film is going to have to work very hard in living up to. Itís been over two years since we lost Clark to a drunk driver, but with an early body of work as sobering as Clarkís is, weíll never forget him.


6. Inferno (1980)

In a list full of ragtag picks, I may as well go with Argentoís most under-appreciated venture from his lucid period (between Deep Red and Opera), the second of the Mother pictures, Inferno. We all know that any follow up to Suspiria is bound to be inferior, but Argentoís creaky house picture holds up better than ever today following the bore of gore disappointment that is Mother of Tears. With its Three Mothers book prologue, Inferno is the film to tie all three together, and the only to really add formative text to the otherwise set piece showcase of Suspiria or the tits and guts parade of Mother of Tears. It uses each different level in a massive New York building to represent a different facet of history and horror, from the flooded underground to the book laden attic as if to suggest learning is indeed higher. This is far from Life as a House, though, we get some amazingly colorful set pieces and with the fiery finale, the scariest demise Argento ever cast to film.


5. Saw IV (2007)

When you hit four films, you stop being a flash in the pan and become an institution. I loathed the pretentious first, but something magical happened for the fourth outing. In came Feast screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan found a way to soften the high brow masquerade of the original and tame the high camp of the second and third outings. Instead of trying to grow out, as most surely would wish at the prospect of dealing with Leigh Whannelís vapid props characters, the duo showed brass by instead going deeper, and going backward, with already established characters. Jigsaw went from a soundboard to an iconic horror villain with tragedy to fuel his venom and looking backwards even made the previous films better by association, too. At a time when most horror franchises fizzle, Melton and Dunstan instead gave Saw new life and made this a series worth talking about. With the sixth film still effectively mining the past, thereís no better time to indulge in the film that cut out the cancer that had been growing since the first.


4. Vampyr (1932)

Part of what impinges on my enjoyment of the Universal monster movies is that with the recent invention of sound the camera was suddenly immobile and effects of the visual order were instead overlooked for aural continuity. You look at the staging of Browningís Dracula and compared to the visually audacious wonders of Líinferno or Nosferatu from years prior, and it hardly seems like progress. I always do relish the chance to relive the silent films, when the camera was truly liberated, and this year itís Criterionís fine serving of Vampyr. Although it is Carl Theodor Dreyerís first sound film, it plays out almost completely silent, with narrated book pages replacing the standard intertitle. Even with sound, Dreyerís camera moves like never before in some incredibly inventive sequences, from Platoian display of shadows on the wall interacting with real people to double exposures showing a man stepping outside his own body. Perhaps the most visually audacious sequence is when the lead character sees his own death and the camera moves along in first person looking up from the grave at the black and white jarring of tree branches on sky. The story on the surface is a trifle, and if done by anyone else during the sound period it probably would have been lamentable and forgettable. Under Dreyerís eye, though, it becomes a visually complex meditation on perception and how life begets death and dreams beget reality.


3. Cat in the Brain (1990)

I saw two great late career Fulci movies for the first time this year Ė Door into Silence and Cat in the Brain. Both are gleefully effective meditations on filmmaking, humanity, legacy and death, and bring to light the lucidity of his oft dismissed later career. For this top ten Iím going with Cat in the Brain because itís sort of best-of gore showcase would fit well wedged between films at any horror party. Having Fulci play himself (rather than John Savage doing the same in Door into Silence) makes the whole thing that much more personal and enjoyable. I always crack up at that scene where Fulci recoils in confused shock as he watches a chainsaw cut a tree in the courtyard. His camera zooms in elliptically to make sure that if his performance canít sell shock (heís not much the actor), his camera can. Thatís the kind of guy he was Ė he never shied away from the visceral, and fans of his other films shouldnít shy away from this, either.


2. Shivers (1975)

David Cronenbergís debut was filmed at the tail end of summer in Toronto, but given those brown, sparse landscapes, youíd certainly be forgiven for thinking it was October. Hell, I still do every time I watch it. The colors make this a near fall perennial for me, but itís the sparse, somber and somehow still hilarious satire that keeps me wanting to revisit the film regardless of time. His Canadian backdrops would never warm up, but as a filmmaker Cronenberg would become cooler as he mastered the medium, but his madcap sense of macabre here has always seemed the most organic or interesting of all his works. The scene where a parasite is vomited off the high rise and onto the clear plastic umbrella of a couple hoity toity old ladies always has me in stitches. Maybe only in Blood for Dracula has repression ever been spewed out onto the upper class with greater force. The DVD is unfortunately hard to come by, but this Halloween or any, itís worth it.


1. House II (1987)

I donít know what the hell Fred Dekker and Steve Miner were smoking when they made House, but whatever it was it made that movie an uncomfortable meld of slapstick digs at Americana and disturbed shell shock of the Jacobís Ladder order. Itís never really worked for me, but once co-writer of the original, Ethan Wiley, took over as director for the sequel, it clicked. House II is a wondrous picture, the kind where the imagination runs wild and you just hold on for the ride. Behind every wall in the creaky old house is some grand portal to another world or another place in time. Dinosaurs, Aztecs, the Old West and yep, even another Cheers cameo Ė nothing is off limits here! Itís a grand spectacle on a meager budget, but itís the family and the story of revenge and redemption for dusty old gramps that gives the movie its heart. Itís PG-13 but never compromises, and as a result itís one of the few horror movies that works as well for kids as it does adults. Add in early performances from Lar Park-Lincoln, Bill Maher and Amy Yasbeck to add to the frenzied fun. Playing like a top quality Tales From the Crypt episode, but with a lot more heart, House II is one of the finest bits of horror entertainment from the eighties and the perfect film to check into this Halloween season. Ding dong, youíre dead!

10-24-2009, 10:44 PM
Interesting list. I actually have "Shivers" lined up for next week.
Agreed on Don't Look In The Basement. It's a gem :)

10-24-2009, 10:48 PM
Refreshing list! I've always loved DePalma's Blow Out and will continue to revisit that film whenever I can. I'm sure a lossless Blu-ray audio track is in our future...somewhere down the line.

I have to see House 2 again. I actually recall seeing that in the old shitty Cineplex 17 in Toronto back in the day. It was the first of the films I got to see, and I just finally saw the original a few years back. Fun stuff.

Shivers is one of Cronenberg's creepiest outings. I love the sick sexuality of that film. It's time to revisit soon.

I think Don't Look in the Basement is viewable on Youtube movies, and I'll have to check it out at some point. I just keeping putting it off. You've also restored my interest in seeing Cat in the Bran and Vampyr which I haven't gotten around to either.

10-24-2009, 10:49 PM
Nice list Rhett. I especially appreciate the lack of obvious choices. You included some favorites of mine too--especially Murder By Decree.

10-24-2009, 11:05 PM
Glad to see you included a Tales from the Darkside episode. Love the series along with the others you mentioned. Plan to fit a few of these in during the next week, especially "Trick Or Treat." I enjoy Inferno a lot too, definitely an underrated movie from Argento.

10-24-2009, 11:16 PM
Blow out is a masterpiece of american film. and yessss Vampyr! where i got my screename!

10-24-2009, 11:23 PM
I fucking love Don't Look in the Basement. Although it's just a schlock b-picture at heart, the plot is immensely deep when you stop and think about it.


10-25-2009, 01:04 AM
Great list.....
Love Don't Look In The Basement.....
House II would be my gulty pleasure.....

10-25-2009, 01:21 AM
Saw IV and Vampyr back-to-back on the same list...please add an exploding head smilie.

Richard Anthony
10-25-2009, 01:43 AM
Great List!!

Blow Out is one of my All Time Favorite Films!! A Masterpiece and one of Brian De Palma's Best Films!!

I Love Fulci and I need to pick up Cat In The Brain!!

It's nice to see some love for House II: The Second Story!! I love the First Film and the Sequel is a Favorite as well!! I love Lar Park-Lincoln as the Bitchy Girlfriend and it's always Great to see Royal Dano!! I love how they throw everything at you and yet it all works and it turns out to be a Fun Horror Movie!!

10-25-2009, 01:43 AM
When my sister and I were kids, we'd watch "House II" all the time...and, after each veiwing, we'd promoptly run to the bathroom, grab the box of kleenex that was always sitting in there, and proceed to pull them all out of the box, one by run, and saying in unison "They keep coming, and coming, and coming....". Man, those were the days

10-25-2009, 06:52 AM
Hmmm, interesting lot of picks to say the least...

10-25-2009, 07:21 AM
Yet another surprising list, Rhett. There are a few films on here I am not familiar with, and it's high time I give House 2 a second spin.

10-25-2009, 02:50 PM
Don't Look in the Basement needs a proper release. Too many public domain crap releases of the film. It definitely has an unsettling atmosphere about it and really is an underrated gem. I imagine it won't get a good release since it has been put out in various cheapo single DVDs and included in some 50 and 100 horror DVD packs which would most likely make a proper release much less profitable.

10-26-2009, 04:43 PM
I own 5 of the dvds, Don't Look In The Basement, Inferno, Cat In The Brain, with the 3D Insert, Shivers, because it was Cronenberg's first film he directed, and I didn't know that it was Out Of Print, and House 2, which was with House, both together in the same case, but 2 seperate DVDs. Interesting Top 10 list.

10-26-2009, 08:13 PM
Great list as always. I like how you try to pick movies that really capture the fall season. I am hoping to pick up Tales from the Darkside Season 1 some time this week so hopefully I can give that episode a view before Halloween. I haven't seen any episodes from that show so I'm pretty excited! I watched Blow Out for the first time a week or two before October and really enjoyed it. De Palma is a Director that rarely lets me down and that one was really suspenseful. And I was surprised by the ending! I agree Inferno is underrated. It has a lot of very good moments, with the underwater scene obviously being one of them. As for House 2, I wasn't a fan of the first House so I never gave this one a chance. It sounds like you felt the same way about the first film though so maybe I'll have to go grab it as I'm pretty sure it can be found fairly cheap. The way you described it it sounds like it could be good cheesy fun like the Waxwork films. The rest of the films are all on my wishlist.

10-28-2009, 08:30 PM
I like the list a lot, although "Cat in the Brain" is much higher than I would have put it --- but all in all very interesting choices!

10-29-2009, 02:11 PM
I always liked House 2, it brought an imagination out like the film itself. It was creepy fun and wasn't even 10 when I saw it. Would like to revisit. Well done Rhett Legend.