October 14th: Best Tween Film

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Halloweentown

October 14th: Best Tween Film

Halloweentown (1998), a made-for-TV Disney movie, is a fantastic family-friendly Halloween movie. After learning she’s a witch, Marnie, played by Kimberly J. Brown, travels to Halloweentown to apprentice under her grandmother Aggie Cromwell, played by Debbie Reynolds. The TV-G film runs one hour and 24 minutes. The film started a series of 4 films; however, only Reynolds, Judith Hoag who plays mom Gwen, and Joey Zimmerman who plays Marnie’s brother Dylan appear in all four.

Side note: The movie was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon, where the locals celebrate Halloween and their special link with this movie in a month-long event titled Spirit of Halloweentown.

October 13th: Best Soundtrack

October 13th: Best Soundtrack

The Best Soundtrack in a Live Action Horror Film goes to The Lost Boys (1987). Joel Schumacher gathered a few teenage heartthrobs promising them immortal life—on screen—in one of the most popular teen flicks made in the ‘80’s. Schumacher also assembled a rocking soundtrack.

Brothers Michael and Sam relocate with their mom into their Grandpa’s house and attempt to make friends on the town’s boardwalk. Little did they know that the teenage gang is a pack of vampires who hunt human victims.

The soundtrack was released along with the movie and then converted to CD in 1990. MTV is credited with making it popular. Critics mostly panned it; however, the throngs of teens who saw the movie purchased the cassettes. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” took on a new meaning, while Echo and the Bunnymen cover The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” Even though the Australian group was already signed to the label, INXS were catapulted to international stardom when the soundtrack came out. Watch the movie with your sunglasses on and your CD player tuned high.

October 12th: It Rains Throughout Identity (2003)

Identity

October 12th: It Rains Throughout Identity (2003)

Identity (2003) with its ensemble cast is an overlooked thriller that explains the entire film in the opening credits. Unsuspecting audiences don’t realize this until the end. (Think Usual Suspects but in the first 15 minutes.)

I use the opening of Identity in my college composition courses to illustrate an effective opening to an essay. The viewer sees and hears the minimum required to remain hooked. That is how a documented essay should be constructed.

This film stars several acting heavyweights. Give this film a chance, preferably on a stormy night.

October 11th: The Frighteners (1996)

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TheFrighteners

October 11th: The Frighteners (1996)

Frank Bannister, played by Michael J. Fox, develops psychic abilities after a tragic car accident kills his wife. Frank sees dead people—lots of them. Frank abandons his career in architecture and takes up ghostbusting, only he’s not necessarily legit. During one of his cleansings, he notices a number engraved on the forehead of a client. After the client dies (early spoiler which won’t ruin the movie), Frank sees “Death” marking his victims and decides to stop him.

This was Peter Jackson’s pre-Hobbit days. Filmed in New Zealand on a $30 million-dollar budget, the movie wasn’t financially successful. However, it has found a cult audience through cable and streaming services. This movie is clever and fresh. Watch it!

October 10th: The Oscar for Best Picture Goes to…

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GetOut

October 10th: The Oscar for Best Picture Goes to …

Get Out, Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film, should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not surprisingly, it did not. Only 2 horror films have ever been nominated for the top category: The Exorcist (1973) and Get Out (2017).

Get Out waded into the treacherous polarizing topics of American slavery and stereotypes based on race. As a horror film, it provoked and challenged the viewer. As social commentary on American racial relations, it excelled. Filmed over 23 days and on a budget of $5 million dollars, Get Out was a financially success picture grossing more than $255 million dollars worldwide. The Oscar buzz started in earnest early on.

Get Out features Danial Kaluuya playing the African-American boyfriend Chris Washington to Rose Armitage, played by Allison Williams, a woman eager to introduce him to her liberal-minded Caucasian parents. Racial tensions begin immediately on the couple’s trip to upstate New York. The film feels more like a social commentary on current, lingering racial prejudices until it plunges into the horrific—dare I say experimental—meditative rituals used by Rose’s mother.

Get Out competed against a packed field of Oscar contenders. Ultimately, Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction government cover-up conspiracy The Shape of Water won. Seems the Academy Awards feel that horror films are still a bridge across The Sunken Place too far. See it. And then see it again.

Get Out, Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film, should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not surprisingly, it did not. Only 2 horror films have ever been nominated for the top category: The Exorcist (1973) and Get Out (2017).

Get Out waded into the treacherous polarizing topics of American slavery and stereotypes based on race. As a horror film, it provoked and challenged the viewer. As social commentary on American racial relations, it excelled. Filmed over 23 days and on a budget of $5 million dollars, Get Out was a financially success picture grossing more than $255 million dollars worldwide. The Oscar buzz started in earnest early on.

Get Out features Danial Kaluuya playing the African-American boyfriend Chris Washington to Rose Armitage, played by Allison Williams, a woman eager to introduce him to her liberal-minded Caucasian parents. Racial tensions begin immediately on the couple’s trip to upstate New York. The film feels more like a social commentary on current, lingering racial prejudices until it plunges into the horrific—dare I say experimental—meditative rituals used by Rose’s mother.

Get Out competed against a packed field of Oscar contenders. Ultimately, Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction government cover-up conspiracy The Shape of Water won. Seems the Academy Awards feel that horror films are still a bridge across The Sunken Place too far. See it. And then see it again.

October 9th: Vincent Price

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October 9th: Vincent Price

Prolific, yet stereotyped, actor, Vincent Price, starred in numerous seminal horror films. Price built a lucrative career drawing on man’s evil proclivities. I’ve selected three favorites that every horror film aficionado should know.

  1. House of Wax (1953): This GP (General Public) one hour and 28-minute film was in 3D. Professor Henry Jarrod creates wax figures. When his gallery burns down, Jarrod opens a new horror-inspired gallery where the wax works are created in an unconventional way.
  2. House on Haunted Hill (1959): This unrated one hour and 15-minute film features Price as a wealthy man who invites 5 people to stay at his and his wife’s home. Anyone who survives the visit receives $10,000, which equates to $86,000 in today’s dollars. The creepy house hides ghosts, secrets, and the macabre.
  3. The Tingler 1959): Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin in this unrated one hour and 22-minute film. Chapin is a pathologist who performs unorthodox experiments on prisoners. He theorizes that fear resides within a creature living inside every human. Chapin takes on a deaf/mute as his next patient to see whether the creature grows when the woman is terrorized.

October 8th: Super 8 (2011)

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Super8Poster

October 8th: Super 8 (2011)

It’s the summer of 1979, and walking corpses have taken over cinemas. A group of kids are attempting to produce a short film about the walking undead without realizing their town has been taken over by an alien held captive by in a secret covert US government facility. One of JJ Abrams best films. The PG-13 film was produced on a $50 million-dollar budget and recouped $260 million in its first theater run. Abrams, who learned from the blockbuster master Steven Spielberg, used the show little approach and hid most of the creature nicknamed “Cooper” from the camera. The soundtrack captures the 70’s, too.

October 7th: 3 Films Based on Real Stories

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October 7th: 3 Films Based on Real Stories

There are plenty of horror films and made-for-television adaptations of stories based on real events. Unfortunately, most of them do not make the cut. Others that may have stated they were based on real life events or inspired by real life stories didn’t make the cut either. The three motion pictures below are based on real events that were also published in books.

  1. The Amityville Horror (1977): Jay Anson wrote a book about a family over-mortgaged and experiencing strange events at their Amityville, NY home. The film’s credits stated: “This motion picture is based on the book The Amityville Horror. Certain characters and events have been changed to heighten dramatic effect.” So, yes, the film isn’t really, really what occurred; however, it makes for some white-knuckled moments. View the original and not the reboot or the sequels.
  2. The Conjuring (2013): In 1971, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren visited the family home of the Perron family. What ensues is a fight for the soul of the mother, Carolyn, played by Lili Taylor. Director James Wan created a popular franchise beginning with this horrifying dark tale.
  3. The Exorcist (1973): William Peter Blatty wrote The Exorcist based off the 1949 possession story of a teenage boy. Blatty changed some names and facts to hide the identity of the young man. Instead, his book focused on the demonic possession of Regan, played by Linda Blair. This film won Blatty an Oscar for his screenplay and forever cemented the image of pea soup in audience minds.

October 6th: Best International English-Speaking Horror Film

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October 6th: Best International English-Speaking Horror Film

Taken from my 2014 review:

The Babadook: The Best Horror Film of 2014 that You’ve Never Seen

Mister Babadook is a pop-up book discovered in Amelia’s house six years after her husband, Oskar, died en route to the hospital. The day Oskar died was the day their son, Samuel, was born. Amelia still grieves. And Samuel is odd. Only the neighbor, Mrs. Roach, seems to like him—including Amelia.

Samuel believes in monsters. He creates primitive weapons to keep them at bay. After reading Mister Babadook, however, Samuel fears this new bogeyman has taken over the family home.  The Babadook is this year’s best horror film.

This highly anticipated horror movie started as a short film, Monster. Through online campaign funding, the movie was extended to full-length. It debuted at Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. Currently in limited American release, it can be rented through various video on demand services.

More of a psychological thriller, The Babadook follows grief-stricken Amelia, played by Essie Davis, as she becomes possessed by this shadow figured bogeyman. Davis shines. Equally impressive is Noah Wiseman’s portrayal as 6-year-old Samuel. Samuel seeks to protect his mother.

The film is very Hitchcockian, although the official website likens it more to Polanski. Both were great directors in this genre. Writer/Director Jennifer Kent employs minimalistic camera techniques and little background music. Absent are the cheap horror tactics of slasher films. And this is appreciated! Furthermore, the ending is more realistic than recent horror films, thus setting up the potential for sequels. The Babadook will be a franchise worth watching. Every horror film aficionado must see this film. Every budding horror film writer should take notes and see that there is more to horror films than graphic violence. Horror movies can have a plot and great actors.

Jennifer Kent has created one wicked creature. The Babadook creature is more than a children’s book. He can be anywhere. The pop-up book is simply sinister. Fans had the opportunity to purchase the pop-up book. Bet they’re a hot collector’s piece now!

 

October 5th: When in New Orleans

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October 5th: When in New Orleans

…And You’ve Brought the Kids: When visiting New Orleans with children, check out Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009) set during the Roaring Twenties in New Orleans. Although full of references to Cajun lifestyles and voodoo, the movie is family-friendly with a G rating.

…And You’re Looking for a New Movie: Released in 2005, The Skeleton Key hasn’t had much success. It may because it is not a slasher film or doesn’t incorporate a lot of jump scares. The acting is solid; the plantation house location creepy. It bears all the markings for a horror film showcasing some of the best acting from some of the best in the business. Check out my review.

…And You Need Your Anne Rice Fix: Anne Rice’s epic novel featuring the Vampire Lestat, played by Tom Cruise before he jumped on couches, made it to the large screen in 1994. Interview with a Vampire created a cottage industry of vampire lore leading to witch lore for New Orleans. Take a tour and visit the sites and cemeteries made famous by Anne Rice after watching. New Orleans truly is bewitching.