Have a safe and festive Halloween!
Have a safe and festive Halloween!
October 21st: Best Ghost Story
Writer/Director Alejandro Amenabar based The Others (2001) off an episode on the British TV show Armchair Theatre. Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother of two anxiously awaiting the return of her military husband from World War II. The children suffer from a debilitating disease where sunlight makes them violently ill. Grace spends her time toiling within the dark mansion and admonishing the staff to keep the curtains closed. But then the curtains open, doors open, and sunlight is let in.
Originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, The Others was a box office hit. The budget of $17 million was easily recouped with US gross at $96 million and worldwide gross at $209 million. It remains the highest grossing film in Spain, where most of the scenes were shot. This traditional ghost story does not disappoint.
October 20th: Best Slasher Film
Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) revolutionized the horror genre with his low-budget slasher film. Initial reviews were tepid at best. With an incredibly low budget of $300,000, this film grossed over $30 million in the US alone.
The plot was simple: Cannibalistic psychopaths feast off 5 teenagers on a road trip to visit a grandfather’s grave. The film is entirely fictional; however, it was loosely inspired by infamous killer Ed Gein. It was the subject of lawsuits and mafia ties. After all these years, it remains an iconic slasher film. The movie is part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art, where it has found newfound praise and criticism.
October 19th: Best Movie with a (Supposed) Curse Attached
Steven Spielberg’s entry into the horror genre is genius. In Poltergeist (1982) unknown forces kidnap the Freeling’s youngest daughter, Carol Anne. After its release, urban legends circulated that the movie was cursed. Several people associated with the film died unexpectantly. Most notable were 1) Dominique Dunne, who played older daughter “Dana,” was strangled by her ex-boyfriend days before her 23rd birthday and shortly after the movie was released and 2) Heather O’Rourke, who played “Carol Anne,” died on the operating table at age 12. Both are buried near one another at Westwood Memorial Park in L.A.
This film grossed over $123 million worldwide and has generated 2 sequels and a reboot. It is an iconic horror film classic with other films referencing it.
Spoiler: By the way, there is only one death in the film: Tweety the Bird.
October 18th: Best Made-for-TV on SyFy
In October 2014, I reviewed the made-for-TV SyFy original film Dead Still. It was the first fictional feature-length film from the Booth Brothers, twin brothers who produced several nonfiction films based on paranormal themes. Four years later, the movie remains enjoyable. The movie will be aired again on October 21st on the SyFy Network. Plan to DVR this one.
Here is the original review:
Dead Still Worth Viewing
I love horror movies. I’ve watched them since I was a teenager. My favorites include the classics: The Exorcist (1975), Jaws (1975), and Poltergeist (1982). However, I like the B-movie horror films, namely The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Monster Squad (1987), and The Tingler (1959), too. I grew up watching Dr. Paul Bearer on Creature Feature on WTOG. Horror movies transcend decades and act as social commentary. The Booth Brothers’ new film Dead Still incorporates the Victorian practice of taking mourning portraits into a fictional modern-day inheritance issue. Dead Still, an original SyFy movie, is worth viewing.
The Horror film genre remains popular. Box office rival Annabelle nearly toppled Gone Girl this past weekend. Even though each film generated over $37 million in ticket sales, Annabelle was the money winner. Produced for under $7 million dollars, Annabelle’s return in one weekend was five times its production costs. Wow! Low-budget horror films produce huge profits. This applies to films released exclusively on television with DVD sales later.
Dead Still’s estimated production costs were $2 million dollars. That’s extremely low for any film project. Moreover, the film shines with beautiful cinematography, haunting music, and A-list acting.
Filmed on location in Baton Rouge, Dead Still features an incredibly spooky house. Philip Adrian Booth captures the moody ambiance of the house, as well as, the Negative world. Remember: This is a low-budget film. Philip does a lot on a tight budget.
Equally impressive is the eerily evocative soundtrack. Twin brother Christopher Saint Booth assembled a soundtrack heavy with strings—quite appropriate for a horror film. Working as “Saint,” Christopher has assumed the role as music scorer for their productions. Christopher delivers.
Producers landed three strong actors. Ray Wise is absolutely wicked. Mr. Wise’s transformation into the crazy “Wenton Davis,” great grandfather and original owner of the antique Victorian camera, is creepy. Creepy weird and chilling. Ben Browder as “Brandon” is convincing as the relationship-challenged heir to the camera. He’s at his best in the Negative world. Gavin Casalegno portrays “Bobby,” Brandon’s son. His facial expressions convey what words cannot. Already boasting an impressive acting resume, Gavin has a long career ahead of him.
Graphic scenes are limited; however, I could have done without the sexual scene with the newlyweds. It didn’t add any real content and could have been achieved without the nudity and hand-gripping bedrail close-ups.
The antique Victorian camera is an amazing prop. The claw-footed, custom-made stand is intricately detailed and gorgeous. Reproductions of mourning portraits are impactful. They realistically represent the type of photographs popular in America and Europe from 1840-1891.
Dead Still is entertaining and gruesome. The Booth Brothers have expanded their filmmaking collection and have made the jump into the fictional horror movie genre. I look forward to their next film. Until then, stay still—Dead Still.
October 17th: Top 5 Animated Films for Halloween
These are some of the best animated films with creepy themes to watch with the family for Halloween.
October 16th: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream
Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) received an Honorable Mention in “Top 10 Opening Scenes in Movies” from WatchMojo.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74BE-_jsEmc). Screenwriter Kevin Williamson makes fun of the horror film genre by littering references throughout. Scream rejuvenated the dying horror film genre and ignited new interest. There are four films in the $600 million dollar worldwide grossing franchise; however, the first one is the best.
October 15th: Just for Fun
One of the best “Just for Fun” horror movies is Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (1992). This is the third installment of the Evil Dead franchise; however, the studios hoped it would stand on its own and refused the title Evil Dead III. Army of Darkness pays homage to the slapstick routines of the Three Stooges.
Home goods clerk Ash is transported back to 1300 A.D. medieval times to battle an army of dead to recover the magic book, Necronomicon.
Yep, that’s about it. However, Bruce Campbell excels at playing the snarky clerk while interjecting his favorite word: Groovy. Don’t miss this film. Raimi is a master of horror and rekindled the genre.
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
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.