Halloween horrors for me have to have a certain aura and suburbia to them. Dark nights, whistling winds, bent wheat in front of the moon, leaves on a doorstep, fingers curled round a curtain, horror films on TV and in the background while horror unfolds in the living room. Halloween is a holiday that we can get nostalgic for and excited to be in presently at the same time. The one time a year when all the spooky stuff we love is decorating gardens and crisp packets and cans of juice spilled over photos of us dressed up as Dracula when we were 7. A time, when a collective conscious focuses on the macabre and reminds us that death and fear and the objects that can be thrown forthwith from the darkness define our experience as humans. When the lightning cracks and the oscillators fire up and blood fizzes on the operating table and the street lit-shadows of tree branches against your house are all outside, all you need to do is make it across the garden path where there’s a pizza and a Nightmare On Elm Street sequel just starting on TV. Kick your shoes off and let the ghosts dance, its Halloween baby!
I think I’ve written a million times about why I love Fright Night. It was the first real horror I ever watched and it was on a dark October night with my grandad. I was scared. Really scared. On the one hand I could see the main character, Charlie, was as scared as me, and on the other hand, new-next-door-neighbour-vampire Jerry Dandridge was not only a total Bad Guy, but he was charming and believable to the adults. Bolstering Charlie (and my) helplessness. His full-vamp make up looking like a mix of human agony and thirst for blood by extraction of fear. It scared me.
Fright Night has such a rich Halloween vibe to it that I always always ALWAYS make time to watch it ON Halloween day. The curtain creep suburbia and local access horror channel and sleeping in front of the TV and wild make up effects and an array of ghastly creatures and fog-smoke to really hit it home. Not only that, it’s a total heap of fun. Jokes have stood the test of time, the main characters are surely in the horror pantheon by now, the script is a joy and the shooting style/soundtrack is unabashedly 80’s. Also what could BE more Halloweeny than the plot? A horror-obsessed teenager suspects his new neighbour is a vampire, so he hires the local access horror channel host to help kill him. Fucking yes. I love this film so dang much.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween III got shit for years. Absolute fucking years. People HATED it because it didn’t feature Michael Myers and typical slasher tropes. This film, intended to be part of the “New Halloween Film Universe” which was basically to make every new Halloween film a different story but keep it all in the same universe, is one of a kind and, some say (me), the best Halloween film. I never got on board with Carpenter’s Halloween and considering I'm a huge stan for Carpenter, I know that’s basically me ringing the dinner bell for you to all come devour me and sell me down the pub. Its too slow, too much of nothing and never ever scared me.
Halloween III is the boy. Its campy, weird, fucked up, got robots, pagans, masks, consumerism, factories, ghost company towns. The lot. Halloween III is like the ultimate viral campaign. Zero explanation adverts selling masks, that everyone gets on board with, only to find out that the masks are unknowingly making you part of a huge rit……….well. I’ve maybe ruined too much of it already. But its great. There’s a buttload of conspiracy and peril, as well as some gnarly deaths, all sewn together by one of John Carpenters BEST scores. JC didn’t direct it mind you, nope. It was fellow band mate and future Fright Night part 2 director Tommy Lee Wallace. This film crests the underpasses and roadside hills of Halloween and looks behind the billboards and fear at the heart of consumerism. AND ITS FUN!
Hahah! Yes! Alright! Before the raw-gut-bleed tension of Green Room and slow-drum-rolling-shin-splinting revenge of Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier made this little horror-ish film. A loving little tablet carving to Halloween and, by the end, a gigantic fuck you to the pretentions of the Art world and its perceived flexibility and unwary stupidity.
I wont spoil too much because not a lot of people have seen it and it takes pretty great forks in the road, but its shooting style/art direction really makes me rewatch it. Not particularly amazing, but its sense of spirit and the excitement of Halloween night is there. All wild ghost and ghouls running the streets, one costume away from being supernatural being or playful child. Everything on that night is alive with running and music and cheer and colour and spookiness. Streamers and screams over buildings. Invitations to parties can be exciting and welcome but if they're in basically abandoned warehouses down the docks with a bunch of social misfit friends, it can be a fucking nightmare. There's flares of tension hidden inside goofiness and really gnarly gore offset by silliness. Its tone is completely of the season and the fact it takes place on Halloween night is perfect.
Its quite a wee film as well and it goes in a flash so if you get a chance, or a free 79 minutes. Fling it on.
Satan's Little Helper
Man, this film is so fucking weird. Like, tonally it feels like an alien made it when it was first told about the west’s celebration of Halloween and all Hallow’s Eve and religion and sugary candy that turns kids wilder than any banshee could ever be.
The film toys with the idea of outsiderism and imaginary friends (and kind of…..a wee bit…..incest?) and what would happen if the one friend you wanted all along was real and he was actually really killing people you asked him. Its kind of amazing because the film actually wants you to believe the devil is actually in a small town in Maine just having a fucking ball with a child, and you feel it. The humour, shooting style and script are so fucking ODD and out of place, its kind of like this really single film you could never compare to another. Its creepy, sure but there's ~something~ about it that when every time I mention it, I always say “that film is so WEIRD.” Nothing deeply grim or truly nasty happens and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was actually bad, but if you look past it and dig in, the film is the perfect summation of Halloween. The trick or treating, is that fake blood?, the cold autumn shooting palette, the illusion of good fun but under the cape is just a wine drenched smile of darkness and death, the spooky parties and of course, the real weirdness of suburbia. Its embracing of the macabre feeling right at home with the weird people that inhabit it.
Man this film is so WEIRD.
I'm 100% convinced everyone is sick to death of me talking about Monster Squad. Any platform I get, I fucking bang on and on about this film. So I wont again. Instead here’s a little story for you.
I grew up in a house where my parents did not like films at all. Not only that but my mum was completely opposed to me and my sister having anything related to violence in the house. Toy guns, swords, violent films, violent video games, anything like that. To top it off I was a deeply shy and sensitive child who had some friends, but I always felt disconnected because they all had and could afford things I couldn’t. Also from the age of 9, I was left in the house alone from 9pm-7am with my sister because our parents both worked insane hours.
Anyway, one day in the lead up to Halloween (I cant remember which year) but the brother of a friend who lived 5 minutes from me told us about this film he STOLE from What Everyone Wants and if we wanted to watch it. I was terrified. I thought the police would burst in at any moment and fucking bag us. It was the Monster Squad.
From the get go, I felt alive. Energized. I had friends. I knew these people. They swore, they liked monsters, they were funny, they were cool and I wanted to be everyone. The action blew my mind, the film was A L I V E and I want to be in it. After that viewing, I asked if I could have a shot of the tape which I took home, hid under a bunch of towels, and watched on my own when my parents were at work, and when my sister was in my bed. I watched that film every night for 2 weeks straight. To Halloween and beyond. I wonder what happened to that tape. I like to think my maw found it when we moved out of that house when I was 16 and went “that wee BASTART”.
I loved that tape and I love this film STILL so much to this day. Granted I don’t watch it every night but by fuck, I would if I could.
Findlay is one third of Video Namaste, Prince's biggest fan and deeply loves scampi and chips.
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