OTH!'s Top Ten Halloween Picks (2012)

Author: OTH Staff
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-10-01 07:30
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10. Ghoulies II (1988)

    I’m a sucker for any horror flick set at a carnival, even if it’s bad (and most of them are). In the case of Ghoulies II, however, I think there’s genuine fun to be had. In contrast to its predecessor, the sequel’s narrative is, relatively speaking, coherent, and it focuses in on the quartet of deranged demons who weren’t featured as prominently as one might expect in the original. With a cast including Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro and William Butler, the flick was scripted by Dennis Paoli (of Re-Animator & Castle Freak renown) and directed by Band family patriarch Albert for Empire Pictures. As with my previous Halloween picks, this one’s got plenty of laughs, some unintentional, and it’s a good one to take in with a rowdy group of friends who appreciate a generous topping of cheese on their horror. Brett H. and I have long debated which Ghoulie is the leader of the pack (he goes with the front-and-center fish Ghoulie while I lean toward the Brando-esque gator one). Regardless of the puppets’ power structure, “They’ll get you in the end!” (Dave Dunwoody)

9. Unhinged (1982)

    For this chilly time of year a good slasher is just what you need to get into the Halloween mood. But what about a 'less than stellar' creation? Don Gronquist's Unhinged is not what one would call a good film. The acting is atrocious and it's amateur hour practically all of the way through. What does shine through though is the sense of place and horrific switch of tone from goofy girls fumbling about in a mansion to vicious senseless slaughter with no tongue in its mutilated cheek! Such is the case as a child during Halloween; one day you're at school with friends and loose leaf, and the next you're preparing for the best event of the year next to winter holidays. Halloween is fun, but it's sinister, and the scythe-wielding grim reaper is sure to remind you of those tacky decorations your neighbor used to hang. Faded yellow grass included. Despite being somewhat of a mediocre effort, the atmosphere of this golden age entry is undeniable as it reaches its conclusion, where chopped up body parts make their appearance recalling those old gags you'd buy at the dollar store. The mansion is not unlike that of which I've visited trick-or-treating before. There's something special about this slow burner, and its pacing may harken back to those TV movies you'd catch in the afternoon around this time some years back. Unhinged gives off the same aura that you'd expect from a low budget Halloween film, only with added blood to go with your key monster weapons. And the mean-spirited ending allows the evils of Halloween night to burrow within you at least until November 1st! (Josh G.)

8. Door into Silence (1991)

    Typically, you’d turn to Lucio Fulci to increase your gore quotient during an All Hallows Eve celebration, but the Maestro’s final film is a genuinely unsettling work that burrows right into a viewer’s soul by exploring the finality of death despite our attempts to cling to life. Fulci returns to his favorite haunt in New Orleans; however, whereas The Beyond turned the bayou into a garish stage for the zombie apocalypse, Door into Silence repurposes it into an intimate, creepy locale as Fulci pokes around the cemeteries and dirt roads that are lined with ominous, cross-shaped telephone poles. It’s quite possibly Fulci’s least put-upon film, but it’s no less hypnotic than his more overtly mesmerizing works. Unlike many of those films, it doesn’t play out like a frenzied nightmare; instead, it’s akin to watching the last firing of a brain’s synapses as death encroaches, as it’s a parade of memory and regret dressed in earthy, backwater gothic clothing. (Brett Gallman)


7. Two on a Guillotine (1965)

    Usually, I recommend a Vincent Price classic because I feel it’s just not Halloween without ol’ Vinnie. I’m gonna mix it up, though, and recommend an older flick that he COULD have starred in. Two on a Guillotine is a 1965 feature that you could easily have seen Vincent Price taking the starring role of. Instead, we get 60s ‘Batman’ actor Caesar Romero portraying the mysterious magician, Duke Duquesne. While the Duke is missing for a lot of the screen time, we do get to follow around his daughter and Disney movie regular Dean Jones though Duquesne‘s creepy mansion. The whole ‘is it haunted/is it all just an illusion’ plot device makes for a bit of spooky fun. Puts me more in mind of a William Castle flick than it does The Haunting, but, but if you’ve run out of new Vincent Price movies to explore, Two on a Guillotine will more than suffice for an evening’s entertainment. (Wes R.)


6. Inferno (1980)

    In my 2008 review of Dario Argento's Inferno, I served it a favorable but critical recommendation. Years later, I see hope that including it in the Halloween list will more than make up for it. Today I would easily award a "buy it". Black cats and glowing colorful lights, Inferno is a work of horror art that gets you in the mood for a night of other worldliness. Halloween to me has always been a living-in-the-moment time, where I feel alive, look at what's in front of me, and appreciate. That's certainly what you can do for Inferno. A vague witch plot with a stylish sense of adventure. It's one of the rare films that often feels as if it's making it up as it goes along, but has effort and thought behind it just the same. The music astounds just as much as the director's other film scores, and I'm pretty sure that I was terrorized by the same skeleton costume showcased in the fiery finale as a toddler. A dark beautiful dream on film that you'll follow yet also mesmerize a blend from scene to scene. (Josh G.)

5. Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

    Halloween without Stephen King would be a travesty and although I swear every year I'll include perennial WGN Halloween day staple, Graveyard Shift in our Top 10, I have to put the kibosh on it once again to feature Sometimes They Come Back, an underrated romp that I enjoyed so much I even dug out a paperback of Night Shift to check out any differences between the Maestro’s original vision and what was shown on the small screen. Standing on its own, it’s a neat little flick, but true to my adolescent consideration of Stephen King as subgenre of horror in and of itself, Sometimes They Come Back is made all the better when fanatics can see bits and pieces of other King classics like IT, Christine, Stand By Me and the prototypical personable characters of all the great 90s King television adaptations intertwined with this unique, if at times goofy story. (Brett H.)

4. Night of the Demon (1957)

    Any Halloween marathon needs a gothic classic, and Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 chiller comes within a hair’s breadth of that status, perhaps falling just short due to its producers’ insistence that its titular demon be thrust front and center within the opening minutes. Despite this, the film is often a masterstroke in pure, unfailing gothic atmosphere and drenched in pagan sorcery that seeks to wreak havoc in the modern world. Its bewitching roots are similar to Halloween’s itself, and it’s no coincidence that the film’s enigmatic cult leader (Niall MacGinnis) hosts a Halloween party at one point; presenting himself as more of a magician than a sorcerer, he’s got plenty of tricks but few treats for Dana Andrews, who finds himself at the mercy of a demonic curse. The Lewton style might have been in its death throes at this point, but Tourneur sent it out just as forcefully as he ushered it in with The Cat People a decade earlier. (Brett Gallman)

3. Vault of Horror (1973)

    Anthologies are the cinematic equivalent of a variety pack, which is probably why they’ve been featured so prominently on our lists here in the past. For over a decade, Amicus Productions was the best house on the block to trick or treat from, and, while Asylum and Tales from the Crypt were arguably its most accomplished works, Vault of Horror may be its most colorful offering. With a grab bag full of voodoo, premature burials, exotic locations, bloodsucking, and hacked-up corpses, it also features a classic Amicus setup that finds five men on an elevator that’s taken them straight to a sub-basement located not in hell, but a more purgatorial, haunting resting place. And if there were ever a mix that had a razor blade buried deep inside, this would be the one, as Vault of Horror might have the deepest-set mean streak of any Amicus offering. The ingredients here are simple: it’s an equal mix of horrible people, horrible things, and equally horrible karmic retribution for each of them. (Brett Gallman)

2. Monster Squad (1987)

    The Monster Squad can easily be dismissed as “The Goonies with monsters” and perhaps that’s how it was originally pitched to executives, but the truth is The Monster Squad more than stands on its own as a Horror/Comedy classic. Featuring easily-recognizable (and not over-designed) Stan Winston versions of the traditional Universal Monsters, it’s one of the most perfect movies to watch on Halloween. You get them all here… Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy. You get monster action, you get comedy, you get quotable lines (“Wolf Man’s got nards!”), you get SCARY GERMAN GUY, and you even get a cheesy 80s training montage (complete with rock song). There’s plenty to like in The Monster Squad, so if you've lived your entire life so far without watching it, what are you waiting for? This one will make you rock until you drop! (Wes R.)

1. At Midnight I Take Your Soul (1963)

    "What is life? It is the beginning of death.". Four seconds into its running time, the first Coffin Joe film accomplishes more than 90% of the horror films I've ever seen. For years, I was strung along to believe this Brazilian horror series was terrible, z-grade schlock and last Halloween in a marathon to end all marathons with Brett G., I learned that not only is At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul not schlock, but a genuine must-own for horror fans. Savage violence, haunting dialogue, insanity and cinematography straight from hell culminate in atmosphere that suits the classic era of horror to a T, yet packs punches of carnage that would still please nostalgic 80s fans. Frantic pacing takes you to the stroke of midnight on November 1 when Coffin Joe finally finds out if the lore about Halloween and the Day of the Dead is true. Other than the John Carpenter classic, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul could be the greatest Halloween film in history. (Brett H.)


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