Posted by Richard Harland Smith on October 17, 2006
Horror fans in general and Halloweenists in particular are always in a dither at this time of year over what to watch on The Big Night. For the Gothically inclined, no-brainer candidates include the Universal Studios classic monster canon that began with Tod Browning’s Dracula and James Whale’s Frankenstein in 1931, plus all their respective Bride of–, Son of–, House of– follow-ups. Alternatively, we suggest the seminal (but still undervalued) psychological spookers produced by Val Lewton for RKO during the ’40s; while the best of these (The Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Body Snatcher) are flat-out genre milestones, the least of them (Isle of the Dead, The Leopard Man) drip with autumnal atmosphere. Lewton protégés Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise were later responsible for Night of the Demon (1957) and The Haunting (1963), respectively; both are top notch spookers whose shocks are more suggested than shoved in your face.
At the risk of blasmpemy, we further suggest giving John Carpenter’s influential Halloween (1978) a well deserved time out this year. Just released on DVD in a (gasp, choke) bare bones release from Parmount is John Hancock’s eerie Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), a Connecticut-set spooker that might be a vampire picture or simply the story of one woman’s descent into madness. Creepy New England settings also figure into John Llewellyn Moxey’s Horror Hotel (UK: City of the Dead, 1960), a story of small town secrets and big time Satanism, Republic Pictures’ The Woman Who Came Back (1945), a forgotten gem set in contemporary, witch-hagged Massachusetts, and Lucio Fulci’s American Gothic terror two-fer, City of the Living Dead (1980) and House by the Cemetery (1982). For woodsy, October chills, it’s hard to beat all of the above, and so many more dark horse candidates there isn’t time or space to include.
Horror cinema has been a going concern since the silent era and shows no signs of letting up 100 years later. All of this makes the multiple choices of selecting Halloween viewing especially hellish… but isn’t that the point?
Happy Haunting (and Shocking Shopping) from the Movie Morlocks.
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