Since October hit, my movie excitement has gone through the roof. This is the month of horror, and for someone like myself, it pleases me to the core. Even though the month is almost over, I thought myself and four other Dagger writers would give you our recommendations for movies to watch in the final days of October, some horror and some not. And if you don’t get to all of these, feel free to roll ‘em over to November.
Evil Dead II (1987) – A remake of Sam Raimi’s original that was supposed to be a serious horror film, this film takes all of that and adds a lot of dark comedy. The main character has his hand possessed, cuts it off with a chainsaw and spends a substantial chunk of time chasing it down to kill it. If that doesn’t scream hilarious dark comedy, I don’t know what does.
Phantasm (1979) – One of the first few movies in color that utilized great special effects and creepy images, this movie will freak you out. The film is about a strange tall man who resides over a morgue and takes the dead bodies, shrinks them down to midget size, then re-animates them for God knows what. Being very crazy, this movie rocks for October!
Audition (1999) – Probably one of the most unsuspecting scary movies you’ll ever see. This movie presents itself as one thing for about an hour and then takes an unbelievable and very intense turn for the final act. Two warnings go along with this film: 1.) if you are squeamish, don’t watch it; 2.) if you hate reading subtitles, don’t watch it (it’s in Japanese).
High Tension (2003) – Just like the title says, this film runs on pure unbridled tension. Ever wanted to know what it would feel like to run from a homicidal maniac for over an hour? Well you can just about feel it with this movie, which follows one woman and her intense fight to stay alive after she witnesses the brutal murders of her friend and her family. Even though this is a French film, you can play it with English dubbed over. You better be prepared for a few extreme deaths though.
Re-Animator (1985) – What happens when a crazy scientist creates a formula to re-animate the dead? Things always come back significantly more evil than they used to be. This movie has some scenes that could offend, but is based on the writings of one of the fathers of modern horror, H.P. Lovecraft.
Being There (1979) – Intended as satire, but also kinda scary to watch a dapper know-nothing rise to power after his simple utterances are reinterpreted and embraced by a clueless society in the midst of an economic crisis.
The Birds (1963) – you’ll never look at the little critters the same way again. Corny special effects by today’s standards, but Hitchcock doesn’t need no stinkin’ special effects to scare the wits out of you.
I Want to Live! (1958) – Death row prisoner Susan Hayward fights to avoid the gas chamber. Will the Governor call with a stay of execution? Count down her final hours, hear the potassium cyanide pellets drop, watch the gas rise and look into her eyes. Will that damn phone ever ring?? She’s a tough broad but in the end she’s terrified of death, same as you and me.
Memento (2000) – Think it’s a pain to forget where you parked your car? Try living with no short-term memory as you hunt down the man who brutally raped and murdered your wife. You’ll need lots of sticky notes and other creative reminders to keep you on track. Choppy flashbacks make this movie hard to follow (now you know how it feels) but it’s more than worth the effort.
Manhattan (1979) – Life Imitates Art Alert: Woody Allen plays a middle-aged man romantically involved with an underage girl. But I love how the city provides just the right backdrop, majestic and melancholy, to this story about the struggle to find love and the meaning of life before it’s too late. Oh, and it’s funny too. The opening scene alone – Manhattan, fireworks and music by Gershwin – is worth the price of admission.
Frankenstein (1931) – Probably the most classic monster movie of all time…and what’s Halloween without monsters? Dracula is cool, but dull compared to Frankenstein’s poignant perspective of a misunderstood monster.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? Whether you decide to watch this freaky claymation flick in December or October, you’re guaranteed to find yourself singing along to ragtime holiday tunes about the Boogey Man.
Halloween (1978-2007) – Whichever of the 9 sequels, prequels or remakes you decide to watch, this is the original slasher movie. Even if horror isn’t your thing, how can you say no to a serial killer in a William Shatner mask?
American Werewolf in London (1981) – One of my all-time favorite movies, October or otherwise, this has the best looking manwolf on film and the best looking man-to-wolf transformation scene – only partially because it involves full male nudity and “Blue Moon” playing in the background. Oh yeah, the undead friend has the same last name as me too.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987) – Who said October has to be all dark and creepy? I always put this one on every list of movies I’m ever asked to compile – this being the second. There’s a lot to like here: ninjas, fire, magic, swords, international espionage, clones and a badass sidekick with the same name as one of The Dagger’s real life badass sidekicks.
Them (1954) – This black and white classic features giant ants that have mutated into man-eating menaces because of nuclear testing in a desert town. I used to worry that one would pluck me from my bed as I slept near the open window during the hot summer months of my childhood.
The Rear Window (1954) – This Alfred Hitchcock classic stars James Stewart as a wheelchair bound photographer who watches the daily lives of his neighbors, discovering that one may have committed murder. Grace Kelly plays his girlfriend and her wardrobe is reason enough to watch this movie.
Marnie (1964) – Another Alfred Hitchcock movie starring one of his favorite actresses, Tippi Hedron. A young and handsome Sean Connery plays a wealthy businessman who marries a thief with a dark past and serious psychiatric problems.
The Goonies (1985) – This is a great film for all ages. A group of kids attempt to locate riches using a discovered pirate treasure map and in the process, cross paths with “bad guys.”
The Burbs (1989) – Tom Hanks stars as a man living in a suburb where new mysterious neighbors are suspected of doing away with the home’s previous residents. Bruce Dern adds comedy as his paramilitary friend and Corey Feldman plays the “kid next door.”
I’m a sucker for horror flicks (and October serves as the month where you have a smorgasbord of creepy flicks available). Not just the slice ‘em and dice ‘em type (The Hills Have Eyes), but the ones that actually have a decent story line. And usually, I’m not into the many sequels that follow an original (like Rocky or Halloween).
I pretty much get the gist and won’t put out any money to see them at a theater. If they are playing on the Superstation or on any channel, well then I might have to check it out. But usually find it is a waste of my time. That is until I got into the SAW series. I am anxiously awaiting SAW V and I believe it is coming out October 24.
Saw (2004-2007) – The main character in SAW is Jigsaw and he’s one twisted piece of genius. And yes these movies are gory, very gory. But I dig them. Jigsaw gives his hand-picked players a chance at redemption. He chooses their vulnerabilities and works them to the core. The players have to go through a series of hard-core tests (that is the fun) to live or die. Jigsaw always has a point for each player. He even chose someone to be the next Jig to carry on his legacy, but she tends to be too dramatic and dark. It will be interesting to see what he’s got going on in his after-life, Jigsaw was always the man with a plan. He’s a genius and he sure is twisted.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Freddy Krueger and his six-inch fingernails of death. He haunts your dreams. For some reason, I’ve never really been able to get this song out of my head. That it is sung by children makes it that much more spooky: One, two Freddy’s coming for you…Three, four Better lock your door…Five, six grab your crucifix…Seven, eight better stay up late. Sleep deprivation is your only hope.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003) – I enjoyed this movie more than I thought. Who would you root for? Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street or Jason from Friday The 13th. I was surprised that I found myself rooting for either of them, but I was. Seeing it at Bengies Drive In made it all the better.