Six excellent Halloween movies
I watch quite a few movies, and with Halloween right around the corner, my film watching is completely monopolized by the scary movie genre for about a month and a half leading up until the big night. I thought it would be good to talk about some of my favorite scary movies. If you have not seen some of these movies, head over to Netflix or your local DVD rental store shudder, and get them to your house as soon as you can.
Clearly, any scary movie list could not be complete without an Alfred Hitchcock film. Vertigo is most definitely the best of Hitchcock's amazing body of work within the thriller genre. I had to watch Vertigo a couple of times before all of the themes and the story really sank in. Upon release, the film was largely panned by critics for its' intricate plot that seems to go in diverging directions. To me, the film represents the ultimate tale of obsession, love, greed and ultimately the destruction that these influences can cause within people's lives. Pretty dark sounding stuff, but it makes for a very intriguing tale, and one of my favorite films of all time.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
I recently happened upon this film originally released in 1955, which is based on the true story of "The West Virginia Blue Beard" - a serial killer that was arrested in West Virginia in 1932. The plot basically revolves around a convict who is released from prison, befriends and eventually marries an unwitting single women, and adopts her two children - after which, everything goes very, very bad. Since this story is about a serial killer, you can connect the dots. However, what is really exceptional about this movie is the artful direction and the surprisingly creepy vibe that permeates throughout the entire film. Supposedly, a lot of modern, respected film makers have cited this film as having an influential effect on their work. Plus, I think it influenced Ozzy Ozzbourne to get tattoos on his fingers, which totally rocks!
Sweeney Todd - the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I'm definitely what you would call a Tim Burton fan. Ever since I saw Pee Wee's Big Adventure in elementary school and laughed for 10 straight minutes when I saw the "Large Marge" scene for the first time, I've enjoyed pretty much every movie Tim Burton has directed (sure, Planet of the Apes sucked, but everyone lays an egg at some point). That said, I really enjoyed Burton's take on this classic Steven Sondheim musical.
I can't speak highly of the music portion of the movie, the original musical was created with Broadway caliber singers in mind. However, the story is absolutely classic pulp fiction, and it's another fantastic tale of some of the darker aspects of love, obsession and revenge. Sure it's totally weird to see Johnny Depp croon about slicing people's throats with a barber's razor, but after all, isn't that what Halloween movies are all about?
Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz (2004/2007)
I am breaking the rules a bit here and including two movies in one. These two films are both absolutely hilarious, and amazingly gory, but it's a brilliant mix and it makes for a couple of fantastic films. Simon Pegg stars in both playing completely polar-opposite characters. In Shaun of the Dead, Pegg's character is a lazy, video game playing dork on the verge of losing his girlfriend due to his shortcomings, before trying to make it through a Night of the Living Dead-style Zombie fight. In Hot Fuzz, Pegg is a obsessive, driven police officer determined to do the right thing at any cost, who is trying to solve what he believes is a murder mystery in small, rural town. Simon Pegg seems to have fallen on the unfortunate path of working on really crappy movies lately, but don't let that dissuade you, these movies are everything modern comedy should be, and at the same time seem to carve out (pun not intended) their own unique genre.
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)
This is another Tim Burton film, but his role on this film largely centered around creating the story. While the movie has an excellent story, it has an even better visual style. Using stop motion animation, the designers working on this film create some fantastic settings, and a very dark backdrop for what is essentially a children's tale about appreciating everything that you have. Danny Elfman completely nails the score to this film as well, and it has some of the better music I've seen in a Halloween movie. Well, I suppose a case could be made for the Jaws score, but I digress.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Although these movies appear in no particular order, I definitely saved the best for last. The Wicker Man is unquestionably one of my all time favorites. Please do not confuse the bad-ass original Wicker Man with the awful tragedy of a film that is the 2006 remake starring Nick Cage. The original 1973 film is a complete masterwork of freakiness. I can't think of anything more creepy than going to a small, isolated, remote village to investigate the murder/disappearance of a little girl, while having the distinct feeling that the entire village knows something about the crime and they all want you to disappear. Oh, probably also knowing that the entire village is practicing some strange religion that involves sacrifices, wearing animal heads during ceremonies, and believing people turn into rabbits when they die. Oh wait, that is exactly what happens in the Wicker Man.