And so October comes faithfully round again. A good horror movie works any time of year, but something about the Halloween season gives it extra savor. For starters, scary movies are excellent for parties, dates, and all manner of shared social experiences. The fun of being scared by movies is an all-or-nothing concept, but those of us who love it are absolutely hooked on it. This is our season.
In 2012, the first Halloween Home Video series took a quick and dirty survey of the year in horror, highlighting ten new and underseen movies which, while not consistently excellent, were notable in some measure for their conception or execution. The lack of fanfare around those flicks seemed to have arisen not from low quality, but from the pitfalls of small release, direct-to-video and foreign distribution in a low-bar market flooded with amateur competition. Making a horror movie may be the one of the easiest things in the world, but making one that’s any good is no inconsiderable feat.
As you plan your Halloween screening adventures, the majority of books, websites and lists you consult will point you toward classics like Carrie, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead, The Shining, Night Of The Living Dead, and of course John Carpenter’s original Halloween. Make no mistake; these are all excellent movies, but if you’re searching far afield for horror recommendations, it stands to reason that you know and love at least most of them already.
Halloween Home Video is still about scaring up ideas beyond the usual list of suspects. Many of the features will be decidedly more mainstream this year, but the goal is still to keep mainly off the all-time essentials list. The 2013 edition proposes a weekly three-course “menu” of horror films for your viewing enjoyment. Each triple bill has been chosen for maximum variety within a given theme, pairing time-tested favorites with respectable contemporary efforts, along with something a little zany thrown in for dessert.
Tenth Avenue Freak-Out
Let us begin the feast with something refined yet playful, profound but unpretentious to tickle the palate. Nothing spells class better than running in terror from dangerous killer freaks. Are they mistakes of nature, divine retribution for the sins of humankind, or merely misunderstood strangers? Confronting the monstrous always bears an element of tragedy, especially when the monster shares identifiable characteristics with its human victims. More often than not, it also serves as a mirror for the inhumanity we visit on one another (One of H. P. Lovecraft’s greatest tales, “The Outsider,” takes that idea to a shocking and poignant extreme).
Won’t you freak out along with us at home? And in future, look more kindly on the mutant oddities you call family and friends.
First Course: The Descent
(dir. Neil Marshall, 2005)