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There’s no better time of the year to watch a creephouse movie than Halloween, and it’s always best to do with others. Still, there are hurdles to finding something perfect to watch on what may be the best night of the year.
Film studios unload tasteless remakes in our theaters like homeowners passing out knockoff brand candy to trick or treaters, wrapped in colorful aluminum but filled with chocolate colored wax. Video store shelves are often pillaged for the best DVD’s, not to mention the difficulty of actually finding a video store that still operates. Then there’s misjudging your audience; nothing puts a damper on a party like showing “The Human Centipede” to a room of uninitiated viewers.
What follows are some simple horror suggestions that hopefully can take some of the guesswork out of Halloween cinema, and keep that one girl from forcing everyone to watch ‘Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride’ again.
For the horror romantic, if there is any justice in the world “Trick ‘R Treat” (2007, R) will become a perennial Halloween classic. While there are plenty of horror movies, there are almost no Halloween movies; films like Christmas movies that are about the spirit of the holiday itself. It plays like a gothic combination of “Creepshow” and “Pulp Fiction”, four non-linear stories set in a town obsessed with Halloween that weave in and out of each other, often darkly funny and cleverly designed. A romantic and lush horror vision, and featuring a pre-“True Blood” Anna Paquin, “Trick ‘R Treat” is great for those with a real nostalgia for Halloween itself, that feeling they got as a kid that maybe black magic wasn’t just make believe.
For shocked laughter, one of the most unfairly unseen films of the last decade was Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me To Hell” (2009, PG-13). The wacky master behind “The Evil Dead” trilogy slunk away from “Spider-Man 3” to return to his roots. Alas, the studio marketed his supernatural thriller as a straight horror film, looking tacky and uninspired from the brief TV spots, disguising the film’s true nature.
Telling the story of a young woman cursed by a vengeful gypsy, the movie is as close to a fourth “Evil Dead” film we are ever likely to get. Sickening slapstick, endlessly quotable one-liners, and a profanity spewing goat quickly transforms the traditional possession story into a jaw-dropping horror comedy. With the right suspension of disbelief, that can really make your night.
For limit pushers, as any gore hound knows, before Peter Jackson wooed America to Middle Earth he was in the business of hurling puke and innards at cinema audiences. His masterpiece “Braindead” (1992, R), re-titled for American audiences “Dead Alive” is the standard I use when judging all other films on bloody violence. After the overbearing mother of a meek New Zealand man turns zombie, he is stuck with the revolting fallout as the town is quickly transformed into pus-spewing monsters. As you laugh, you might feel a slight burning at the back of your throat; that would be bile.
For gothic innocence, not many of our readers will be stuck in with children Halloween night, but if that is the case: for the younger set, “Coraline” (2009, PG) is wonderful and rich. A stop motion animated film based on the celebrated Neil Gaiman novel, “Coraline” is the rare children’s film that actually seems to reflect the mood of a fairy tale instead of just robbing the tropes. Elegant, marvelously animated, and just scary and gothic enough to make this list makes it perfect for children or adults uninspired by copious amounts of violence.
Always remember it never hurts to fall back on the classics like “Poltergeist,” “Scream 2,” and anything with Lon Chaney Jr. However, surprise is the essence of fun horror and worth the risk. Besides, all that matters is the shared experience, locked to the flickering screen, black night looming outside, together on the most mystic night of the year.