Thursday, October 29, 2009

M's Alterative Halloween: Movies You Can Pick Up Before Saturday

Halloween is as much about costumes and candy, as it is about movies. Every blogger out there has a list of classic bone-chilling, bloody recommendations, most of which, you probably already know. I'm not going to include the usual favorites (The Ring, The Shining, Halloween, Sleepy Hollow, and Scream to name a few), but will be focusing on the equally satisfying ones you can rent this Saturday when everyone else has picked up the obvious along the Halloween wall at Blockbuster.

Sweeney Todd
Beautiful and properly Tim Burtony, Sweeney Todd fits all the criteria, beginning as a fun romp through dingy, foggy London, and ending up pulling at your heartstrings. Arguably Burton’s most solid work, it's haunting in a deep philosophical and emotional way, with the added bonus of humming along to Depp’s surprising vocal talent.

The Haunting
The 1963 version of Shirley Jackson’s story is delicately terrifying and masterfully uses zero effects to make you afraid of the everyday objects around your house. Stay away from those air vents and the newer Liam Neeson remake!

The Fog
John Carpenter is a master of atmosphere, and this film showcases his talent. The demonic Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s delicious 80’s nostalgia in a freaky, well filmed package.


Event Horizon
“Worst film ever” for some, and greatly misunderstood sci-fi classic to others, the film takes the scarier aspects of Alien and Solaris and fuses them into a horrifying take on the perils of space isolation and time travel.


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, this is the closest adaptation of the book and brings out its scariest, most thought provoking aspects. The performances are strong, as is the cinematography. As a bonus, Robert DeNiro’s monster is perfectly pathetic and misunderstood, the ideal foil to showcase Branagh’s Frankenstein's descent into madness.

Session 9
I first saw this low-budget film starring David Caruso (of all actors) on Hulu. Filmed realistically on location in an abandoned psychiatric hospital (the art therapy on the walls and abandoned medical equipment are original), the setting becomes alive, but also gives the film a gritty minimalism that sticks with you beyond the run time and the somewhat straight forward story.


Pan’s Labyrinth
Visually arresting, Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy masterpiece is gorgeous and upsetting, a great backdrop for his inventive and horrifying creatures (baby-eating-eyeballs-in-his-hands monster rings a bell). If you want to avoid the Kleenex box, stick with Hellboy for equal monster quotas, Nazis, and a little more fun.


Videodrome
Every Cronenberg film could be classified as disturbing and Halloween worthy, but Videodrome is by far one of his best and most memorable. With an effecting performance by a young James Woods, and gross out yet fitting effects, the film creeps up on you, as technology creeps up on Max Renn.


Near Dark
Starring a young Adrian Pasdar (Heroes Nathan Petrelli), Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton, this vampire road trip movie through barren Texas is perfectly original, scary, sexy, and well written.


The Ninth Gate
This Roman Polanski thriller follows a rare book dealer (Johnny Depp) as he hunts down a legendary book that may or may not summon the devil. In classic Polanski fashion, the film is more psychological than action packed, and unfolds slowly as it exposes the darkness of the human soul.


From Hell
Based on the Alan Moore graphic novel/historical treatise, the film is stylistically stunning, beautiful, and disturbing as it follows a Victorian detective (Depp again) on the hunt for Jack the Ripper. Throw in Masonic conspiracy, opium dens, and Ian Holm and you get a great slasher that's a bit more sophisticated than typical chainsaw fair.


Stir of Echoes
Hypnosis is supposed to be harmless. But after this thriller starring Kevin Bacon as a father who spirals into obsession when a gateway to the supernatural world is opened in his mind, you might reconsider. Although it follows the typical pattern of, “I see ghosts. What is it they need me to do?” the ride to get there is unsettling and nerve racking.


Cube
With an unknown cast, minimal set, and budget, Cube takes away the frills and focuses on the drama. The film is incredibly tense, aided by a dreadful ambiguity and indistinct mathematics that’s delightfully dangled all the way through.


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
Dario Argento is the Italian father of the horror and thriller genre, with fanboys as big as John Carpenter and George Romero. Although Plumage is one of his earlier, tamer films, it’s a powerful thriller that showcases his gift for subtle tension and vague terror. Who other than Dorian Gray knew a painting could be so disturbing?




The Descent
Claustrophobic? Disturbed by realistic drama? Hate it when disgusting creatures ruin your innocent, lost-in-a-cave fun? The Descent is one of the scariest films out there. You won't be able to sleep, or visit any caves, anytime soon. It's primal and empowering in the grossest of ways.


Will Vinton's A Claymation Comedy of Horrors
A historical M classic, Will Vinton's Halloween Special has been a tradition at my house since it first aired on TV in 1991. Funny, silly, and inventive, it's a great watch for kids and adults alike as you follow Wilshire Pig and Sheldon Snail to Frankenstein's Laboratory.

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