October is upon us and as we near Halloween I feel it is appropriate to make another list, this time with the theme of all that is gory and ghastly in film. This potentially could overflow with my last entry, I mean, Cannibal Holocaust would be a great Halloween-time flick for the guts and gore that it contains. Some of these movies are appropriate for October viewing because they are disturbing as well, just not to the level of Antichrist and Irreversible.
For the purposes of this entry, I will steer clear of the classics and most well-known Halloween series (i.e. Friday the 13th, Halloween, etc.) because you already know about those, right? They’re been a Halloween staple at your local Blockbuster since first grade. They’ll be on TV ‘n’ shit, you don’t need me reminding you that they exist this time of year. Instead, here are some still pretty well-known, but maybe not as classically Halloween, eerie hits for your viewing pleasure, in no particular order…
1. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and 2. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Of course these two Rob Zombie horror flicks go hand-in-hand, and you definitely must catch them both, in order. This would be a good little Grindhouse night for you. They’re dirty, they’re gritty, they’re saucy, a little funny and profane as all get out. Somehow despite the fact that the murderous main characters of these films are completely heinous, you kind of end up rooting for them. (Or is that just me?) Maybe an end-of-the-movie getaway chase to “Freebird” helps drive that sentiment home. The victims of House of 1000 Corpses are generally so whiny and generally unlikable, that you don’t really find yourself feeling too sorry for them. Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office) is one of the victims in that one, so that’s a bonus. And The Devil’s Rejects has one of my favorite disturbing lines from a film, “I think I can still smell your wife’s pussy stink on my gun.” So good. They are both pretty scary, but the latter is a bit more disturbing because of increased sexual content and lines such as the aforementioned one. You can count on Rob Zombie to do it right in these original films, and his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, plays a completely unsettling combination of psychotic yet still totally sexy Baby Firefly in both.
3. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
To begin, please note that I am endorsing the original George A. Romero version here. I have yet to see the newer Zack Snyder version, which I hear is good, and I like Ving Rhames and Mekhai Phifer and all, but when the classic is spot-on, you gotta stick with it. It’s like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; sure you might have superior technologies and fresh ideas, but don’t mess with a good thing. I can only assume that the graphic nature of this movie was way ahead of its time in ’78 because it still gets to me on the gross-out factor. First of all, they shoot children in this movie… KIDS, man! That had to be seriously pissing off some people back in the day. But I mean, they’re zombies! If some zombie kids were after my brains you better believe that i would have no problem blowing them away with the most extreme of prejudice. The second reason this might be the greatest zombie movie of all time is that it takes place in a shopping mall for the majority of the film. What kind of statement Romero was trying to make on consumer culture or capitalism is up for analysis, but it makes for a hell of an apocalyptic setting. Who wouldn’t want free range over a shopping mall in their last moments of life? Plus, this mall has a gun store, so obviously it is the best place for a stakeout during the zombie Armageddon.
4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It’s bloody and gory enough to hold its own with the classics and the greats, yet it’s funny and original enough to offer something completely different from the usual zombie flick. And despite the fact that is it full of humor, you can still somehow take it seriously. These are main characters you can relate to, although just like every zombie movie I think they take to the challenge of making it out of zombie annihilation with relative ease and quick scheming. Nevertheless, the relatability of these characters makes you root for them all the much more. And when you watch a zombie movie, you must admit that in the back of your mind you’re taking notes, wondering whether or not you would think of the same things or make the same mistakes. So to be able to relate to the characters makes this all the more fun. Shaun of the Dead makes fun of the genre while still somehow taking itself seriously as a zombie film, which has to be a tough feat. It creates a perfect combination of horror and comedy, plus a little bit of a love story that you just might be able to associate with, yourself.
5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro has managed to relate many things I love and cherish in this fanciful yet frightening tale of a little girl, Ofelia, living in Spain during Franco’s fascist rule. The movie touches upon historic accounts of post-civil-war Spain, which I quite enjoy after briefly studying the time period in school. The pro-Franco antagonists are despicable and the guerrilla rebels are lovably brave heroes, and this is only the side/background story. The Alice in Wonderland feel of the film had me from the very beginning, as I have always loved that story. It is one of the most visually-striking movies I can think of, with what I am going to go ahead and say is the most disturbing creature I have ever seen in a movie (pictured here, but this photo doesn’t even do it justice). And to top it all off, it is in Spanish which I love, but it also might take away from your enjoyment of all of the stunning visuals of the film if you are reading the subtitles the whole time. Although perhaps it is more fantasy than horror, Pan’s Labyrinth definitely spans multiple genres to bring viewers who might otherwise stray away from the fantasy genre something truly unique and captivating.
6. The Shining (1980)
The only film on the list other than Dawn of the Dead not to come out of the new millennium, The Shining, while a well-known “horror” movie, is still underrated in my opinion. I know, I know, it is the quintessential psychological thriller, but first of all, I don’t think that many people actually make it through the whole film, capturing its nuances and its messages. “Hhhhheeeeeere’s Johnny!” has become a parody of itself, and a cliche…a pop culture reference that is even in Rocko’s Modern Life, for godsake… But Stanley Kubrick’s classic should not be reduced to these little vignettes that the movie has become. Yeah, those twins are creepy, and the elevators full of blood are disturbing, but there is a lot more to the movie than those scenes and shots that the movie has become famous for. There is a psychological element we can all relate to, and if you sit still long enough to become captivated by this movie, you become just as much of a prisoner to the psychological horror of it as Jack Torrence. I believe that of every movie of this list, The Shining is the one that you should definitely consider reconsidering this Halloween season. Watch it again with a fresh set of eyes. Invest the time and the energy to let this movie take you away into a dark corner of your mind that you may not even know you have.
To round out this entry, might I recommend you also watch A Clockwork Orange, so you can get your Alex costume right, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, because heaven knows you won’t get enough of that song come October 31st. Boo!