As the Halloween season approaches, we all have our go-to films that we pop in the DVD or Blu-Ray player. One of my own personal favorite Halloween activities is to get together with friends and watch movies. The following list is comprised of movies that always find their way into my player during the Halloween season.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
This is an incredibly nostalgic film for me as it is one of the first horror movies I remember watching. I had two older brothers and if they were left in charge, it was understood that at some point I was going to be put in front of the television to be terrified for the rest of the evening. As far as the film goes, The Final Chapter is definitely one of the better entries in the series. Starring a young Corey Feldman right before he gained momentum as a teen star of the 1980s, as well as Crispin Glover (Back to the Future), the film was generally well-acted and featured an impressive cast. Beginning with a helpful montage of clips to that bring the viewer current, most of the kills are creative, and each character is given enough backstory that the audience is concerned for his or her fate. In addition, this film has arguably the best Final Girl chase sequence in not just the Friday the 13th franchise but perhaps in any 1980s horror film.
I was a huge fan of Dario Argento before I even realized I knew his work. The version I first viewed was the U.S. release, known as Creepers. It was a truncated version, however, I was still fascinated with this European approach to horror. I was a teenager the first time I viewed the film and it was not until much later that I was able to see the full version. While Suspiria is arguably Argento’s masterpiece, I find Phenomena a nice bridge from his personal style to the slasher horror films of the 1980s. It stars a young Jennifer Connelly as a girl with a telekinetic bond to insects that she uses to help solve a series of murders near her boarding school. True to the Argento style, Phenomena contains one of the most thrillingly disgusting settings in horror. It is always a satisfying shock to watch the reaction of a first time viewer.
Wait Until Dark
This nail biting film is not your typical Audrey Hepburn experience. Far from the romantic genre typically associated with Hepburn, Wait Until Dark follows her character, Susie, as she has to get the better of three men trying to scam her out of a heroin-filled doll. This is no easy feat as Susie is blind. The doll in question was given to her husband by a stranger and she is left alone as three criminal men play game after game with her until she turns the tables on them. Many directors cite a particular scene from this film as their inspiration to truly make an audience jump in their seats. My experience watching this film with others has always been just as successful when the moment comes.
Dawn of the Dead
Produced during the era in which remakes were beginning to be churned out as if from an automated machine, I found Dawn of the Dead to be one of the more successful. The film stars Sarah Polley as Ana, an overworked nurse waking up to find the world has completely changed. The audience watches as a typical suburban neighborhood is transformed into the chaos of armageddon. While the majority of the film is contained within one setting, there is ample suspense and gore leading to a grand finale full of intensity. Dawn of the Dead never fails to pay homage to the original series of films with its interlaced social commentary.
When most of us think of the Halloween season, it is hard to not remember those times we had has kids getting dressed up in costumes to collect candy throughout our neighborhood. It is definitely a film that manages to successfully conjure up that sense of nostalgia. While taking place in a specific era with a group of kids, there is a part of all of us that can relate to them. We can also relate to the childhood fears (some of which leave a faint echo well into adulthood) present in the film. Originally a miniseries, It does have a less than desirable set of special effects towards the end of the film. However, Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise will always manage to terrify children (and adults) of all ages. This performance coupled with the strength of the story will always overshadow some of the lackluster special effects.
Honorable Mention: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
The Halloween series is my favorite. If I had to pick just one film from the series to watch at this time of year, it would be this one. Out of the entire franchise, this is the one that best represents the Halloween season to me.