The one thing that always gets me about Halloween is the fact that despite its lack of real celebration, in the UK anyway, nearly everyone will end up toasting a night of spookiness in some fashion. Some people may dress up, some people may head to a party, and at the very least, some people will watch a horror film.
Sure, there are many people out there that might not necessarily agree that a Halloween film has to be a horror film, and to that idea’s credit, there’s a great selection of non-horror spooky flicks to choose from. The Nightmare Before Christmas, for instance, is a great example and should be on everybody’s watch list, but let’s be honest: horror and Halloween go hand in hand. Come on – it’s in the H’s.
Because horror films are about to be considered as the top film choice for more households than any other day of the year, I feel it’s my job to try and push a larger dose of horror on the mainstream mind. And when I say mainstream, I don’t mean that liking horror films is the equivalent of sitting in the park with a typewriter smoking a pipe because ‘it feels right’. What I mean to say is that I think the horror genre is criminally underrated, and is never taken as seriously for its contribution to the world around us.
So because I adore the horror genre, and because I want to be slightly hipster (just slightly), I’ve compiled a list of horror films that some may not have considered – or even heard of – to watch this Halloween.
Dolls is a prime example of the horror genre giving back in terms of ideas and themes. To be honest, it’s an enigma of horror in the sense that taking one look at it, you wouldn’t be blamed for believing this is just another forgettable film about something small coming to life and wanting to kill people (i.e. Ghoulies; The Puppet Master series; The Gingerdead Man – yup, that’s a real film). In reality though, once you scratch underneath the surface a bit and chip away at the very 80’s paint this film has, you can discover a film that has an incredibly rich centre.
Basically, this is a kids film. Well – it borrows the style of a kids film, and spices it up with an age appropriation badge of 18. Kids films have a tendency to actually take a crueler route when it comes to having a message about being good. Remember Sid’s punishment in Toy Story for instance? How fucked up was that when you think about it? Well, let’s take that idea and build an entire film around it, with scenes of a giant teddy bear ripping and eating away at someone; someone else falling from a window and being horribly impaled; and an ending that actually makes the viewer feel warm and satisfied, as all the mean characters die and the only ones left standing are the nice little girl and a lovable idiot (promise that I’m not giving a spoiler away – see the trailer). It’s a strange film for sure, but it has a tender message of holding onto our child-like sensibilities as they continue to shape us into good people. Basically, as Woody said it best: ‘play nice’.
Slugs is another film that is more than meets the eye, an astonishing feat when you find out the premise to this film. Not that you really need to be told the premise – you’ve got a horror film called ‘Slugs’; what else would you think it’s about?
Yes, this is a film not unlike Jaws or Lake Placid, as its central focus killer here is a creature that tries to bring the destruction of man. However, instead of a giant killing machine that will make you afraid to do something ordinary, like take a bath, we have garden slugs.
But that’s exactly it. When you hear that you’re supposed to be afraid of slugs in this film, you think, ‘poppycock! Those slimy slowpokes would never frighten me!’ But then you watch it, and my god, every time I see a slug now, I’m always slightly hesitant to be near it. For all I know, it may go and get a good few thousand of his buddies to creep next to my bed, and when I wake up and step out – BAM, I fall and they eat my naked body slowly and probably quite painfully. Or it could sneak into some of my salad and have its children erupt from my head until it plops as a pile of pulp on the floor.
Why would I think this of a slug? Well, because they’re the kind of images you’re treated to in this film. It takes something silly and creates something unnerving, and that’s exactly why it’s a must see!
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
The original Hellraiser film is by all means a classic of the genre and for very good reason: it’s simplistic yet original, with incredibly powerful imagery. Unfortunately, like most of the best bunch, Hellraiser was followed by a seemingly endless string of sequels, and while for the most part, they are completely lacklustre and filled with about as much imagination as an electrician painting a wall, its direct sequel, Hellraiser 2: Hellbound is anything but terrible.
After watching it for the 14 or 15th time with my girlfriend only a few weeks back, she told me it was one of her favourite films to date. That’s not just in terms of horror, but in terms of film-making itself – and it’s now one of mine too. Don’t get me wrong; I still love the first Hellraiser film, but its sequel is the Terminator 2 of the horror genre, as a film that not only matches its predecessor, but surpasses it. While maintaining all the themes of the original, it delves further and deeper into the established lore of the series. You’ll witness one of the greatest depictions of hell, as well as some very striking moments. We also get one of the most curious doctors in all of film history, a man so determined to find the truth that he’s willing to hand a straight razor to a mental patient, so that he can cut and saw away at himself on the of chance it might resurrect someone – which it does. This film is so good, I feel like it shouldn’t even be regarded as a sequel, but rather the second piece in the Hellraiser puzzle. If only they’d left it there.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Just recently have we lived through the incredibly dull end times, with people walking around dressed as clowns, subsequently dubbed ‘The Killer Clown Apocalypse’. We all know that it means that the number of uninspired killer clown films is going to skyrocket over the next few years, so why not try a killer clown film that actually tries something different, and one that is so much fun?
The colourful and incredibly silly 1988 film has a race of extraterrestrial beings invade a town in order to harvest the planet for food – pretty standard for sci-fi/horror flick, no? However, when those aliens are carnival clowns, and the food they want to turn people into is cotton candy, that should make any horror viewer instantly interested. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there: this film is proud of its premise and continues to push with it. We’re treated to all manner of goofy things such as balloon animal blood hounds; shadow puppetry that traps people; and acidic cream pies.
It’s a crazy film that has some strangely dark moments, such as a clown luring a small girl away from her parents so her can bash her head in with a hammer, and the way people are turned into cotton candy is actually pretty horrifying. It sounds silly, it is silly, but it’s also so much more.
City of the Living Dead (1980)
My all-time favourite director, Lucio Fulci, made one of the best horror movies of all time (well he made many in my opinion, but that’s for another post), and hardly anyone knows about it. City of the Living Dead is a 1980 horror film that I suppose wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as as with most 80’s Italian horror films, it hosts a variety of inconsistencies with tone and atmosphere. However, to me, that’s what makes these films so special.
The premise here is that after a priest hangs himself in the town of Dunwich (a nice Lovecraftian reference), he opens the gates of H-E-double hockey stick and all the dead begin to rise from the grave. From there, it’s pretty much a race to close those gates before All Saints Day, because if they don’t, well, the dead won’t rest and they’ll run amok all over the world. For Hell, that’s a pretty tame punishment to the Earth, but these zombies don’t really want to eat anyone. They’ll just tear your brain out with their bare hands, or just stare at you until you vomit out all of your organs.
Like most Italian horror films from the 80’s, City of the Living Dead is a strange mixture of horror. Here we’re focused mainly on a supernatural story about a book foretelling the end of the world, but then we have a scene of a man killing another with a drill because he thinks he’s trying something on with his daughter. But I think what I admire most about all of Fulci’s films, and City of the Living Dead in particular, is that while it may come across as an inconsistent gore-fest to some, it’s obvious to see the love and care he puts into it, crafting and sculpting with all his favourite ingredients, and in the end, creating one of the spookiest films of all time.
So this Halloween, take a look at some different horror films, because you might surprised and not only find a great spooker, but also a great film!