UNK SEZ: A couple years ago I listed ten of my favorite movies that took place on Halloween (HERE). There’s probably not too many surprises on that list but hey, I had a relatively limited barrel of apples to bob from. This year I thought it might be better to pick out ten films that have NOTHING to do with Halloween but that still somehow carry something that feels like the Halloween spirit to me. These movies don’t involve the holiday itself, but their tone or subject matter is simpatico and regardless of their aspirations or taste level, they all share a healthy respect for the eerie unknown.
BURN WITCH BURN (1962) Behind every great man is a great witch. Skeptic Norman Taylor learns the hard way which side his bread is buttered on when his life goes to pot after he forces his wife to can her craft. BURN (aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE) earns extra charm points for allowing me to cram THE INNOCENTS into the conversation as its star PETER WYNGARDE appeared in that classic as the menacing Quint!
CURSE (NIGHT) OF THE DEMON (1957) (not to be confused with NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) which does take place on Halloween) When will science ever learn to take its hat off when black magic is in the room? You’ll find some kids cavorting in spooky masks in this non-Halloween tale and I swear the holiday itself makes a cameo in the form of a chillingly ominous windstorm. Non-believers beware!
THE EVIL (1978) What Halloween is complete without a visit to a haunted house and what better time period to dress the excursion in than the late seventies? Subtly is refreshingly kicked to the curb and any thoughts that you’ve seen all this before are swept away by a surreal eleventh hour house-call call by old scratch himself!
ONE DARK NIGHT (1982) Staying overnight in a haunted house is one thing but who would have the nerve to camp out in a psychically animated corpse occupied mausoleum? Possibly tame by today’s standards, who can complain when the company you are keeping includes MEG TILLY (PSYCHO II) and more importantly the one and only E.G. DAILY? Keep an eye out for my favorite tunnel (Los Angeles’2nd Street), which has also appeared in BLADE RUNNER and THE TERMINATOR among others!
WITCHBOARD (1986) If you’d like to know what it’s like to be the best Ouija board-centered horror move ever made, you’ll have to ask this one! I don’t know what’s more awesome, the first glimpse of bearded, axe-wielding evil spirit Malfeitor or seeing music video vixen TAWNY KITAEN dressed in drag. Extra points for yanking a still feisty ROSE MARIE and quirky character actress KATHLEEN WILHOITE into the mix!!
GHOULIES (1985) Silly though it may be, there’s something so weird going on in this movie that I have to give it a nod. I find the titular creatures more adorable than scary so I’m placing blame solely on “Greedigut,” the lady little person with the ill-fitting demonic voice (the late great TAMARA DeTREAUX) for my inexplicable unease. Joining the kooky chaos is JENNIFER’s LISA PELIKAN, KILLER PARTY’s RALPH SEYMOUR, TWIN PEAKS’ JACK NANCE and good lordy, MARISKA HARGITAY!
STIR OF ECHOES (1999) You’ll find a career high performance from KEVIN BACON here and even more impressively, a truly unique and refreshingly un-flashy presentation of the supernatural. What sets this flick apart is its sense of loss, after the scares have dissipated, there’s a rank tragic vibe that’s a little bit harder to shake. Extra points added for recruiting both ILLEANA DOUGLAS and the unnerving nightmare LIDSVILLE to take part in this spooky RICHARD MATHESON-penned mystery.
THE GATE (1987) Aw, remember the giddy fun it was when your parents would take off and leave you alone in the house all night as a kid? Makes me want to pop corn and watch QUINCY M.E. This movie is tons of fun and the stop motion monsters are super cool yet how flipping scary is it when the folks return home but are not acting quite themselves? SPEILBERG would be proud (if he was drunk). Extra points rewarded for upgrading the usual dusty book with a heavy metal record played backwards!
DOLLS (1987) Knowing that killer dolls inhabit this film should be enough for anybody. This creepy compact dark fantasy takes place on “The longest night ever” and when it’s not fulfilling your requirements for biting bloodshed, it’s making you chuckle like hell. The opening scene that involves a teddy bear’s grizzly revenge is too good to be true and the moral warning that if you don’t keep the kid inside you alive, you’re likely to end up a puppeteer’s plaything, is one we’re always happy to back up here!
DEMONS (1985) O.K., now it’s time to get a little rowdy. Who can say no to a free ticket to a horror movie? Not me. The premise, about a demon outbreak occurring during a movie show while the audience is trapped within the theater is wildly out there, so how come whenever I watch this flick I believe every thing it tells me as if it were the gospel? Ack! Maybe it’s my claustrophobia and fear of crowds that takes over, but I can never help putting myself in the place of the characters and noting that I would be a shivering wreck hiding under a chair looking for a way to kill myself and praying for a helicopter to land on my head. DEMONS has no time to explain itself. You’re already dead.
THE FOG (1980) While everybody and their brother was scrambling to duplicate HALLOWEEN’s success by lifting the more obvious stalk and stab aspects of the film, its co-creators took the less crowded route and delved head first into the uncanny ambiguity that really made the flick tick. What they came up with is the ultimate ghost story that is THE FOG. It may take place in April, but this telling of a night when the supernatural world collides with ours is arguably just as appropriate for the holiday as its predecessor. Plus you get to see what really happened to Laurie Strode after the night he came home, she changed her name to Elizabeth and went hitchhiking!