Draw the curtains, carve the pumpkins and chill the moderately priced booze! October 31st is fast approaching and arguably the best and most fun holiday of the year is here again. Though genre fans for once do at least have a couple of decent big screen efforts to choose between in the form of “Saw 4” and “30 Days of Night”, as most will agree these pale in comparison to the vast library of classics available for red eyed home consumption along with a gang of friends, tacky decorations and plenty of alcohol. Yes, friends, for that is the true meaning of Halloween, whether it be cheap red wine, suspiciously domestic tasting import beer or even finest single malt scotch, there truly is no better way to usher in the night than with a stagger in your step and an inflated sense of self importance. Of course, this is only likely to improve the enjoyment of the entertainment of the evening (or indeed the day for the dedicated and the unemployed), and with this in mind, my recommendations for Halloween 2007 are as follows:
City of the Living Dead
Every Halloween horror marathon really needs at least one film by the Italian sultan of splatter Lucio Fulci, and this year i’m going for his 1980 classic “City of the Living Dead”. Although admittedly pretty slow moving (best to throw it on early in the day before the booze kicks in), it features some classic gore set pieces, including the infamous vomiting entrails and drill through the head scenes, and some nice creepy atmospherics. Needless to say, the plot makes no sense whatsoever, though this should not, and indeed does not stand in the way of a bloody good time for all.
Night of the Demons 2
A classic Halloween party film, with plenty of action, nudity and some surprisingly decent special effects, recently resurrected on DVD. This follow up to Kevin Tenney’s 1988 original was actually directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose name exploitation fans might recall from the Australian cult classics “Turkey Shoot” and “Dead-End Drive In”, and the Nicole Kidman kiddie flick “BMX Bandits”. Although the horror here definitely comes with a severed tongue in its cheek, the film is an archetypal throw-back to the good old days before “Scream” dictated that all scares had to come underlined and with quote marks.
Adding a little class to the occasion is this Roger Corman horror comedy, inspired by, if not even remotely based upon the Edgar Allen Poe poem. Featuring an irresistible cast of genre legends including Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court and ‘Jolly’ Jack Nicholson, the film is a wacky tale of duelling sorcerers which offers plenty of deliciously ghoulish fun. A little old fashioned and creaky perhaps, but “The Raven” is simply full of old style traditional Halloween atmosphere.
Next up is probably the best Italian horror film of the last thirteen years, a fact which sadly says a great deal since it was directed back in 1994 by Dario Argento protégé Michele Soavi. The story of a graveyard caretaker played by Brit actor Rupert Everett, whose charges have an unfortunate habit of coming back to life at awkward moments, the film ventures into some pretty surreal territory, with some wild, darkly creative moments that are guaranteed to please genre fans.
The Blob (remake)
This 1988 film from Chuck Russell (who made his debut with “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”, though whose career never really went anywhere, his last effort being the wretched “Scorpion King” back in 2002) proves two things, firstly that horror remakes have been around for decades, and secondly that not all horror remakes are a bad idea. Here, he manages to inject more fun and 80s style excess into the premise, backed up by some great special effects which help the film to go where the 1958 original couldn’t. Plenty of gooey fun.
Serving as a great reminder that not all Asian horror need be about angst ridden, vengeance seeking long haired female ghosts, this is a wonderfully grotesque black magic thriller from Hong Kong director Herman Yau, the genius behind such classics as “The Untold Story” and “Ebola Syndrome” (two personal favourites). Atmospheric, imaginative and disgusting, the film works great as an eye-opener for later on in the night for when viewers have become a little too comfortable (or drunk) and need a few genuine shocks to jolt them back into some semblance of life.
Finishing things off is Stuart Gordon’s “From Beyond”, recently restored to its full uncut gory glory on DVD. Almost as good as his immortal “Re-animator”, the film is another wacked-out H.P. Lovecraft adaptation which packs in an impressive quotient of blood, slime and perverse sexuality. A nice reminder of how great pre-CGI special effects could be, it features a host of imaginative monsters not seen before or since, and as a result is required viewing for all genre fans.