Hallowe’en Scare

I love seasonal movies. October brings all the classic movie monsters, alien invasions, and serial axe-murderers you can cram onto a screen. Dracula is even getting a “re-vamp” with a new series on NBC.

Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies, oh my! It seems the innocent days of Linus’s Great Pumpkin are gone. The zany witches of Disney’s Hocus Pocus and Sabrina have been replaced with deadly serious covens. Even relationship-oriented movies like Practical Magic have fallen out of favor. Family favorites like The Munsters, The Addams Family, and Bewitched are passé. Hotel Transylvania made a stab at the theatre last year, but demons and undead have definitely possessed the older demographic.

Fantasy is mainstream. The supernatural is (ironically) commonplace. This is a little bit sad to me, because what I see is not the fun, campy, or farcical films like Arsenic and Old Lace. Today I see tales not only depicting monsters walking among us, but as heroes rising above the mortal world.

Why is this sad? Because I see such a desire to escape that even the most devilish of characters is elevated to protagonist. Good no longer wins against evil. What’s more, the audience cheers for the monster. Granted, Frankenstein’s monster was written as a tragic character, but no one should cheer at an attack on innocents.

I find it grotesque that people crave celebrity—notoriety—so much that they rationalize the desperate and dastardly acts required to achieve infamy. That’s what scares me. Reality is tough these days, and escape is easy. I understand that. But I also see real people I know wearing vampire fangs and monster contacts in an effort to blur the ever-thinning line between real and fantasy.

It often seems that people have lost the drive to achieve lofty goals, and instead delve deep into the pits of human atrocity. They receive the same acclaim either way, and it’s much easier to trample life than to cherish it. This isn’t okay with me.

I like stories about good triumphing over evil. I prefer a silly B-movie hero rallying neighbors against invading blobs from outer-space. Maybe I’m naive, but I would much rather be sitting with Linus in the pumpkin patch than running from the Children of the Corn.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

October is Scary Fun!

For the month of October, my family reviews and re-orders our movie queue to include some good fun scares. We don’t do the slasher films—plenty of those on late night TV already.

We like to compose a Halloween medley of cinematic masterpieces that include both horror classics and contemporary frights. We invite our friends over, make a little popcorn, and then enjoy the fear fest. Last year we watched our Friday Night Frights on TCM, with a sampling of aliens, vampires, werewolves, and other creature features.

We enjoyed these 50’s and 60’s movies so much, that this year I’ve included Earth Vs. Flying Saucers (1956) and Rocketship X-M (1950). Also on board is the original 1951 film, The Thing From Another World. I loved the 1982 version of The Thing, which starred Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley. With a new version coming out, I like to get a refresher for comparison.

What other movies made my short list?

Of course we have the monsters—The Mummy, both classic and recent. We included a variety of Frankenstein flicks, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. That should cover just about every way to look at the quilted beast. And we can’t have October without Van Helsing to meet our werewolf and vampire quota.

In case you wonder, last year’s The Wolfman impressed me. If you can, rent the edition that includes the original 1941 The Wolf Man, and watch them both. (You’re welcome!)

We want to keep the classic thrillers in the mix, so we added Hitchcock’s Life Boat, and Orson Welles’ 1944 version of Jane Eyre. We maintain a family tradition of enjoying the Halloween treat of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve seen it dozens of times, and I still giggle all the way through.

For some new classic tongue-in-cheek fun, rent The Lost Skeleton of Cadavara, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, and Dark and Stormy Night, all by comic genius Larry Blamire and his crew.

My guys and I will enjoy a date night or two at the movie theatre as well. I want to see Dream House, which opens this first weekend, and The Thing, which has a mid-month release.

I could recommend many other suspense films. Hitch has dozens, with varying degrees of fright factor. M. Night Shyamalan created a few good ones, too. I loved The Sixth Sense and Signs, and while I enjoyed The Village, it is not scary.

There are plenty of monster movies to enjoy. If you need some crazy blasts from the past, you might like Once Bitten, Earth Girls Are Easy, Weird Science, or Teen Wolf, all from the 80’s. For the scarier side of the 80’s, catch American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist, and The Howling. The 70’s brought us creepy films like The Stepford Wives and Dracula.

What’s on your October list? Please share!

That’s a wrap for this toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!