As we all know, Halloween is a hodge and a podge of various cultural and religious traditions. The Jack O’ lantern, the holiday’s cheerful, grinning orange mascot is based on an old Irish legend of a man who was so evil he was kicked out of Hell. Jack was sentenced to wander for all eternity, with only a burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. Upon their arrival in America, the Irish found that the pumpkin was a far more user-friendly carving medium for their disturbing little tradition.
Trick Or Treating also has Celtic origins: On the festival of Samhain, the spirits of the dead walked the earth, and people would leave food out for them, hoping this would keep the dead from vexing the living.
It became an American tradition in the early 20th century as a way of keeping the young from vexing homeowners. Essentially, the adults of America made a deal with the nation’s children: “Stop breaking and burning our cities every October 31st, and you can go to any home you want and get free candy”. America’s youth accepted, and Trick Or Treating has been practiced in nearly every American community for almost a century.
Today, we explore the nerdiest of Halloween traditions: The Halloween horror movie marathon.
In 2011 our own Jeremy Hudson presented Your Official Nerd Bastards Halloween Mix Tape, ten nerdified tunes to provide a soundtrack to your All Hallow’s Eve festivities….
Well, the only thing a Halloween celebration needs more than a spooky playlist is a nice horror flick marathon, and I’ve compiled a list of ten geek-approved pieces of macabre cimema. Whether at a big Halloween bash, or just a quiet holiday at home, no nerd’s Halloween could possibly be considered complete without a movie marathon.
Now, you could take the easy way out, and just watch all gazillion Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, or Ghostface flicks–but this is Nerd Bastards–we’ve got standards to maintain. Thus, THIS horror marathon will feature films that range from the relatively popular, to the cult classic, to the utterly unknown….but ALL have that “je ne sais quoi” that make them appropriate for a movie nerd’s holiday.
Keep in mind that this is NOT a ranked list–the order of entries is arbitrary.
Happy watching, and have a very Happy and Nerdy Halloween!
10. Night of the Demons (1988)
A trash cinema classic starring absolutely no one–no horror nerd’s movie collection is complete without a number of truly atrocious wastes of celluloid, and Night of the Demons deserves to be ranked among the most entertaining. Lots of blood and gore and summoning of hellspawn, a kickass 80s sountrack (Bauhaus‘ “Stigmata Martyr” being the standout tune) and boobies, copious boobies (save this one for after the kiddies got to bed).
On an interesting note, Night of the Demons may very well be the only 80s teen horror flick where the black guy survives.
PS: A remake of sorts came out a few years back. Avoid it like a spit-talker with ebola.
9. Blood & Donuts (1995)
Another film that’s hardly famous for its star-studded cast (except for a cameo by Canadian horror auteur David Cronenberg as a mobster of all things): This Canadian indie vampire flick is quite unlike anything you’ve seen before. A vampire named Boya awakens from a 25 year snooze and falls in love with a waitress at a 24-hour donut shop (WHY do we not have these in the States???)
Honestly, there isn’t a lot more to it than that. The violence and gore is mild, but it stands on its beautifully written and brilliantly acted characters. Louis Ferreira stands out as cruller-obsessed cabbie Earl–an amiable chap who befriends the understandably out of place Boya. Ferreira is best known for his work on Stargate: Universe, but try not to hold that against him.
Blood & Donuts is wonderfully quirky–and sweet and romantic without being Twilight-esque teen fantasy fulfillment.
And it’s very Canadian….
8. Dead Alive (1992)
Long before Peter Jackson accomplished the impossible and brought Middle Earth to the big screen with a trilogy of films that were unbelievably successful both commercially and artistically, he was known in certain circles as the batshit insane New Zealander who made striking, disturbing movies about parricidal pseudo-lesbians (Heavenly Creatures) and drug-crazed sodomy-happy puppets (Meet The Feebles).
This is where his head was in 1992 when he made what may well be the goriest zombie movie ever committed to film. Dead Alive (AKA: Braindead) is the touching story of a nice boy and his dear old mum–who becomes a flesh-crazed ghoul after being infected by the bite of a Sumatran rat-monkey. It’s absurd, over-the-top, blood-soaked horror goodness, and one of my personal favorites in the zombie subgenre.
7. ParaNorman (2012)
Laika Entertainment, who also produced such off-center stop motion animated features as Coraline and Tim Burton‘s The Corpse Bride outdid itself with ParaNorman, the smart, edgy, and hilarious story of a boy who can communicate with the dead.
Every Horror Marathon needs a few movies that can break up the terror and nihilism–something that can make you smile rather than scream, and give you time to gather your resolve for the next onslaught of violence, gore, and death.
The go-to movie for this purpose is The Nightmare Before Christmas–and while it’s a classic, and always will be, this is a Nerd Bastards approved list…if you want a safe, simple, predictable assortment of films for your Halloween party–go check out Yahoo Movies, or some equally prosaic online destination.
The rest of us will be watching ParaNorman when you get bored.
6. Lady In White
One of my favorite “Ghost Story” movies: Remember when ghost movies were eerie and magical and atmospheric? Not two hours of infrared security camera footage with a few system shocks thrown in to justify wasting your evening watching a green tinted room do absolutely nothing? (Andy Warhol‘s Sleep is more interesting than the thrice damned Paranormal Activity films).
Anyway, Lady In White stars Lukas Haas (Witness, Mars Attacks). It’s an 80s movie set in the 60s, and it looks like what you’d get if Stephen King and Ray Bradbury co-wrote a movie. The film is a book being written by Haas’ character as an adult, and he’s narrating it, making it kind of the Stand By Me of spook stories.
5. Boy Eats Girl (2005)
The story is as old as the hills:
Boy likes Girl, Boy grows a pair and decides to tell Girl, a misunderstanding causes Boy to think Girl likes other Boy, Boy offs himself in his bedroom. Boy’s archaeologist mother finds his body, and uses a wonky ancient spellbook to bring him back from the dead. Boy returns to the living world as a ravenous flesh eater and starts noshing on his pals, pandemonium ensues.
If you’ve ever seen an Irish comedy, then you know they have a flair for the offbeat and the sardonic in their humor (Check out a film called The Snapper sometime). This makes them ideal for making a “Rom-Zom-Com” (Romantic Zombie Comedy–a term coined by the folks who brought us Shaun of the Dead).
David Leon is appealing and sympathetic as the lovestruck ghoul, and the absolutely EXQUISITE Samantha Mumba is more than sufficient reason for any guy to come back from the dead.
Play this one with the aforementioned Blood & Donuts for a nice “couples” double feature.
4. Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Gloria Holden‘s Contessa Marya Zeleska practically invented the “Hot Creepy Girl” trope that was later adopted by characters like Morticia Addams, Lily Munster, Vampira, Elvira, and basically every woman at a Type-O Negative concert.
This overlooked follow-up to Dracula was probably the first film to present us with a truly sympathetic vampire (she’s actually trying to find a cure for her “condition”). It’s classically eerie in the tradition of its forbearer, gives us more of the great Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing–and it’s a far more satisfying sequel than Lon Chaney Jr‘s anemic Son of Dracula.
3. Fido (2006)
Fido is the zombie lover’s zombie comedy. The only film that approaches its brilliance at lovingly mocking the tropes of the subgenre is Shaun of the Dead (which only isn’t here because I considered it a bit too well known).
If Tim Burton made a zombie movie, it would probably look a lot like Fido: It’s got the same gleefully deviant disdain for the mores and trappings of Middle America (not surprising as its yet another Canadian film)–and the same underlying message that “normalcy” is the real perversion, and the weirdos are the only sane people out there that Burton’s films often present.
The plot is unique and ingenious–it’s one of the very few POST zombie apocalypse movies. Radiation from space turns the dead into zombies, which effectively ends civilization as we know it. Now people live in insulated little bubbles of idyllic life, all the while separated from a wasteland populated by the walking dead by only a fence. The megalithic corporation Zomcon runs basically everything–they’re the ones who figured out how to kill zombies, and invented domestication collars that allow the living to use the dead as slave labor. The Robinsons, who had avoided buying a zombie due to Mr. Robinson’s prejudices, obtain a zombie that their son, Timmy, names Fido. It’s essentially a hilariously twisted take on the “boy and his dog” story, and one of my favorite movies of ANY genre.
2. Fright Night (1985)
The original–though I hear good things about the recent remake.
1985’s Fright Night is the film that resurrected the vampire genre for the 1980s–an era when the slasher reigned supreme, and the old-school monsters were an endangered species. The vampire film might have stayed as dead as Bela Lugosi had it not been for this movie (and The Lost Boys).
Besides, where else can you see Herman’s Head and Dr. Cornelius save Marcy D’Arcy from Prince Humperdinck?
Trivia Note: After making Fright Night, Stephen Geoffreys–who played Evil Ed–became a bodybuilder, and later a gay porn star….No, seriously.
1. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Possibly the best horror comedy ever made, and a surprisingly effective entry in the saga of the Universal Monsters, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of those rare horror comedies that does not sacrifice scares for the sake of laughs (OR vice versa). The horror side of the film is handled seriously and with real affection for the genre: The Big Three of Universal horror–The Frankenstein Monster, The Wolfman, and Dracula are all back together. By this time, Boris Karloff had stopped playing the Monster, and the role went to freakishly tall Western actor Glenn Strange, but Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi were back in the roles that made them legends.
This film would mark the last time Lugosi would don Drac’s cape on the big screen, and he gives his best performance since the original Dracula.
Oh, and did I mention it’s FUNNY?
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play bumbling cargo handlers who find themselves mixed up in Dracula’s plot to revive the Monster, replacing his brutish, uncontrollable mind with Costello’s simple, childlike brain.
It’s 1000 times better than it has any right to be, and an invaluable addition to any Halloween party.