It’s that time of the year again where people across the world want the willies put up them. No, I’m not talking about National Sex Day (which is apparently a thing and is on June 9th, in case you wish to prepare now). Yes, it’s Halloween, that very special spooky part of the year where you can wake up in the morning with ectoplasm on your face and know a visit to the STD clinic isn’t needed. To celebrate, I’m throwing up my horror movie recommendations, many I’m sure you’ve seen, and some you may wish to seek out under the safety of your blanket. So without further ado…
The Exorcist, 1973. Dir. William Friedkin.
Putting aside the terrible infliction that he sounds like Donald Trump, director Friedkin’s breakout horror adaptation of the greatest (yes, I’m saying it loud and proud) horror book of all time by William Peter Blatty, still stands the test of time. You know the story; pre-teen Regan, the most unpopular girl in all of Georgetown judging by the dearth of friends, is so bored that the only joy she gets is going into the basement to conjure up demons by means of a Ouija board. One said demon by the name of Pazuzu, resident paedophile of the underworld who sports a rock-hard erection 24/7, decides angelic looking Regan is just his cup’o’tea. A quick change of name to Mr Howdy, because apparently demons think kids love a cowboy (clearly they’ve not watched Jack Palance in City Slickers), and young guileless Regan is literally consumed by the perv. What follows is two hours of Regan’s mother, Chris, watching her daughter turn into a typical teenager, one who pisses themselves in public, leaves their room a shit-tip, masturbates excessively, and following a KFC binge, blows chunks on some hapless bystander. Highly recommended for any parent wanting an instructional manual on how to get their teenage child to clean up their room and smile again.
Dawn of the Dead, 1978. Dir. George A Romero.
This *romzom about shopping was one of my favourites as a child. Having to assist my mother every Saturday in choosing a selection of processed ready meals at the local Tescos, and seeing firsthand the world-weariness of consumerism there, guaranteed me instant compassion to the many disenchanted souls shuffling around Monroeville Mall in Romero’s classic follow up to Night of The Living Dead. The story is simple enough; it’s all gone tits up and zombies have started to take it upon themselves to get some decent clothes and beauty products, because apparently death does nothing for the complexion or the wardrobe. Everything is fine until some gun-toting freeloaders decide they want in on the action and take over the mall. Our poor zombie friends, many of whom have varying disabilities and poor eye hand coordination, are rendered powerless and end up getting massacred, not because they’re a threat to humans, but because they’re in breach of taking more than their fair share of Mum Roll On deodorant and mouthwash. What follows is an uprising where said zombies throw caution to the wind and attempt a coup d’état. This is an uplifting story about how the infringement of a person’s civil rights unites a group of citizens to stand up and be counted, to fight for what they believe in, and, if the moment presents itself, swap out that Subway foot-long for an actual foot.
*If zomcom hasn’t been coined yet, I’m claiming it as my own Richard Curtis.
Severance, 2006. Dir. Christopher Smith.
Anyone who’s had a corporate job will know which three words have the ability to make your arse cheeks try to clamber back through the hole they flank. Team Build Day. Under the guise of bonding, team building is merely an exercise in pushing the team further apart by infusing animosity, bitterness, and above all else, a need to punch the cocky fucker who thinks they’re Bear Grylls. Director Chris Smith takes this premise and, if the horror isn’t already evident enough, injects Eastern European psychotic mercenaries into the mix. What you end up with is a group of suits going into the Hungarian woods to bond and bone and end up bloody and boneless. Like Eden Lake, this movie sits in reality, and would resonate more save for one thing; Danny Dyer. Thankfully, his cocky barrow-boy charm allows us to suspend some disbelief, because, let’s face it, which cutting edge company is going to hire someone who sounds like they should be selling pig’s dicks on a market stall?
Dead and Buried, 1981. Dir. Gary Sherman.
What begins as a homage to some cheesy television movie where Vaseline is rubbed on the camera lens to give soft focus, and music akin to that better suited to a show like Dallas where Bobby Ewing engages in a bit of tongue tennis, quickly turns into a brutal horror movie where people end up having their eyes punctured by syringe needles, being burnt alive, pumped full of acid (and not the good kind either that makes you want to join a commune), and various other nasty and brutal ends. Dead and Buried is how I imagine a Twilight Zone episode playing out if it had been written by Stephen King. It’s probably the only time you’ll also see a movie where Grampa Bucket embalms the dead, and Freddy Kruger drinking coffee in a cafe. So yes, don’t be put off by that opening sequence. It gets dark very soon after, and continues to do so until its climax.
Slither, 2006. Dir. James Gunn.
Known more for selling out to *Marvel, Gunn was once a decent director able to turn his hand to most genres. His foray into the horror genre started and ended with Slither, a story about aliens that come down in the guise of spleens to terrorise and possess the inhabitants of a small town somewhere in America. Forgive my ignorance of geography, but I’m assuming by the way the men guzzle beer in seedy bars and chase after married women, somewhere in the Midwest? Part Body Snatchers, part Zombie Flesh Eaters, this horror yarn features strong messages of infidelity and divorce and owes more than a nod to movies like The Fly, From Beyond, The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Brief Encounter and Gone Girl. Also known for the classic line: “Don’t let them in your mouth” a phrase that should be the litany of every sex education classes the world over.
*For all the Marvel fans, yes, that comment was made with tongue in cheek, and though I’m sure you were ready to rip me a new one while wearing your Iron Man PJs, know that I actually liked the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Sure, it’s no Deadpool, but then, it’s hard to get that mix of cool, funny and a great soundtrack.
Deep Red (Profondo Rosso), 1975 and Tenebrae, 1982. Dir. Dario Argento.
I’m throwing these in together because a) they’re both by the same director, and b) I’m sure you’ve all lost the will to live by now. If your only exposure to Italian cinema is poorly over-dubbed porn from the mid-80s (whose isn’t?) then you’re in for a surprise. Argento is a master of blending two of my favourite genres; thriller and horror. Both Deep Red and Tenebrae are more like two episodes of Columbo where we see Peter Falk investigate some seriously fucked up shit involving scary-arse dolls (Deep Red) and cut throat razors (Tenebrae). In truth, our bumbling but lovable Columbo would be driven bat-shit crazy and his mack sodden at the hem by the rivers of blood he would have to wade through in these movies. Recommended for all those who like a good who-dun-it with the same feel of a great porno.
Okay, that’s it for now. Whatever you do over Halloween, remember that, like rats, you’re never too far from a psycho. So lock your door. Close the curtains. Watch something scary. And above all else, never allow them in your mouth. But before I go, I can’t end this blog without giving praise to just a few other movies that I’ve loved watching growing up, and still continue to love to this day:
Evil Dead 2.
Return of the Living Dead.
Silence of the Lambs.
The Exorcist III.
American Werewolf in London.