Do you remember going to the video store to rent a movie? I used to get weekly coups in the mail for my local video shop. I’d haphazardly rip them out, barely confiding to the perforated boarders. I was impatient and wanted to get to the video store in fear the movies I wanted would be stolen by someone else. I’d throw a backpack on and jump on my bike. It would take me roughly ten minutes to ride to the shop; it was my haven, a safe place. A place I spent every second day at over my school holidays, arguing with the eighteen-year-old shop attendant who wouldn’t let me rent The Godfather at the tender age of fifteen. Even if I backed up my argument with the fact that Paramount had re-released the movie, changing the rating from an R18+ to a simpler MA15+. It’s no wonder the shop rejected my resume each holiday when I’d slide it across the counter next to my stack of movies. It would roughly take ten minutes to get to the shop depending on how many magpies I would have to dodge. And it would take me fifteen minutes to return, not because it was up hill, but because I’d shove as many DVDs into my bag as I could fit. Many of them horror movies. My true love for horror movies started when I was a teenager. But if I really cast my mind back, it started around the age of six when I first watched the Brendan Fraser classic, The Mummy. I had nightmares for a year. I was scared shitless. But it ignited a passion for fear, and it’s a passion I still live for nineteen years later. My DVD shelf is littered with horror movies, I’m too lazy to count them or group them together. But there’s a lot let me tell you kind reader. And I’m here to give you a little advice on what to watch, and how to watch, my choice of horror movies for Halloween 2018. You can trust me, I used to call in sick on Halloween so I could watch horror movies.
I ain’t giving no review here either. Most of these movies are certified classics in the genre, a couple are guilty pleasures of mine. What’s important to note, and many people seem to neglect, is the order you watch horror movies. You can’t go throwing on The Exorcist first up in your movie marathon. That movie is a slow burner, it’s the fine wine of horror movies. It’s got aromas of drama, thriller, and horror in its bouquet of genres. It’s a classic, the piece de resistance. In saying that, it’s not on my list.
I’ve got five movies for you to watch this Halloween, clocking in at around 589 minutes respectively. To fit in every jump scare and scream into the mix, you need to start early. The goal is to end roughly before midnight, when the night is darkest, and the streets are deathly quiet. That means forget about dinner. Alternatively order pizza. You want to minimise interruption and maximise scares.
Start — 2:50pm — John Carpenter’s The Thing
Yeah, it’s a bit of an early start. I, for one, won’t be home at 2:50 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, so it’s either I start watching this at work or I call in sick. I’ve got to keep a tradition alive.
The Thing is up there with the best sci-fi horror flicks around, only to be knocked down slightly by Alien. It’s a simple premise. The story follows some scientist/researchers in the cold depths of Antarctica who discover a shape-shifting alien: The Thing. There’s gore and blood and violence and all that shit, but the true horror and suspense unravels with the characters’ paranoia as they question whether their comrades are alien or not. John Carpenter is a master of horror, and music composition as a matter of fact, directing and composing the score for the cult classics Halloween and The Fog. You’re in safe hands with Carpenter, and it’s a solid place to start the Halloween marathon. Classic horror story telling, with some cheesy over the top Carpenter gore.
4:30pm — Rob Zombie’s 31
Now we’re turning up the heat. It might be a good idea to close your windows and block any noise escaping onto the oncoming foot traffic you might be experience on the 31st of October. Or keep them open, I don’t care. Rob Zombie is known for his over the top gore, and accompanying screams from the movie’s victims. 31 is Zombie’s latest movie, one that has not garnered positive critical reception. Released in 2016, 31 has the most basic of movie plot lines for a horror movie. Especially for 2016. A bunch of road-trippin hippies get kidnapped by some psychotic people dressed as clowns. It’s very Texas Chainsaw. But Zombie flips it, throws in a bit of Saw lore, as you watch the group attempt to survive the game ‘31’; a murder game that lasts 12 hours. A bunch of clowns peruse them in gory and horrific torture games. It’s dumb, it’s cheesy and it’s fun. I’m a sucker for Rob Zombie movies, I appreciate the extensive backstory he gives his characters that only get ten minutes of screen time. Yeah, it’s a bit gory for the second movie on the list, we’ll bring it down a notch now.
6:10pm — Pee break.
6:11pm — Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw is a classic. It’s my second favourite horror movie in fact. And it’s a gentle come-down from Zombie’s 31 while remaining in the same horror vein. I say gentle, but the movie is still all sorts of fucked up for a movie released in 1974. I don’t want to go too far into the plot, I just want to outline something Chainsaw Massacre does right. It holds no punches. In an age of horror movies with cheap jump scares and bullshit over the top gore scenes, Chainsaw Massacre keeps it simple. My favourite scene in the movie is not because of its content, but how it showcases the content. I’m talking about the meat hook scene where Leatherface picks up Pam and hangs her by the meat hook in the kitchen. In the recent remakes, and any other modern gore filled horror movie, we’d get a close shot of the hook entering her back. We’d hear the vertebrae in her spine break and watch as the blood gush down the metal hook, down her bare back and onto the floor. In the OG Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface picks Pam up, Pam struggles and screams as Leatherface makes his way into the kitchen. We have an overhead shot from the hook, foreshadowing the events that will come in the next five seconds. Pam struggles. But Leatherface is too big for her to fight off. He picks her up and places her on the meat hook. We don’t see the hook enter, we just see Pam delicately struggle to feel what is sticking in her. And Leatherface goes about his business hacking up someone with a chainsaw. The event takes seconds, not minutes. It’s simple, thanks to a harsh budget the film faced. But it’s more affective in its horror storytelling than most modern horror flicks. And that’s why it’s my favourite scene in the movie.
7:40pm — Order your pizza.
7:41pm — Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem
Load up another Rob Zombie film why don’t ya. His 2013 film to be specific, The Lords of Salem. It’s not my favourite Zombie movie, but I think it’s his most cohesive. And it’s certainly terrifying. If you’re any sort of horror historian, then you should make the jump and realise Zombie’s movie would embrace witch lore, and is set in Salem, Massachusetts; home to the Salem witch trials back in the ye’ old days. The movie follows Heidi (Zombie’s real life wife and star of every one of his movies) who is a radio DJ and a recovering drug addict. She receives a strange record in the mail and listens to it, unleashing a witch curse or something; it’s pretty straight forward from there. What I love about The Lords of Salem is the modern and gruesome approach to witches. There’s no broomsticks and wart noses here, and the result is confronting and terrifying. The film does go into some dream-like sequences with some fucked up imagery that might not make complete sense to the direct plot line, but it’s still good enough to give you a fright. The human qualities Zombie gives his lead character are refreshing when compared to his other horror flicks. The self-doubt Heidi possesses as she wonders whether the strange events are a result of her past drug addiction make The Lords of Salem more than just another witch movie.
9:20pm — Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
This one will take you all the way to midnight. My favourite horror movie: The Shining. Not only is it one of the best horror movies of all time, but it’s also a beauty to watch. Kubrick is a master of directing from the tracking shots of the car winding through mountain roads, to the shot of young Danny Torrance riding his toy bike throughout the Overlook Hotel. The Shining is a beautiful movie. And a terrifying one if you pay attention. The first time I saw The Shining, I was fourteen and didn’t think it was that scary. Yes there was some frightening images, but the true horror is in the story itself. The horror lies in the isolation that both Danny and his mum (Wendy) realise they are in when the hotel becomes snow bound and Jack Torrance (the father/husband) starts to go mad. Of course, the movie differs quite a lot compared to Stephen King’s novel. But I like to think of them as completely different products. Yes, the movie wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for King’s novel, but Kubrick embraced the story and made what he envisioned. And Jack Nicholson’s performance is outstanding. Given to a lesser actor, The Shining wouldn’t be the terrifying movie it is. But the transformation Nicholson goes through, emotionally, to bring Jack Torrance to life is another standout feature to the film. I watch this movie every year on Halloween, and every year I am not disappointed. It’s the movie I end on when I marathon horror movies. And now, I pass it onto you.
9:00am: Return the movies and try and rent The Godfather.