Wednesday, October 1, 2014

35 more halloween movie ideas

Because this sort of thing is just what I do (follow the tag "movie list" to see last year's 80+ suggestions!).

If you're looking for late October viewing, here are a few suggestions. Some you'll probably find among other people's recommendations, but in general I'm trying to offer up some options less travelled.

In no particular order....

1) I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF - Classic AIP drive-in movie kicked off the subgenre of teenage monster movies. Young Michael Landon is a high schooler plagued by a violent temper, and seeks the help of psychologist Whit Bissell. Unfortunately, Bissell has his own agenda and believes Landon to be the perfect subject for his regression experiments. Some elements are re-worked from the previous year's THE WEREWOLF, but this film scored higher. Even detractors of 50's B monster movies generally agree this one is a real gem. Even takes place in October!

2) HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER - AIP found a lot of success with it's teen monsters, and attempted something new with this entry. Set in a fantasy world in which AIP was already one of the major Hollywood studios, it concerns the firing of the studio's mentally unstable make-up pro, old Pete. Pete vows revenge upon the executives who give him his pink slip, and use the very monsters they mocked to do the job. Through the magic of the movies, we see the return of both the Teenage Werewolf AND the Teenage Frankenstein monster (late of I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN), as the actors playing the monsters are hypnotised into killing the men responsible for letting Pete go. Lots of familiar character actors in this one, which is really more of a crime thriller than monster picture. Also one of a handful of films AIP released which had color endings on otherwise monochrome movies. Here, the gimmick is used for it's longest duration, during which one can glimpse a number of other AIP monster masks. Fun stuff.

3) PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE - Ed Wood's master work has become the stuff of legend, but those looking for a fun halloween night romp could do worse. On display are flying saucers, revived bodies, and more fog and tombstones than you'd see in a 30's Universal!

4) BRIDE OF THE MONSTER - Ed Wood's first horror film (officially, that is) remains his best work. In other words, this film is serviceable, where his others are completely undone by themselves. Bela Lugosi plays yet another of his many mad scientists, this one obsessed with harnessing atomic power to create a race of super beings. Lightning and dark sets add to the feel, and Tor Johnson and a giant octopus are on hand for good measure. Keep your ears open for the far superior to itself musical score, which is sort of a trademark of Wood's works.

5) SATURDAY THE 14TH - Spoof of horror films has a family moving into a haunted house on the most unlucky day of the year. Goofy, but fun. Need I say more than one scene sees a pretty teenage girl wearing only a towel being chased about by a cool-looking gill-man? While not a masterpiece or anything, there are a few good laughs.

6) NIGHT OF THE CREEPS - 80's horror film was somewhat ahead of it's time, filled with the sort of in-jokes and obscure genre references which have become the staple of horror movies in the new century. Slug-like creatures land on earth in the 1950's, but are fortunately contained within a single body which is put on ice for decades. When the corpse is accidentally revived, the creatures begin infecting a college campus. Seems mostly inspired by the old E.C. horror comics. No doubt one of the greatest roles Tom Atkins ever had. Well worth a look.

7) THE STRANGER WITHIN - Neat 70's TV movie has Barbara Eden mysteriously with child, and going through changes... The less said about the plot, the better. Although it can be pretty obscure, it's worth the effort of tracking it down.

8) THE BEAST WITHIN - 80's horror opus has a young man being taken over by the creature which fathered him. Although a bit rough in spots (the creature reproduces by raping human women, for example), this really isn't as bad as it sounds. Fairly neat 80's drive-in fare has been released by MGM on DVD. Not for the kids, but not a bad halloween selection.

9) THE INTRUDER WITHIN - TV movie made in the wake of the smash-hit ALIEN finds oil rig workers unearthing a prehistoric entity which wants to reclaim it's position at the top of the food chain. Another one that's particularly elusive, but worth a look.

10) INVADERS FROM MARS - Certified 50's classic has young boy uncovering Martian plot to sabotage the American space program, and they start by turning his parents into robots! Dream-like cinematography adds to the unearthly vibe, aided by stunning Technicolor. Morris Ankrum plays a Marine Colonel, and would be forever tied to the genre, playing either scientists or military commanders in scores of B science fiction flicks. Great stuff, not to be missed. Image has released a DVD which includes the slightly different British cut as an extra feature. This is one time I actually find myself preferring the cut from overseas!

11) INVADERS FROM MARS - Tobe Hooper's slick 80's remake of the 50's classic manages to hold it's own by being it's own entity. Again a young boy finds Martians have landed behind his house and are up to no good, but nobody will believe him. One of the coolest credit sequences of all time.

12) INVADERS FROM SPACE - Starman, the Japanese superhero, again swings into action to stop alien invaders from taking over Earth. This time he goes up against an alien dance troupe! The Starman movies were loopy as all get-out, but they did deliver the action goods. This entry in particular boasts some chillingly atmospheric cinematography, which is why it's included here. Silly fun fit for the whole family.

13) IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD - Hundreds of film clips hosted by the top comedians of the early 80's has enough monster material to fit perfectly into the evening's festivities. Perfect to play in the background if you're having company over.

14) CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT - Wallace and Gromit get their first feature film (which is also sadly their last thus far) and decide to spoof the old Universal horror pictures. The boys are exterminators (sort of) in a town where vegetables sway the economy. As a big vegetable competition is drawing near, a monstrous were-rabbit is running loose and our heroes are game to stop the beast. Delightful stuff.

15) BODYSNATCHER FROM HELL - Japanese horror opus tries to balance vampirism with invasion from space and actually does a fair job. Too bad the resulting film is so bleak and nihilistic. A commercial jetliner crashes in the desert and the survivors battle each other, Martians, and the vampires created by the Martians. Famous with my family as the movie with six endings.

16) THE EVIL DEAD - I thought this one obvious enough to be on plenty of other lists, but I called on not including it last year, so here it is! In a sort of late 70's/early 80's redo on material from EQUINOX! we find a band of young couples in a remote cabin where an ages-old tome of evil has been opened. Micro-budgeted independent picture became a cult smash upon release, leading to two sequels and making a star of Bruce Campbell. While follow-ups would be increasingly comical, this one is played straight like drive-in crowds like.

17) SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED - I didn't see the first one, and I've been told that's for the best, but this sequel is dandy-good fun. The Mystery Inc. gang are on hand at the opening of a museum housing the various monster costumes they've collected over the years, but a mysterious figure has found a way to turn the costume terrors into real ghosts.... Keeping to the traditions of the original show, and featuring a number of iconic creatures from the old episodes, this is about everything a fun-seeker could ask for in a major film based on an old cartoon show. Unlike a lot of comedies based on beloved teleseries, this one actually seems to appreciate the audience that came to see it, and plays up to them. It's also actually funny, not always a sure thing.

18) JEFF DUNHAM: MINDING THE MONSTERS - Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has a brilliant act. By playing straight man to his wacky characters, Jeff comes across looking like a perfectly normal guy. You'd never think he was the one who actually created Peanut and Walter. In this special, Jeff does his act from a wonderful haunted house set and connects his characters under the theme of having them dress up for halloween. Typically hysterical stuff. 
   A real highlight here are the mock previews for each character's chosen costume. As an example, Walter dresses up as Frankenstein's monster, and dubs himself Crankenstein. To intro this segment is a trailer for a "movie" spoofing the old Universals of the 30's. Another character, trailer park redneck Bubba Jay, dresses as a vampire and is introduced via a mock Hammer preview. Still another character gets a preview which recreates the early 80's slasher look right down to shifted color tones of cheap film stock. Such care goes into giving these mini-movies the right look and sound that it's truly admirable and impressive. These alone are worth the price of admission.

19) GODZILLA 1985 - For many years, this was the most visible entry of the Godzilla franchise. Today, it stands as the most obscure. That's really sad, because this back-to-basics approach is quite refreshing and very well-made. Raymond Burr returns in American-shot and inserted scenes just like he did in 1956. The story concerns Japan's reaction to Godzilla's sudden reappearance after 30 years (in a direct sequel to the original film). The movie was a huge success in Japan, bringing about a whole new series of movies. It fared less well State-side, but because of it's contemporary setting and iconic main character, the movie was a video rental store standard. Walk into any rental store for a decade and you were sure to find a minimum of three copies on the shelf. And since they were rental tapes, they were very well made and still play great today!

20) BLOODLUST - Late 50's drive-in version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME finds a pair of young couples stranded on an island inhabited by psycho big game hunter who likes his game of the two-legged variety. Not bad little picture with some spooky night scenes. Worth a look. The scrumptious June Kenny is in the cast too. (sighhhhhh.........)

21) KISS OF THE TARANTULA - The very sort of 70's drive-in fare that became semi-popular again in the wake of the epic failure of GRINDHOUSE. Although advertised as a killer spider movie, it's more a psycho story about a weird young lady with tarantulas for pets. When she sends her pets out to torment those she feels have wronged her, people die. I know some folk who will be amused to learn that the victims cause more harm to themselves in their panic than the spiders do. The spiders more or less just creep through the scene until their mistress picks them up after they've caused some accidents. The spider angle sort of fades away after awhile, though, and the bulk of the picture is focused on the girl and her father's mortuary. Not great or anything, but it has the right vibe if 70's drive-in junk is the direction you'd like to shift your halloween viewing.

22) WEREWOLF OF WOODSTOCK - Early 70's TV movie was shot on video tape, and remains pretty obscure. Happily, though, copies of the movie have finally begun to make the rounds if you're adventurous enough to track one down. In it, the caretaker at Woodstock is cleaning up the debris left behind by the hippies in '69. He's struck by lightning, and for some reason this turns him into a werewolf. Not going to win any prizes, but not bad. Of note is the make-up for the werewolf, provided by Joe Blasco. Blasco makes the monster's mouth appliances from either the molds or the actual rubber bits left over from TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST, providing one of the most unique movie werewolves of the 70's. Produced by Dick Clark, who was reportedly so embarrassed by the results that he had the master tape destroyed after it aired!

23) LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS - Send-up of 50's monster movies pays tribute to everything from Paul Blaisdell to William Castle. Tony Curtis plays a studio head who's looking at IRS troubles and needs to find a crummy movie that will flop so he can write off the loss and avoid jail time. In walks a young hopeful with his home-made science fiction epic... Great fun. All sci-fi fans should have a look.

24) THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER - 50's drive-in picture is technically crude, but interesting and entertaining. Some gangsters take a socialite woman hostage and hold her at a remote woodland cabin occupied by geologist Robert Clarke. At the same time, there's a radioactive space-woman on the prowl... Not going to win any awards, but fine pulp stuff.

25) BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE - Bank-robbers take it on the lamb in the snow-bound wilderness, but are being stalked by a ghostly creature... Beautiful scenery, nice script, spooky monster. Enjoy!

26) THE BEING - Regional horror film that came late to the party. Most regional monster movies were made throughout the 70's, so here's a rare 80's example. Toxic waste creates a blood-thirsty monster in a small town in Idaho. Effective at times, goofy at others, but look at this cast! Martin Landau! Jose Ferrer! Dorothy Malone! Ruth Buzzi! Sat unreleased for three years. Far from the best 80's monster movie, but there were worse...

27) DR. X - Two-strip Technicolor horror opus is wondrous to behold, with all the huge gothic sets, science-fiction colors, and full moon action you could ask for. There's a killer loose, and....

28) THE DEVIL BAT - Influential Lugosi pic finds Bela breeding giant bats to murder people. There was a time when kid's programming regularly featured clips from this one, the film with the pillow-sized bat that would swoop down on victims. Fun stuff from the school of mad science murder mysteries.

29) TEENAGE ZOMBIES - Teens stranded on a tiny island find themselves menaced by a lady mad scientist and her monstrous henchmen. That rare Jerry Warren picture that isn't just terrible.

30) FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND - Quasi-remake of TEENAGE ZOMBIES tries to pull out every pulp cliche director Jerry Warren can think of! The ghost of Dr. Frankenstein lords over a tiny island populated by science-made zombies and sexy jungle girls who are descended from Martians! And that's just where to picture gets warmed up! The cast is really incredible, sporting such familiar B actors as Robert Clarke, Steve Brody, Cameron Mitchell, Kathryn Victor, Andrew Duggan, and John Carradine as Frankenstein! What's even wilder, judging from Ken Begg's review, the may actually be multiple cuts of this one floating around!

31) THE INNOCENTS - Deborah Kerr is the new governess for a pair of children at an isolated estate. At first, things seem normal, and quite serene. As time passes, though, Kerr becomes increasingly convinced a ghostly presence is trying to take possession of the tykes. Spooky supernatural horror thriller of the slow-build format. Effective adaptation of the novel A Turn Of The Screw.

32) CLUE - Hysterical comedy based on the hit board game takes place in an isolated mansion where a collection of colorful characters are brought together to have their secrets exposed. Then someone murders the host.... All star cast adds to the fun.

33) MURDER BY DEATH - Another all-star cast murder mystery comedy has the world's greatest detectives brought to an isolated mansion to solve the host's pre-planned murder. Great send-up of nearly every franchise detective you can think of.

34) THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION - Bill Rebane's anti-epic about a hord of tarantulas released from another dimension onto the farmlands of Wisconsin delivers the cheesy goods despite itself. About as scientifically rigorous as an Al Gore speech, and about as funny. Still, some effective moments when the script isn't trying to explain what's going on. Goofball fun in the sleazy 70's drive-in tradition.

35) HALLOWEEN WHO-DONE-IT - Half-hour Davy and Goliath special built around the one night a year that a kid can run around in a mask and cause trouble without getting caught, supposedly. Charming fun for the young, and the young at heart.

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