Syndicated from source by Video Production Shop.
We love movies.
We love shows.
We love strong stories told well.
Therefore, we can’t help but get excited when someone asks us to recommend content.
Yes, we’re aware that you haven’t specifically asked us for the following suggestions… not in so many words. But allow us the initiative to nudge you in the direction of some quality content that we deem suited to the season.
Other than their choice falling into the category of Halloween or spooky, the only restriction imposed upon the staff was that no one choose Hocus Pocus. This isn’t because there is anything wrong with Hocus Pocus–quite the contrary. Hocus Pocus is the low hanging fruit when it comes to Halloweeny movie recommendations, it’s the short reach, the easy pick. Who doesn’t like Hocus Pocus?
With that out of the way, to the suggestions we go!
This movie came out back in 1948, but I remember watching it as a kid in the late 60s. It was shot in black and white, but I didn’t know any different since we had a black and white TV. Abbot and Costello were two comedic actors of the time that made dozens of funny movies that spanned a variety of styles. This classic has a sweet and sour flavor: funny and spooky all wrapped up in one tasty film. It became so popular that many sequels were made with additional classic monster characters like the mummy, the creature from the black lagoon and the invisible man (who I never saw, but he was in the films) .
Anyway, enjoy a blast from the way past and watch this film in the dark if you get a chance.
This obscure 1979 television special was a favorite of mine and my siblings growing up. How we ever discovered this, I will never know, but we had a VHS tape we would watch every year around Halloween.
The story centers around Dracula (Judd Hirsch) trying to save Halloween from the Witch (Mariette Hartley) who threatens it. The rest of the cast is a who’s who of the world’s most famous monsters—Warren the Werewolf aka Wolf Man (Jack Riley) of Budapest, Frankenstein’s monster (John Schuck), Zabaar the Zombie (Josip Elic) of Haiti, and the Mummy of Egypt (Robert Fitch).
While the film is very campy, it is a product of its time. (SPOILERS) The film concludes with a disco scene where the Witch transforms into a disco queen, while Dracula rips off his costume to reveal a leisure suit influenced by Saturday Night Fever.
The movie is not without its charms, and has an endless amount of quotable dialogue, including this exchange between Frankenstien’s Monster and Dracula:
Frankenstein’s Monster: My feet hurt!
Count Dracula: Don’t give me that! I happen to know those aren’t your feet!
Frankenstein’s Monster: What did you have to bring that up for?
While I’m sure the old VHS tape we used to have is long lost, the movie can fortunately be seen in its full glory on Youtube.
While I would recommend this movie any time of the year, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an especially fun watch during spooky season. Described as a “musical comedy horror” film, it draws on inspiration from science fiction and B horror movies. The eclectic cast is led by Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, and Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors. The main plot follows newly-engaged couple Brad and Janet’s unusual night when they find themselves at eccentric scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle. Madness quickly ensues as Brad and Janet are immersed in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s world of colorful friends and guests, science experiments, secrets, and seduction.
This 1975 film was adapted from the 1973 musical theater production, The Rocky Horror Show, and theatrical elements certainly made their way from the stage to the big screen. From the costumes and makeup to songs and dance numbers, it is almost like watching a theater performance. On the topic of music, the soundtrack rocks – literally. The music style is a mix of 1950s rock and roll and 1970s glam rock that is just as much fun to listen to on its own as it is throughout the movie.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show may not be everyone’s cup of tea; it definitely is a “strange” movie. But that weirdness has been embraced by many fans across the world and the film remains a cult classic today. 45 years later, audiences are still doing the Time Warp! I recommend giving it a try and entering this wild world with an open mind.
Here’s the thing about Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of the classic Dracula tale: it is only slightly more wondrous than it is… cringey. Be that as it may, I do believe that it has been unfairly lambasted over the years as far inferior than it actually is. Seeing this as a child, what stuck with me was the image of a group of nude female vampires prancing around, and the blood-curdling prosthetics of the elder version of the Count (not to mention his bat-man form–terrifying). If that was all I ever took away, why return for a second viewing 28 years later? Youtube.
While researching practical effects for a music video that I was to direct, I came across THIS video on Youtube. In the video, Coppola’s son Roman, who worked in the visual effects department on the film, delineates how the various visual magic tricks were conjured, as well as the source of their inspiration. The Coppolas had been heavily influenced by older iterations of the Dracula tale–iterations that depended on clever practical effects, rather than computer generated spectacle. Therefore, it was decided that their retelling would walk a similar path to its predecessors; turning to miniatures, matte paintings, and trick photography to create the phantasmagoric thrills of Bram Stoker’s seminal work. And boy did they do an excellent job of it! 92’s Dracula feels so perfectly dream-like, so very eerily tactile, precisely because of the methods of conjuration. At times, knowing how a thing is done can rob it of its wonder. This is not one of those times. I emphatically recommend watching the above-linked breakdown of the visual effects process, and then watching the film itself. Doing so enriches the viewing experience significantly.
There was that bit earlier where I mentioned cringiness though, and this, I feel, is one of the primary reasons that audience members have been turned off from the film over the past so many decades. The source of that cringe? The casting. While Keanu Reeves seems to be a truly admirable person, his portrayal of an English gentleman suffering supernatural PTSD is about as convincing as you’d expect it to be. This awkwardness is only enhanced when he is made to share scenes with heavyweights such as Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman. And, while Wynona Ryder has the perfect pale, fey beauty to portray the conflicted heroine; her acting is only slightly superior to Keanu’s. Had the casting been more consistent, there is an excellent chance that this film would have strayed closer to the category of classic.
Regardless of its flaws, consider turning down the lights and immersing yourself in this beautiful semi-mess: a deliciously gothic cinematic experiences for the All Hallow’s season.
While I revisit Frankenstein, the 1931 classic every year during Halloween, another masterpiece of horror has been given new appreciation in my eyes over the years – “The Exorcist”. This is a film that was a pop culture phenomenon and is still the benchmark for certain genres of horror films these days. It is the king of demonic possession tales and I strongly believe it is one of those rare gems that may never be topped. William Friedkin, the director, keeps the pace steady, maintaining a less is more approach with the dread slowly building with every new encounter or revelation until the climactic ending, where the tension and doom peak at their most potent. Friedkin has since gone on to make so many other notable films, including another masterpiece of psychological horror in 2006’s “Bug”. There is a reason “The Exorcist” is parodied so much, because it set the bar so high, you can only poke fun, or pay homage to it. If you haven’t ever seen it, or it has been a long time since you’ve seen it – it has my highest recommendation. Turn the lights off and the sound up, restrict distractions, and get lost in its darkness.
Also for the avid reader, I cannot recommend the book enough. While it isn’t a completely different experience, you’ll likely get lost in it, forgetting the famous visuals we have come to know with the film. And for the audiobook listeners, an extra special treat, as there is a version where an older William Peter Blatty himself reads the entire book unabridged. Having the author read his own story is one thing, but Mr. Blatty was older in age when recorded so his gristly voice is absolutely perfect for such a macabre story.
And with that, you should have enough camp and classics to keep your television busy until the end of October! Happy pre-Halloween from the team over here at Motion Source!
* This article was originally published here
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