Halloween is in two weeks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it matters much, at least not these days. When I was a younger, Halloween felt much more like a season. I always enjoyed it; the TV specials, the candy, the overall creep-factor, it was wonderful. These days it seems that the season has been compacted into a couple of hours on the 31st and now things just aren’t the same. I even saw a family on Facebook posting that they had just put their Christmas decorations up- in OCTOBER!
The last opinion piece I wrote was a two-part article sharing my thoughts on the Presidential candidates. This time I’ll be writing about something that’s much less frightening, sharing with you what I like to watch around this time of year. It’ll be a nice way of trying to pump a little “spirit” into a “dying” holiday. (Okay, I know, those puns were terrible.)
This list might seem obscure to some, and not all of them are scary, since I’m more about fun when it comes to the season. Also, before you ask, you will not find Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or any other overplayed Halloween movie on this list. I guess I’m something of a Halloween hipster…. Anyway, here we go!
- The “Evil Dead” Trilogy
These three movies, The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987), and
Army of Darkness (1992), are, in my opinion, the best horror series of all time. Bruce Campbell as Ash is an icon, and anyone who hasn’t seen these movies needs to drop what they’re doing and watch them immediately.
The original movie, though not my favorite, is pretty good for an independent horror film. Made with a budget of $350,000 and shot in an abandoned cabin somewhere in Tennessee, this was the very first project from Sam Raimi, who would later go on to make the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. It was also edited partially by Joel and Ethan Coen, who would go on to make Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men. A highlight of this movie is the final act, which involves a lot of inventive, though admittedly cheap, stop-motion animation.
While the first movie is “pretty good for an independent horror film,” the sequel, Evil Dead II, is an absolute masterpiece. Raimi and Campbell both return, this time a bit more seasoned with their craft than they were with the first film. The whole first half of the movie is a non-stop joy to watch, featuring a tour de force one-man show from Bruce Campbell, as well as some fantastic horror effects from the production team, including a young Greg Nicotero, who is now an effects artist, director and producer on AMC’s The Walking Dead.
The final film, Army of Darkness, isn’t a horror movie per se, but it’s good nonetheless. While it drops the usual “cabin in the woods” plot in favor of a throwback to stop-motion Ray Harryhausen films, it is still probably the most quoted, and arguably iconic, film of the trilogy. Armed with a chainsaw and a shotgun, Campbell, as Ash, must defend a castle from an army of skeletons, all while shooting off one-liners in rapid-fire succession.
The legacy of this trilogy continues to this day. If you want something that is actually intense, a remake of the original movie came out in 2013, while there is also a television series that’s currently airing on STARZ. I would also like to point out that none of these movies are not for kids, and probably not for your mom either. There are two things that this series is known for; one is Bruce Campbell’s legendary performance, the other is it’s blood and gore. From eyeballs flying into peoples mouths, to literal geysers of blood, this trilogy is not for the squeamish.
- Young Frankenstein
When Gene Wilder passed away in August, a lot of people fondly remembered him for his most famous role, Willy Wonka. Make no mistake, he was great in that movie, but I’ve always preferred his performance in Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic Young Frankenstein. This is one of the few movies that never fails to make me laugh, despite how many times I’ve seen it. The film is a parody of the classic Universal Monster movies, particularly the first four Frankenstein films.
Wilder plays Fredrick Frankenstein, pronounced “Frown-kenstien,” and he is the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. He struggles to overcome his family legacy of creating monsters but fails, and soon yet another Frankenstein’s monster is terrorizing the land, albeit with musical numbers and lonely blind men who just want someone to have expresso with them.
While Wilder brings much of the same mix of mad intensity and comedy that he did with his role as Willy Wonka, his supporting cast more than holds their own. Peter Boyle, of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, brings pathos and comedy to his role as The Monster and Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman all turn in hilarious performances. But the true scene stealer is Marty Feldman as Igor, pronounced “Eye-Gore.”
Whether he’s being scared by his own hand while breaking into an office that stores human brains, or hilariously misunderstanding every single question or instruction from Dr. Frankenstein, Feldman is without a doubt the funniest member in an already great cast.
It makes me sad that the majority of this cast has now passed away, with only Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr still with us. Young Frankenstein is widely considered to be one of the greatest comedy films of all time, and I highly recommend that anyone reading this check it out and find out why.
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Carl Kolchak is a journalist. He’s not necessarily a social outcast, but he does have a hard time fitting in wherever he goes. He’s incredibly adamant when it comes to his work, and he is never without his trademark hat. Okay, I will admit that after the works of Warren Ellis and the legend of Hunter S. Thompson, Kolchak, despite being fictional, has been an influence on me.
Based on a set of TV movies coming out in 1972 and 1972, Kolchak: The Night Stalker came out on ABC in 1974. It didn’t run for a terribly long time, but it did end up having a massive impact on pop culture, (which I’ll get to in a minute.)
On the show, Kolchak often finds himself coming across the paranormal and supernatural. He’s faced vampires in Vegas, Werewolves on a cruise ship, and has even battled Jack the Ripper himself. Unfortunately, after each of these encounters, Kolchak is rarely left with proof of their existence.
Now, I mentioned that Kolchak left a huge impact on pop culture, to which many of you probably thought, “huh? I’ve never heard of this show!” Well, perhaps you’ve heard of another series called The X-Files. The creator of that show, Chris Carter, was a huuuuuuuge Kolchak fan, and the influence can be seen in many episodes. Both series have a very creepy, very grounded take on the supernatural. While X-Files may be more iconic, I will always prefer Kolchak.
- The Munsters/The Addams Family
I’ve grouped these last two together because it’s hard to bring up one without mentioning the other. Both are pretty similar. Both shows began they’re runs in 1964 and concluded them in 1966. Both shows also feature two of the catchiest theme songs in television history. Lastly, both shows satirize the Nuclear family.
The Munsters is much more high-brow and much sillier than The Addams Family, and stars Herman Munster, a Frankenstein’s Monster type, and his vampire wife, Lily, his vampire father-in-law “Grandpa,” his werewolf son Eddie and his normal human niece, Marilyn. While still living in a big, spooky house, the Munster family have a much more blue-collar sensibility to them than the more cultured Addams family. Herman doesn’t practice fencing, cigar smoking or blowing up train sets like Gomez Addams, nor is he a billionaire, but he loves his family all the same. He makes his living working the “graveyard shift” at a funeral home! (See, I’m not the only one with bad puns.)
The Addams Family (both the show and the family themselves) is a bit more sophisticated than it’s counterpart. The patriarch of this family, Gomez, is a highly successful business man and a multi-billionaire. He and his wife Morticia are relationship goals. They are madly, passionately, in love with one another. They are also a very independent family, not worrying what others think of them and refusing to conform to the societal standards of that time. This gets challenged a lot throughout the classic tv show, but the family never gives in.
The Addams Family was much deeper than The Munsters ever was. In the case of the Munster family, most people that had an issue with the family would simply notice that “they’re weird-looking” and scurry away in a comical fashion. With the Addams’ family, their very first episode had them dealing with putting their children in public school and dealing with the fallout. Another had Morticia dealing with her son Pugsley not acting like himself, but instead behaving like a “normal” boy.
The Addams Family is considered a timeless classic, with a large part of this owed to a pair of movies that came out in the early nineties. The Munsters, on the other hand, is honestly pretty dated and also a bit dumber and sillier than the other. But, while I do enjoy both, I will say that if I had to chose between the two, I would probably go with The Munsters, simply because I can’t help but go for the underdog.
So, that’s my list of four movies and three tv shows that I enjoy watching around this time of year. Do you watch anything that helps you get into the Halloween spirit? What are some other things you do to get pumped up for the holiday?
Special thanks to Roxy Diaz for the awesome Wednesday Addams cosplay photos. Be sure to check out Marissa’s list of Best Halloween/Horror-Themed Songs later this week!