Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lazy Movie Weekend: Pumpkin's Guide to Halloween Movies

I love Halloween. Fall is my favorite season so fall holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving, are my favorite holidays. I love candy, scary movies, and creativity. It's such a fun holiday regardless of how you celebrate it. I haven't really dressed up in years but I used to take a lot of time to come up with a costume. My favorite costume I ever wore was when I went as Barbie's friend Midge in college.  Yes, I said the full name all evening long. Yes, that is my apartment in the background. Yes, we had poster for The Usual Suspects in our living room. Say Anything was in my room.

I was also a super cute witch in elementary school and/or a "questioning my life choices" witch; you can decide.
I even have a cat named Pumpkin. Contrary to popular belief (of maybe five people), Pumpkin's name was not chosen specifically for its connection to Halloween. Nope, my parents, brother, and I voted on her name and Pumpkin won in a best of three voting cycle. Cinnamon, Pōpoki (which is Hawaiian for cat), and Nutmeg were options. Naming cats should maybe not be any member of my family's day job. Since Pumpkin was so helpful during the blizzard in January and helped us all get ready for a great summer, I thought she would do a great job helping prepare a Halloween movie marathon for this weekend. There are only 10 (she sleeps 18 hours a day so we have to be picky when selecting movies). There's a mix of family friendly and not so family friendly movies; Pumpkin is allowed to watch R rated movies but only with an adult.

Grab you popcorn, mellowcreme pumpkins (far superior to candy corn), and raid the candy bowl and settle in for Pumpkin's Top 10 Halloween Movies.
  1.  Hocus Pocus (1993): Pumpkin firmly believes if you don't like this movie, you can't be friends with us. It means you don't like fun and silliness and the glory that is Bette Midler in every movie. It also means you miss out on the greatest cat sidekick ever, Binx. Pumpkin questions his cat nature since he doesn't sleep 18 hours a day but appreciates his determination and love of family. She's also totally supportive of my continued crush on both Thackery Binx (pre-cat conversion) and Omri Katz (who actually captured all of our hearts on the short-lived TV show Eeerie, Indiana). Best parts: toss up between "I Put a Spell on You" and Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy delivering most, if not all, of their dialogue. It is a joy to watch.  
  2. Carrie (1976): Periods freak people out. Don't pretend that's not true. Stephen King is a master of horror for lots of reasons but to use the start of menstruation and the meanness of teenage girls to make a young girl realize her telekinetic powers? Genius. Pumpkin has never read the book (I read it for the first time at age 13) but we've watched this movie plenty. There are lots of terrifying moments: the creepy crucifix Carrie's religious mother keeps in their in-home chapel (which is also weird and creepy for completely different reasons), Carrie walking through town after the prom, drenched in pig's blood and blowing everything up with her mind, everyone's feathered hair. But the kicker is the very end of the movie. Amy Irving, the final girl of this movie (basically), is visiting a grave and paying her respects. And then the worst thing ever happens. Pumpkin doesn't want to spoil it for you but every time we watch this, that part freaks her out so much (in addition to Creepy Jesus) that she has to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown before even considering going to bed. 
  3. The Exorcist (1973): This is the horror movie to end all horror movies. There have been many remakes of The Exorcist and many sequels but none can even come close to the creepiness of the original. If the music doesn't get you, then the cinematography will. The shadows and the way scenes are framed make you dread whatever is coming next. As horror movies go, it's actually a "quiet" movie, meaning an axe-wielding psychopath isn't chasing co-eds the entire time. The fear is real not just because it was inspired by real events but because the very idea of demonic possession is so out there that our brains (and cat brains) can't really process it. If you're ever in Georgetown, make sure to go visit The Exorcist steps. Pumpkin recommends not watching this one alone or with the lights out because you'll never sleep again.
  4. Shaun of the Dead (2004): After watching The Exorcist, it's probably a good idea to balance out your movie marathon with something a little lighter and Shaun of the Dead is an excellent option. This is the movie that gave us Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. It's a comedy at it's heart but as with any good zombie movie, there are some moments that will both gross you out and make you jump a little. Pegg plays our titular hero, Shaun, a lazy guy whose girlfriend is tired of having all their dates at the Winchester (a pub that will come in handy later) and who struggles to find his place in life. Then people start turning into zombies and Shaun needs to save the day. In addition to the zombie movie tropes we all know and love, Pumpkin particularly likes the fight sequence at the Winchester that is possibly the best use of a Queen song in a movie other than Wayne's World.
  5. Freaks (1932): The most amazing thing about this movie is that it was considered controversial in 1932 when it was released. The movie was banned in cities around the country and people were genuinely terrified by the "freaks" presented in the film. Tod Browning, the film's director, cast actual circus and freak show performers in the film which heightened the terror. People don't like to be confronted by difference especially in the ways we see here. The film centers around a traveling circus and the freak show performers. An aerialist and the strongman scheme to steal money from one of the freaks, a midget named Hans, and then kill him. The rest of the freaks are onto the pair and spend the majority of the film trying to talk Hans out of marrying the woman and then exacting revenge on her and her lover when the time is right. It's a great early horror movie and has gone onto influence a lot of other horror movies and shows, including American Horror Story: Freak Show (season five). Watch if you like subtle horror movies and tales of revenge (which Pumpkin loves).
  6. The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (1991 & 1993): Is there a more perfect movie pair than Raul Julia and Angelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams? The original television series is wonderful but these two movies are perfect. Pumpkin prefers to watch both as a double feature because it's the only way to truly enjoy them. The mixture of camp, creep, and hilarity are what make these movies so delightful. I was in middle school when these movies came out so I know some of the jokes were lost on me then but aren't they wonderful now! All the wonderful characters are there; Cousin Itt steals a lot of the scenes he's in. Probably the most terrifying part of either of these movies is the fact that MC Hammer wrote a song for the first film. Enjoy the video here
  7. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Where does one even begin with this movie? Tim Curry is flawless as Dr. Frank N. Furter; his delivery of both lines and songs are a master class in how to be campy, a little scary, and sexy in a gender-bending kind of way. Barry Bostwick (PS - originated the role of Danny Zuko on Broadway in Grease) is probably why a generation of women love nerdy, nerdy dudes. Susan Sarandon is singing "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" is definitely an underappreciated moment of feminist abandon. The entire supporting cast is zany and creepy and bizarre. "Don't Dream, Be It" is the anthem we all need all the time. It camp and science fiction references and abandon. Pumpkin has never gone to see it in the movie theater but I can assure you it's a great experience and you should go out and see it right now. As for the recent Fox remake starring Laverne Cox and a bunch of people I don't know (except a severely underutilized Ben Vereen and a post-stroke Tim Curry), Pumpkin slept through it. Laverne Cox channeled Tina Turner and was made to wear Frank N. Furter's heels but she was the only thing exciting about the entire movie. Stick with the original.
  8. The Worst Witch (1986): Way before Pumpkin entered my life, I used to wait with anticipation (do your best Frank N. Furter impression if you must) for Halloween because HBO would show The Worst Witch every day after school for the entire month of October. Now if I want to watch it, I can add DVDs to my Netflix account, pay $90 for a used copy on Amazon, or watch a pirated version on YouTube. Sigh. This is the greatest movie about a pre-teen witch that doesn't involve Hogwarts ever made. Fairuza Balk stars as Mildred Hubble, the worst witch at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. Her spells don't work, she turns a classmate into a pig, and at one point, makes herself invisible. She has no hope of ever meeting The Grand Wizard (Tim Curry again and the only male in the movie) or moving up in school. Despite Mildred's lack of witching skills she is able to thwart a plot involving Mrs. Garret's evil twin sister and becomes the hero of Halloween. And at some point Time Curry sings this song which as an adult seems like the weirdest song to throw into a movie set at an all girls' witch academy. Pumpkin loves this movie because during the cat ceremony at the beginning of the story, Mildred gets a tabby cat rather than a black cat like everyone else. She would have preferred to get an orange tabby but not everyone gets to bask in the wonder of a tiny, orange cat.
  9. Near Dark (1987): There are a lot of vampire movies out there; some are funny, some are creepy and weird, some are supposed to be scary and probably are in a 1940 horror movie kind of way. And then there's Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow's biker/Western vampire movie that was part of a resurgence of vampire movies in the eighties (The Lost Boys would be another one). Adrian Pasdar was the farm boy who falls in with a group of nomadic vampires including Jenny (who turns him), Severen (a psycho vampire played by Bill Paxton), Homer, the creepy kid vampire (who would go on to play the brother in Teen Witch), and Jesse, the father of them all. What's cool about it is that it's actually more of a Western than a straight up vampire movie. It's gory in the right places and beautiful in the way it's filmed. Vampire movies often drift into the ridiculous and this one never does. Pumpkin respects that; she likes her vampire a little more dirty than sparkly. 
  10. Halloween (1978): The original final girl, Laurie Strode, makes her debut in John Carpenter's classic slasher film. Halloween is now a franchise but the original will always be the best one. Pumpkin always felt that the later films were too complicated by plot twists and unnecessary characters (although she did enjoy Halloween: H20). One of the creepiest elements of the movie is the score. There's not an actual score; Carpenter "composed" the music himself. It's a single piano melody played at 10/8 (or what I'm told is called complex 5/4 meter). It's chilling to listen to and helps establish the mood of the entire film. Halloween helped to establish many of the rules of slasher and horror films from the final girl to the creepy mask to the fact that teenagers should never have sex on Halloween if they want to live. It also inspired some of my own writing. Pumpkin always hides when the music plays but firmly believes all Michael Myers really needed was a kitten and he wouldn't have killed so many people. Kittens make everything better. 

Keep in mind there are lots of Halloween movies out there. Pumpkin's favorites are in no way the only ones to watch but they'll get you started. She also wants to remind you that dressing your cat up for Halloween, even if it is just a tiny witch hat, is stupid and will lead to your cat plotting new ways to torture you. Happy Halloween!

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