Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1980-1989)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is here. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

This run-up to October 31st has me thirsty for something warm, thick, and red…

(Had you going for a minute, didn’t I?)

With glass in hand, today’s list is all about cult films or movies with a cult following.
Eleven of the 27 films here are labeled as such (that’s 41%):  An American Werewolf in London, Fright Night and Fright Night Part Two, Near Dark, Pumpkinhead, Re-Animator, Teen Witch, The Howling, The Hunger, The Return of the Living Dead, and They Live.

Now, without further adieu here are my favorite (Horror) flicks of the 1980’s.

Aliens Diego's pick
Based on characters by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, this action-packed sequel is the second in the Alien franchise. Once again, Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley – for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (and won a Saturn Award for the same). Practical Effects Supervisor, John Richardson, won a Special Effects Oscar.
We get a good look at the xenomorphs in this film – and there are a lot of them! This is also the first time a Queen Alien was introduced to us (“Get away from her you bitch.” What a catchphrase). Stan Winston Studios (Predator, Pumpkinhead, The Island of Dr. Moreau) created the life-sized Queen which was operated by 14 puppeteers.
Directed by James Cameron, the cast is rounded-out by Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Alien 3), Bill Paxton (Near Dark, Predator 2), and Jenette Goldstein (Near Dark).
An American Werewolf in London Diego's pick
Rick Baker‘s special effects – especially the transformation scene – were ground-breaking at the time. (Up until An American Werewolf in London, transformation scenes were shot frame-by-frame. This was a laborious task that meant the actor had to sit motionless for hours while makeup was being applied for the next frame.) In 1981, Baker won the first-ever Oscar for Best Makeup.
Considered a horror-comedy this movie is both terrifying and quirky, using droll humor and songs with “moon” in the title…
Directed by John Landis and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, Frank Oz, and John Landis in a cameo.
An American Werewolf in London is chiefly appreciated as a milestone in the comedy-horror genre and for its innovative makeup effects.” (Wikipedia)
Michael Jackson was a huge fan of the movie, and based on the strength of their work (in An American Werewolf in London) chose both John Landis (director) and Rick Baker (makeup effects) to work with him on 1983’s Thriller music video. It went on to become one of the most lauded music videos of all time. (Wikipedia)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Tuned in smack dab in the middle of a very gory, bloody scene – and was hooked. Although considered a “slasher film”, Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund) is so much more horrifying than the villians of Friday the 13th and Halloween. He’s a serial killer who’s a ghost (dream demon) inhabiting your dream world where whatever he inflicts upon you happens for real. Including your death. (How messed-up is that?) Krueger has become an iconic figure with his fire-scarred face, slouchy hat, torn red-and-black sweater, and metal-clawed glove.
Written and directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) the film also stars Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow) in his film debut.
“Critics today praise the film’s ability to transgress ‘the boundaries between the imaginary and real’, toying with audience perceptions” (Wikipedia)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Based on his characters from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven also penned the screenplay. Along with returning actors Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon, Patricia Arquette, Larry (Lawrence) Fishburne, and Craig Wasson star. Zsa Zsa Gabor has a cameo.
Angelo Badalamenti composed the score, with heavy metal band Dokken writing/performing it’s theme song, “Dream Warriors”.


Trivia:
Up until 1990, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was banned in Queensland, Australia due to its drug references.

Beetlejuice
Director Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow, Batman Returns, Frankenweenie) and composer Danny Elfman (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, Frankenweenie, 2010s The Wolf Man) team-up for this wild-ride about ghostly spirits, the after-life, and a smarmy “freeland Bio-Exorcist” named Betelgueuse (played to the hilt by Michael Keaton). Burton employed stop motion, replacement animation, prosthetic makeup, puppetry, and blue screen for the special effects. The film won a 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup.
My favorite scene was the dinner party during which Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” played. (Hilarious.) Another Belafonte song was used during the closing credits:  “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”.
Starring Keaton (Batman Returns), Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones (Sleepy Hollow, Ravenous, The Devil’s Advocate), Winona Ryder (Alien Resurrection, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenweenie), Alec Balwin, Geena Davis (The Fly), and Sylvia Sidney – with cameos by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.
Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town
An all-female motorcycle gang (the Cycle Sluts) ride into a town inhabited by an evil scientist-turned-mortician, who (with the aid of his dwarf assistant) has been killing local townspeople and turning them into zombies to use as “cheap labor” at an underground radioactive mine.

Former MTV VJ Martha Quinn stars as one of the Cycle Sluts.
Fright Night
Director Tom Holland envisioned a tale fashioned after “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – or in this case, Who Cried Vampire. The effects/makeup are worth seeing – especially Amanda Bearse‘s transformation into a voluptuous vampire.
Cast:  William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon (The Sentinel) as the vampire Jerry Dandrige, Roddy McDowall as vampire hunter Peter Vincent (who name is an amalgamation of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price), and Bearse as Brewster’s girlfriend, Amy Peterson.
Trivia:
“…in the scene when Amy and Evil Ed go to Peter Vincent’s apartment for help, you can see a white face mask on the wall. This is a life cast of roddy mcdowall’s face which was made/used for the makeup on Planet of the Apes.”  Behind the Scenes of Fright Night
Fright Night Part 2
The sequel to Fright Night, this time with Regine Dandrige (Julie Carmen) taking her brother’s place as a vampiric Femme Fatale. Regine’s joined by a band of vampires eager to do her bidding:  Jon Gries as Louie, Brian Thompson as Bozworth, and the very rock/punk Belle (Russel Clark) who floats around on skates…



William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall reprise their roles as Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent, respectively.
“The special effects makeups were designed by Greg Cannom and his crew at Cannom Creations. Cannom also worked the The Lost Boys and went on to do Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.”  Wikia
Gothic
Based on a story by Lord Byron & Percy Bysshe Shelley, Gothic is a fictionalized account of a summer spent at Byron’s home in Geneva which inspires the group to engage in a horror-story competition. True to Ken Russell‘s style of filmmaking it’s surreal, decadant, and subversive.
Stars Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Shelley, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, and Timothy Spall (The Bride) as John Polidori.
Trivia:
The theatrical poster is based on a famous painting by Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare – which is also referenced in the movie.
Lord Byron was a poet and leading figure in the Romantic movement and a member of the House of Lords from 1809-1824. His only legitimate child (Ada Lovelace) is regarded as the first computer programmer. Born with a deformed right foot, he advocated exercise and was a vegetarian most of his life. The “Byronic Hero” (literary character) and the vampire archetype were both modeled after him. In the Bride of Frankenstein, Lord Byron (played by Gavin Gordon) is depicted in the prologue.
Percy Shelley was another major Romantic-era poet who was married to Mary Shelley. He was a political radical and peace activist; and, like Byron, converted to vegetarianism.
Mary Shelley penned the classic novel, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus (1818). The idea for it was conceived during that summer in Geneva. Her father was the political philospher William Godwin and her mother the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
Near Dark
A (modern-day) western-biker vampire tale directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow, with music by Tangerine Dream. These vampires are nomadic and vicious predators, but they do have some manners… One scene has Severen (Bill Paxton, Aliens, Predator 2) drinking blood from a beer mug. Joshua John Miller (Teen Witch) is particularly creepy as the pre-pubescent vampire Homer. Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Alien 3, Pumpkinhead) is their leader with Jenette Goldstein (Aliens) and Jenny Wright rounding-out the gang. When they happen upon a naive cowboy (Adrian Pasdar), Mae (Wright) takes a fancy to him and bites him on the neck, forcing him to join their merry little band of undead outlaws.
Nomads
Speaking of nomads, this one combines punk-rockers-on-bikes with the Inuit legend of the einwetok (pronounced in-oo-wad). According to the legend, einwetok are psychic vampires and tricksters; evil spirits that are unable to be photographed. This is an atmospheric, psychological horror film with an unexpected ending. Starring Lesley-Anne Down, Pierce Brosnan, Adam Ant, Mary Woronov, Josie Cotton (“Johnny Are You Queer?”, “He Could Be the One”), and Frank Doubleday. Directed by John McTiernan (Predator).
Predator
Picture a special forces elite military rescue squad in the middle of a central american jungle, who find themselves battling for their lives against an unseen enemy. (If you don’t already know the story I have one question for you: What remote island have you been living on?) Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, and Kevin Peter Hall (Prophecy) as the Predator.
Outside of the (typical) one-liners uttered by Schwarzenegger, the real delight here is the Predator. This creation is from the amazing mind of Stan Winston (Aliens, Pumpkinhead, The Island of Dr. Moreau).
Trivia:
After seeing Nomads, Schwarzenegger wanted John McTiernan as director on this film.
Alan Silvestri (Predator 2, What Lies Beneath) composed the score.

Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1990-1999)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is just days away. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

Addams Family Values
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family), this sequel to the 1991 movie continues where the original left off and adds some new characters:  Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), Pubert Addams, and a cameo by Sonnenfeld.
Returning cast includes Raúl Juliá (in his final film), Anjelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow), Carel Struycken (The Witches of Eastwick), and Dana Ivey.
Jonathan Barkan provides a spot-on observation about this quirky family, “…the Addams Family are the most loving, caring, and connected family that has ever graced the silver screen.”

I took a quiz, “Which Addams Family Member Are You?” I am (drum roll)…
Wednesday
Child of woe is wan and delicate…sensitive and on the quiet side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns…a solemn child, prim in dress and, on the whole, pretty lost…secretive and imaginative, poetic, seems underprivileged and given to occasional tantrums.
Take the Quiz!
Alien 3
The third in the series, this one takes place in a penal colony located on a remote planet. It is somber and contains far less action than did the previous Aliens. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it disappointed fans and critics alike. I liked it because it was so different from the first two. (Why do the same thing over and over?)
Each movie in the franchise has employed a different director – with David Fincher manning the helm here.
“[David Fincher] wanted the alien to be, ‘more of a puma, or a beast’ as opposed to the upright, humanoid posture of the previous films, so the designer of the original alien, H. R. Giger, was contacted to generate new sketch ideas. His revisions included longer, thinner legs, the removal of ‘pipes’ around the spine, and an idea for a sharp alien ‘tongue’ in place of the secondary jaws.” (Wikipedia)
Creature effects used for the Alien:  CGI, rod puppet, and actor.
Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley and Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, Aliens) plays dual roles:  Bishop II and the voice of the damaged Bishop android. Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, and Pete Postlethwaite co-star.
Alien Resurrection
Produced by Walter Hill (Alien 3), witten by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this is the fourth installment in the series. Once again Sigourney Weaver is on-board as Ellen Ripley, only this time she’s been cloned – with Queen Alien DNA mixed in with hers. The Ripley 8 clone is very cat-like. Lean and lithe, with enhanced strength, reflexes, acidic blood, and a “psychic link with the xenomorphs” (Wikipedia).
There are mercenaries (led by Michael Wincott), a synthetic human called an auton (played by Winona Ryder, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Beetlejuice, Frankenweenie), one sadistically sick scientist (Brad Dourif), and an erotic sequence involving Ripley and one of the aliens. Oh, and a “newborn” birthed from the uterus of a hybrid Queen alien. (Seeing Ripley 8 as its real “Mom”, this grotesquerie turns around and kills the Queen alien.) The cinematography is elegant – especially the scene where we see Aliens swimming. Ron Perlman (The Island of Dr. Moreau, Blade II) and Dan Hedaya (The Hunger, The Addams Family) also star.

grotesquerie
n. a grotesque figure, object, or action

Anaconda
I know what you’re thinking, but Anaconda is worth seeing for the campy performance by Jon Voight alone! He manages to steal scenes away from the star of the film, Jennifer Lopez (The Cell).

Co-starring Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Danny Trejo, and one big-ass animatronic snake.
Batman Returns Diego's pick
What more could you want in a movie:
Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice)
Denise Di Novi (Practical Magic)
Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice)
Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath, The Witches of Eastwick
Score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, Frankenweenie, 2010s The Wolf Man)

Add Christopher Walken as Max Shreck (see Shadow of the Vampire) (who just so happens to be a cat lover ) – and a ton of fantastic felines and you have the makings of a movie made in heaven…cat heaven.

Beloved
This moody ghost story had me glued to my seat. I dared not take my eyes off the screen for a moment. As the title character, Thandie Newton (Interview with the Vampire) was, by turns, sweet and sinister.
In 1987 Ophrah Winfrey (who also stars) purchased the rights to Toni Morrison‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.
Directed by Academy Award-winning Jonathan Demme, Beloved also features Danny Glover, Jason Robards, and Charles Napier.
Blade
The first in the franchise, Blade stars Wesley Snipes as the superhero (Blade’s a ‘Dhampir’ – a human with vampire strengths but not their weaknesses – who takes on the task of protecting humans from vampires) and contains one of the coolest – and bloodiest – opening scenes.. Snipes is supported by Kris Kristofferson (Blade II, Blade: Trinity), Stephen Dorff, Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula, Shadow of the Vampire, BloodRayne), and Traci Lords. Excellent soundtrack.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Great attention was paid to every lushous detail in this version of Stoker’s noval, which at its core is a love story spanning centuries. “[Winona] Ryder initially brought the script…to the attention of Coppola…[who was] attracted to the sensual elements of the screenplay and said that he wanted portions of the picture to resemble an ‘erotic dream’…all of the visual effects seen in the film were achieved without the use of optical or computer generated effects, but were created using on-set and in-camera methods.” (Wikipedia)
It won three Academy Awards, including Best Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka, The Cell). Her creations proved to be some of the most memorable in movie history. As Vlad, the vampire-to-be was clad in an armadillo-inspired suit of armor. “Old” Dracula was clothed in a long, flowing, red satin robe. The collar on Lucy’s wedding dress was styled after the Australian frilled lizard (who displays a neck “frill” when threatened). Renfield’s straight jacket and the coachman’s livery continue in this same vein.

Dracula (Gary Oldman) undergoes eight
transformations throughout the film.

Artistic inspirations included Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast) and the works of Gustav Klimit.
Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Jeepers Creepers), Bram Stoker’s Dracula has an impressive cast:  Gary Oldman (Red Riding Hood), Winona Ryder (Alien Resurrection, Beetlejuice, Frankenweenie), Anthony Hopkins (2010’s The Wolfman), Carey Elwes (Shadow of the Vampire), Monica Belucci (The Brothers Grimm, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Richard E. Grant, Tom Waits, and Keanu Reeves (Constantine, The Devil’s Advocate).
Annie Lennox wrote and performed the theme “Love Song for a Vampire” which plays during the closing credits.

Deep Blue Sea
Although capitalizing on Jaws, Deep Blue Sea takes homicidal sharks to a higher level. Set in an underwater facility, it centers around a team of scientists and two genetically-engineered Mako sharks.

Like Final Destination and Lake Placid, there are some unexpected, scary moments. Not to mention the hunky Thomas Jane. Directed by Renny Harlin.
Fallen Diego's pick

Demonic possession takes center stage in this excellent supernatural thriller. Denzel Washington stars with John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz (Thir13en Ghosts), James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas (as the fallen angel Azazel).
(I’ll forever equate that song with this movie…)

Full Eclipse
(Some of the most obscure horror movies turn out to be about werewolves.) It seems the Los Angeles police department has a new police force…

Starring Mario Van Peebles, with a script by Richard Matheson (who also co-produced).
Innocent Blood
Anne Parillaud is a beautiful vampire taking on mobsters (played by Robert Loggia and the ever-elegantly-dressed Chazz Palminteri). A tongue-in-cheek (fangs in cheek?) take on the vampire story. (I’m hungry for Italian…food.)

Bonus cast:  scream queen Linnea Quiqley (Return of the Living Dead), Luiz Guzmán, Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, and Angela Bassett.
Interview with the Vampire
I’ve never been happy with the choice of Tom Cruise to play the iconic Lestat. (Hell, I had a Siamese cat named Lestat that was way cooler than Cruise!) Being a fan of the book(s), I would have preferred Julian Sands, Sting, or even David Lee Roth. With that said, Brad Pitt (Louis) and Kirsten Dunst (Claudia) made-up for it – especially Dunst who was 11 at the time and totally stole the movie from her more-seasoned co-stars.
Screenplay by Anne Rice, who at the time very publicly approved of Cruise as Lestat. Directed by Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves), it also stars Antonio Banderas (as a gorgeous Armand), Stephen Rea (The Company of Wolves), Christian Slater, and Thandie Newton (Beloved).
Lake Placid

Betty White

‘Nuff said.

Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (2000 -2009)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is just 10 days away. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

On tap in today’s Post are three Masters of Surrealism:
Guillermo del Toro, M. Night Shyamalan, Tarsem Singh.
Unforgettable dark, disturbing, and stunning imagery.

Blade II  Diego's pick
First sequel to the 1998 movie with Wesley Snipes reprising his role as the title character. The big difference between this and the original is the appearance of the vampires themselves. Suffice to say, a virus has caused them to evolve into a mutant species called “Reapers“. This extraordinarily-horrifying transformation was born out of the imagination of the Director, Guillermo del Toro (Mimic), a one-time special effects make-up artist whose creations are extraordinarily distinct.
Blade: Trinity
Third installment in the series, with Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel joining Snipes in the war against The Reapers and a newly-resurrected Dracula. Not to be missed:  Wrestler Triple H and his Reaper Pomeranian, Pac-Man.

Music by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Westworld, Fright Night 2011).

Cameos:  Eric Bogosian and James Remar (What Lies Beneath).

BloodRayne
BloodRayne spawned a series, but the original remains the best. “The film centers on the character of Rayne, an unholy breed of human and vampire called a ‘Dhampir’.” (Wikipedia)
Filmed in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (home to Bram Stoker’s Dracula) it contains an impressive array of stars:  Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, Udo Kier (Blood for Dracula, Blade), Michael Paré, Meat Loaf (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Michelle Rodriguez, and Ben Kingsley.
Brotherhood of the Wolf
This is not your average werewolf story. “The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan…” (Wikipedia)  Originally released in French (with subtitles) an English-dubbed version is now available.
There’s a great martial-arts scene courtesy of Mark Dacascos (Chairman on Iron Chef America, The Island of Dr. Moreau). Although played by a very handsome French actor (Samuel Le Bihan), Dacascos’ traveling companion looks a lot like Triple H (Blade: Trinity). Vincent Cassel (Tale of Tales) and Monica Bellucci (The Brothers Grimm, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) also star.

Trivia:
Belluci and Cassel were married from 1999-2013.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
I like my vampire movies either very traditional (the 1931 and 1992 versions of Dracula) or with a unique representation (Blade II). I do not like them “bloodless” (Twilight), but I don’t mind a little humor thrown in – if it’s clever. Cirque du Freak was very satisfying on all levels.
Based on the book, “The Vampire’s Assistant”, this flick is chock-full of vampires, sideshow freaks, ghoulish “Little People”, a werewolf, and one beautiful spider named Madame Octa who’s intelligent, telepathic, and deadly.
Starring  Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek (who appeared together in Tale of Tales), Ken Watanabe, Ray Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Jane Krakowski, Orlando Jones, Frankie Faison, Colleen Camp, and Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire).
Constantine  Diego's pick
I love Keanu Reeves (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Devil’s Advocate) so this was a must-see, especially given its occult overtones. I’ve watched the movie many times and find I catch something new with each viewing. Developed by DC Comics, the character of John Constantine (Reeves) is portrayed here as a chain-smoking, attempted suicide seeking Heaven’s salvation by exorcising demons. There are possessions, angels (and demons), voodoo, prophecies, a holy artifact, and Lucifer himself – with L.A. visually transformed into a post-nuclear war zone.
I especially liked Tilda Swinton as the androgynous half-breed angel, Gabriel – and speaking of half-breeds, Gavin Rossdale plays a half-demon named Balthazar who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ Magazine.
Dog Soldiers
I’m as picky about werewolf films as I am about vampire flicks, and really appreciated the fresh storyline here – Dog Soldiers was original enough to hold my interest and garner a spot on this list!
A squad of British soldiers are attacked by unseen predators and are forced to take refuge in a seemingly deserted house somewhere in the Scottish Highland. (They never learn, do they?)
According to Wikipedia:  “The film contains homages to H. G. Wells as well as the films The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
Fido
‘Kayso, let me say right up front I don’t harbor a love for zombies, but this dark comedy is seriously clever. Picture a 1950’s stereotypical suburbia teeming with post-apocalyptic zombies. Nicely done with nods to George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead), Peyton Place, and Lassie.

Starring Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix), with a standout performance by Billy Connolly as “Fido”.

Final Destination
Movies can give me the “heebie-jeebies”, unnerve me, even make me cover my eyes, but few cause me to jump. (There was this one scene…I was sitting on the floor with one of my cats, watching the movie and petting her at the same time. I never saw “it” coming and jerked abruptly causing my cat to react, as well.)

DON’T heed the critiques and DON’T read any synopses, but DO see this movie. (Oh, and forget the repetitiously boring sequels.)

Jeepers Creepers  Diego's pick
Promotional TV ads had me thinking this was a movie about a HUMAN serial killer, so I blew it off. However, late one night I tuned into cable and landed right in the middle of Jeepers Creepers. (Like Final Destination, I’m not giving away any of the good stuff. The good stuff meaning every hair-raising, disturbing minute.)
The Creeper is not your run-of-the-mill, not-of-this-world demon. He (it?) has a twisted sense of humor, an artistic (albeit gruesome) eye, and a unique method of regeneration.
Francis Ford Coppola‘s (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) studio, American Zoetrope, is behind this gem which stars Gina Phillips, Justin Long, Eileen Brennan, Jonathan Breck (as The Creeper), and a bunch of really pissed-off cats.

Note:  All I want for Christmas is this Creeper action figure….

Pitch Black
OK, a Sci-Fi horror flick about predatory aliens on a deserted planet. Sound familiar? Guess again. This one’s different and the aliens are as elegantly graceful as Giger’s Alien. (There are a lot of them, too!)
Directed by David Twohy (The Arrival) and starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David (They Live). Graeme Revell (The Craft) composed the score.
(Did I mention Vin Diesel? Along with Michelle Rodriguez, they have the sexiest voices. EVER.)
Note:  The (impressive) shoulder-dislocation stunt was performed by Diesel “with minimal CGI enhancement”.
Shadow of the Vampire
“The film is a fictionalised account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu…directed by F. W. Murnau, in which the film crew begin to have disturbing suspicions about their lead actor (Max Schreck). The film borrows the techniques of silent films, including the use of intertitles to explain elided action, and iris lenses.” (Wikipedia)  (That pretty much sums it up.)
An excellent cast:  John Malkovich, Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Eddie Izzard, Catherine McCormack, Udo Kier (Blood for Dracula, Flesh for Frankenstein, Blade, BloodRayne), and Willem Dafoe (The Hunger, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) as Shreck.
Trivia:
Schreck means “fright” in English.
Shadow of the Vampire was produced by Nicolas Cage‘s Saturn Films.
Three of the actors appeared in other vampire films:  Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula, Blade, BloodRayne), Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and Willem Dafoe (The Hunger, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) – while Nicolas Cage starred in Vampire’s Kiss. (Keepin’ it in the family…)
Signs
M. Night Shyamalan became a household name with the Sixth Sense (“I see dead people.”). While I enjoyed that movie, Signs had more of an impact on me. Perhaps it was the this-could-actually-happen feel and the escalating tension. Like The Mothman Prophecies, there’s a point in the movie where something that’s happened in the past turns out to be prophetic. A sign. A forewarning that didn’t make sense until the time came… Shyamalan is a master at quiet suspense – generating fear without slapping you in the face with it.
Stars Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin – with a cameo by Shyamalan himself.
The Brothers Grimm
When it comes to fairytales, please let them be GRIM.

grim
adj. forbidding or uninviting; menacing, dark, macabre

Shot in the Czech Republic and starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger (as the Grimm brothers), the movie paints a “fictitious portrait of the Brothers Grimm as traveling con-artists in French-occupied Germany, during the early 19th century.” (Wikipedia)  The storyline weaves together bits of Rapunzel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Hansel & Gretel. Co-stars Lena Headey and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones), the gorgeous Monica Bellucci (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Brotherhood of the Wolf), and Peter Stormare (Constantine). Directed by Terry Gillam.

The Cell  Diego's pick
A masterpiece of imagery, I never get tired of watching The Cell. Unlike Jeepers Creepers, this one is about a human serial killer, Carl Stargher (played by Vincent D’Onofrio). “Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez, Anaconda) is hired to conduct an experimental virtual reality treatment for coma patients: a ‘Neurological Cartography and Synaptic Transfer System’ device…that allows her to enter a comatose mind and attempt to coax them into consciousness.” (Wikipedia)
When Stargher falls into a coma during his capture, Deane is pursuaded by an FBI agent (Vince Vaughn) to enter Stargher’s mind in order to locate his latest victim before she dies. The dream-like sequences that take place inside the killer’s mind are chilling, often masochistic – yet arrestingly beautiful thanks to director Tarsem Singh’s  vision and costumes by Eiko Ishioka (Bram Stoker’s Dracula – for which she won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design).
Trivia:
Artistic inspiration came from Damien Hirst, Odd Nerdrum, H. R. Giger (the Alien movie franchise), the Brothers Quay, Mark Romanek, and Floria Sigismondi.
The Mothman Prophecies
A parapsychological thriller based on the 1975 book of the same name, The Mothman Prophecies is loosely constructed from actual events that occurred in Point Pleasant, WV. I watched it because I’m a fan of Richard Gere who stars as the film’s protaganist. What captured my attention was the precognitive aspects that were very similar to those in M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs, and the fact that unexplained sightings and phenomena in Point Pleasant at the time of the actual events were documented and are on record. Definitely creepy.
Co-stars Will Patton, Debra Messing, and Laura Linney.
Thir13en Ghosts
What made this remake WORK is the painstainking care that was taken creating backstories for the ghosts – which are included in the DVD (Thirteen Ghosts Revealed). The house imprisoning them isn’t your standard haunted mansion either. The multi-storied manse is a moving puzzle made of glass (Ectobar Glass etched with barrier spells) named Basileus’s Machine (“designed by the Devil and powered by the dead”) which is powered by a huge machine: Ocularis Infernum (Latin for “Eye of Hell”).

The 13 Ghosts comprise the Black Zodiac (The First Born Son, The Torso, The Bound Woman, The Whithered Lover, The Torn Prince, The Angry Princess, The Pilgrimess, The Great Child and The Dire Mother, The Hammer, The Jackal, and The Juggernaut) + 1 (The Broken Heart). These specific earth-bound spirits are necessary to gain access to the Ocularis Infernum, granting one all the powers of Hell. CGI is used judiciously but effectively – like with the “split lawyer” (J.R. Bourne). (The opening scene takes place in a car junkyard and is especially gruesome.)
Thir13en Ghosts is a movie I watch over and over again…
Stars Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz (Fallen), Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, and F. Murray Abraham.

What Lies Beneath
I always enjoy watching both Michelle Pfeiffer (Wolf, The Witches of Eastwick, Batman Returns) and Harrison Ford. This is an adult-oriented ghost story with a nice twist at the end.
Co-stars a favorite of mine:  James Remar (Blade Trinity).

What Lies Beneath received four Saturn Awards nominations.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (2010-2017)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is just 10 days away. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio   (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style)  and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED.

Before we get to my first installment of this series, Diego wanted to put in his two-cents’ worth:

(His picks will be obvious…)

Frankenweenie Diego's pick
Stop-motion animated movie by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Batman Returns) – with music composed by Burton’s long-time collaborator Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, 2010s The Wolfman).
This is actually a remake of Burton’s 1984 short-film version which received limited release by Walt Disney Pictures. “Burton was fired by Disney after the film was completed; the studio claimed that he had been wasting company resources, and felt the film was not suitable for the target young audiences.” (Wikipedia).
Voices:  Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice), Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice, Alien Resurrection.
Fright Night
Remake of the 1985 film. Colin Farrell plays the hunky vampire-next-door. “It received generally positive reviews, with many praising its humor and the cast performances, notably Farrell’s acting.” (Wikipedia)
(‘Nuff said.)

Score by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Westworld, Blade: Trinity).

Maleficent
Visually stunning – Maleficent’s horns and facial prosthetics were created by makeup artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Wolf, 2010s The Wolfman) – it’s a twist on the fairy tale with a wonderful surprise ending. The film received a nomination for Best Costume Design at the 87th Academy Awards.

Growing-up, Maleficent was one of my role models (!) and Angelina Jolie is perfect in the title role. Co-stars Elle Fanning.

Red Riding Hood
Another fairy tale (this time by the Brothers Grimm) reinvented. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film was given two alternate endings.

Starring Amanda Seyfried (as Red/Valerie), Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and Virginia Madsen.

Tale of Tales
Surreal fantasy film adapted from tales written by an Italian poet, Giambattista Basile, which bear a slight resemblance to modern-day fairy tales (such as Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella). Three stories are intertwined throughout, joining together at the beginning and very end of the movie.

Starring Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly (Cirque due Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), Vincent Cassel (Brotherhood of the Wolf), and Toby Jones.

The Love Witch
From Wikipedia: “The Love Witch uses the figure of the witch as a metaphor for women in general, as both an embodiment of men’s fears of women, and of women’s own innate powers of intuition and as mothers and sorceresses…embraces the camp of 1960s horror…”

Written, produced, and directed by Anna Biller and starring Samantha Robinson in the title role.

The Witch
Two words: Black Phillip.
Don’t be put-off by the dialogue (Which is authentic but at times can be difficult to understand…I just turned on subtitles.) in this story of a Separatist Puritan family encountering evil in the woods surrounding their homestead. But what is real and what is not real? “seems that The Witch is tapping a higher metaphor for coming of age…or religious intolerance…or man’s uneasy balance with nature…or something. It doesn’t take long into the film’s hour and a half running time, however, to break that spell.” (Wikipedia)
Stephen King (Silver Bullet) said it “scared the hell out of me”.

This is a must-see for all horror movie buffs, but one that may need to be watched more than once…with patience.

The Wolfman
Remake of the 1941 original. Having considered Lon Chaney Jr. the quintessential Lawrence Talbot (brooding and a little sad), I am happy to report that Benicio del Toro fills his shoes nicely! With Anthony Hopkins (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) on board as Talbot’s father there’s some solid acting here. I’m also pleased to report that CGI was used appropriately…Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Wolf, Maleficent) won the Academy Award for Best Makeup at the 83rd Academy Awards.
Score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, Frankenweenie).
If you’re a fan of the original, this won’t disappoint you. (Has an unexpected ending, too.)
Vamps
Amy Heckerling (Clueless) is at it again. Peek inside the lives of two stylish uptown gals in New York City and see and how they juggle work, dating, and getting home before sun-up.

Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter star as the “socialite” vampires – with Sigourney Weaver (Alien franchise), Richard Lewis, Wallace Shawn (as Van Helsing), Malcolm McDowell, and Kristen Johnston.

What We Do in the Shadows
From Wikipedia: “A New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film about a group of vampires who live together…” (I don’t like “mockumentaries” but I loved this one! Perhaps it was the subject matter…)
The group is comprised of Vlad (the sexy one played by Jemaine Clement who modeled his character after Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Viago (the conservative/uptight leader played by Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh plays the “young rebel” who is fond of knitting, erotic dancing, and “being cool”), and Petyr (a 8,000 year-old Nosferatu-like vampire played by Ben Fransham) – who are being filmed by a crucifix-wearing documentary crew.
One memorable scene is at the Unholy Masquerade which is full of vampires, zombies, witches, and “The Beast” (Vlad’s ex-girlfriend). On their way home from the ball the boys encounter a pack of werewolves…with expected violence and mayhem resulting.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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